How come there are late bloomers?

Business Leader Post, July 26, 2012

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

Some people take longer than others to succeed. While I don’t have a ready answer for why it takes some people longer than others to “flip the switch,” a recent situation in a family business which caused the next generation member to “get in gear” might serve as an instructive example.

The father and the son had had discussions about the son buying the business about ten years prior to my involvement. They had a valuation for the business, and they had the offer sheet drawn up by a lawyer when the father suddenly withdrew from the negotiations without an explanation. They never talked about it.

Consequently, the son operated on the periphery of the business for years. He did not do a bad job, but he did not do a good one either. His lack of effort seemed to be tied to his disappointment and his relationship with his father.

While the father believed that the son was capable, his criticism was unusually harsh. He continued to talk a lot about having his son take over, but he never did anything that would allow the son to have an impact on the business. He always rejected his son’s ideas and never took seriously his observations as to the status of the business. I suspect that the father’s behavior was attached to his disappointment that the son had retreated to the edges of the business after the sale collapsed.

The situation changed when the father became ill, and the son stepped in at the family’s request. The son’s first act was to assess the financial condition of the business. His worst fears were realized. He responded quickly to add revenue, cut costs and provide leadership to a management team that had serious doubts about his abilities.

Was he a late bloomer? No! What made him succeed was the opportunity that had become available as a result of his father’s illness. What a waste of ten years!

Take a look around. What is standing in the way of your opportunity?