The Real Virus That Is Killing Your Business

By Robert Craven, Managing Director, Director's Centre

There seems to be a virulent disease spreading through the business community. Like all viruses it has pervaded its hosts almost unnoticed, and slowly but surely it has spread and got so comfortable with its parasitic existence within the body of its hosts that the hosts seem oblivious of its existence.

This disease, this scourge of the business community, is the recently discovered “five-year-old-itis”.


The symptoms are plain to see:

- Nothing seems to work as well as it used to (sales campaigns, adverts, proposals)

- Everything seems to take longer (commitments, decisions, replies to emails)

- There seems to be less traction and more ambiguity wherever you look

- You’re working harder than ever before and making less progress than in the past.

These are warning signs that you are probably suffering from “five-year-old-itis”!


Most businesses have behaved like frightened rabbits in the headlights of the recession. They have got stuck, unable to decide what to do, petrified of making the wrong decision. And their whole world view will have been based on a pre-recession model of the world. In the past five years everything (and nothing) has changed. Five years ago everyone was doing pretty well. There was virtually no Twitter, FaceBook or LinkedIn; we had become familiar with living in a constantly-growing economy where consumer demand and house prices just kept going up. And then the bubble burst.

Most businesses that I currently see are using five-year-old assumptions about:

- Their business and financial model

- Who the customers are and why and when and how they prefer to buy

- Who the competition is

- Current staff, processes and systems, and whether they are the right people for today’s true customer and market needs.


There is no shortage of hyperventilating, breathless, get-rich-quick, money-back-guaranteed, effusive, testimonial-driven business programmes now on the market. However, I am not convinced that a one-size-fits-all quick fix is necessarily the right answer for your business. None of us believe that quick fixes (hair removal, sun tans, patio doors, weight loss) really work. (As my mother says, if it is too good to be true then it probably is.) So, why would you think that a quick fix would work for your business?

The alternative to the quick fix (despite how seductive and appealing it may look), would be the ‘proper fix’. And this, my friends, may be harder work but may sort you out properly. By this I mean actually stopping and redesigning your business, creating a business for today and tomorrow rather than for five years ago.

Food for thought.

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