Ten Signs Your Business Hit The Wall

The Wall It was more than thirty years ago since Pink Floyd released that album, and I can still remember it as if it were today. Yes, we were very, very young. Our developed appreciation of music came from spending time with an older group of friends.

The album, which was about war, artistry, and alienation and written mostly by Roger Waters, seemed to be a musical departure from earlier ones. At least that's what my friends said at the time. They called it more "commercial".

The opening scene, as I thought of it, was very dramatic and had neighbors in a panic at the loud sounds of looming helicopters. You should be grateful for insulation from the sounds of your neighbors. Many don't have that luxury in other parts of the world.

I do have a point. What was more commercial for Pink Floyd, ended up being about war, and alienation. So I thought it a good parallel for the reality of businesses today — stretched thin, exhausted from living quarter to quarter, and disconnected on the inside.

Is there conflict in your organization? Conflict has insidious ways of not manifesting itself. It runs underground when the prevailing wind is one of consensus… or else. It then shows up as lack of sustained productivity. Things are getting done on the cheap for effort and in a check-the-box kind of way.

Are people engaged and energized, or are they feeling all used up? Can you tell the difference? Maybe your business hit The Wall. What are some signs?

(1.) You know without question how to market your organization and its products. Yet it becomes very apparent that they are not in that same class to far more talented producers elsewhere. Did you cut corners on products? Maybe you settled on staff?

(2.) You keep confusing strategic and tactical mistakes. Thus cutting yourself out of opportunity by not solving the real issues or not leveraging true market potential. Are you looking for signs and patterns in all the wrong places?

(3.) Your knowledge base is fixed while the market is in flow. Research and knowledge flows are not synonymous, the one hoards or brings data and information in, the other joins, opens to and works with. Have you missed important market cues that could transform the industry, for example?

(4.) You do everything on your own terms leaving no room for collaborators and fans to assist or problem solve. You do that long enough, and they stop trying to help. The market notices. Are you restricting or policing collaboration?

(5.) You see employees and networks as resources to be mined. Forgetting to give back in training, and consideration, which would help with regenerating their thinking and upping their game. Are you forgetting to say and show "thank you" sincerely?

(6.) You become very successful at what worked in the past. And continue down a road when the terrain has changed a great deal. This is a hard one, because it's steeped in habits. And habits are habit-forming. Have you made an effort to break away from your past patterns and look at things differently?

(7.) You keep trying to measure and increase your online influence scores (attention is one as well) and lose sight of your real influence: solving problems for customers, developing great products and services, and relationships. When was the last time you had a candid conversation with a customer and accepted the feedback?

(8.) You find it hard to walk the talk on the projects in front of you right now. The need to constantly fill the pipeline is at odds with the deep focus necessary for fulfilling on the current order. This is another really hard one. Do you feel pressured to keep moving even when you know you need to move a project forward instead?

(9.) You stopped listening to your own language and terminology. Which is why you missed how self-referential, maybe no longer grounded in facts, or worse unaccessible to customers that language is. Do you have good advisers who care enough about you to help with a reality check?

(10.) You see employees and collaborators as the enemy. By continuing to think in the language of conflict, you are entrenched in suspicion and mistrust, and deliver that experience to your customers. Have you lost the ability to coach and support your teams?


If you find yourself nodding at more than a couple of these, you or your business may have hit the wall. All or some of these things can creep up on you over time, especially with mounting pressure to deliver. It doesn't need to be at odds with being and acting human.

Time to take a step back and reconsider how you look at what you're doing. Are you ready to do that, or will you pass on the opportunity to correct a collision course?

The good news is artistry, passion, and good craft are commercial, too.


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0 responses to “Ten Signs Your Business Hit The Wall”

  1. Fantastic post. Love the Pink Floyd metaphor, gives so much life to your writing.
    And your comments on how businesses today are “hitting the wall” is right on point in the age of taking two beers and jumping, up front conservative budgeting precluding the possibility of huge results, and a general shrinking back from taking risks across the economy. Yes, in part, risks are what got the economy in trouble–but plodding along without realizing you’re moving backwards is a trap that’s all too easy to fall into.
    Thanks for the great post!

  2. “Think[ing] in the language of conflict.” What a great way to put it, Valeria! This has been gnawing at me quite a bit lately.
    Partner, client, customer, CONSUMER. Descriptors like these suggest people other than us. Where us vs. them comes into play, there is conflict.
    Business viewing people as consumers = dissonance = mediocrity.
    People view people as themselves = consonance = success.

  3. @Tracy — thank you for the well put comment. Now I have that image of the two beers and the jump in mind.
    @Paul — wanting to see what you can do better is the part that counts in reviews. And for that part, seeing is critical.
    @Brian — can we teach more marketers to think and talk that way? We can be effective and human.

  4. Keeping an elastic mind and putting yourself always in the front line of progress and innovation is something I learnt in my line of business, otherwise we would not be as successful, it’s in our very DNA. I admit that as an IT business we have this part probably easier than other kinds, but it’s still something that requires a lot of commitment and practice.

  5. I just had to write and say that I saw Rodger Waters perform “The Wall” in Toronto last year and it was absolutely amazing.
    I know this wasn’t the main point of your post but I got a little excited when I read your intro!

  6. And I’m happy the post evoked an inspirational moment for you. When my work can provide entry points of passion and connection to others, that’s a great day for me. Thank you for your comment with the story.

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