This book is called ‘Dance with the Elephants’ for three reasons. First, as a small business, you really can Dance with big business Elephants. Lou Gerstner, who ran IBM, entitled his book ‘Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?’ Of course big businesses can Dance, and his transformation of IBM went a long way to prove that. But, when they Dance, they still Dance like Elephants. As the ‘Age of the Entrepreneur’ evolves, big businesses are increasingly worried about competition from small businesses. This book will enable you to transform your small business not only to Dance with the Elephants but to prove that, when small businesses Dance, they are far more nimble and elegant than the big business Elephants.
The second reason for the title is because the production of it has been a Dance with an Elephant for me. I wrote this, my first book, in collaboration with (and I’m sure he’ll take this in the way it is intended) an Elephant in the world of authors, Raymond Aaron, who has been my guide and mentor. Raymond is co-author of the New York Times best-seller ‘Chicken Soup for the Parent’s Soul’ and author of the Canadian best-seller ‘Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul’. He has written several other successful books, and he Dances rather well. I am certainly not an Elephant in his world, but he has kindly agreed to Dance with me to get this book into your hands.
Thirdly, when we think about Elephants, often what we think about is ‘The Elephant in the Room’ – the Elephant that nobody will attend to. So often these Elephants are the reason we can’t move forward; they prevent us from transforming our businesses because we choose not to address them. Ironically, the Elephant in the Room is frequently why we don’t Dance with the Elephants. I want you to be able to take on your Elephants so you can succeed in transforming your small business. This book and the bonus materials are designed to support you in this.
The Elephants in our lives
Let’s look at the Elephants that exist in our lives and in our businesses. Maybe you’ll recognise some of these colourful Elephants.
The Blue Elephant represents the people around us who are mostly down or depressed or blue. They hold us back because they are just so depressing. How can you Dance when you are depressed? These Elephants are too depressed to Dance, and their depressive gloom can prevent us from Dancing too.
The Red Elephant is a symbol of the people around us who are angry most of the time. The reason why they’re angry isn’t important – they just are. They are too angry to Dance and so stop us Dancing too. If their anger includes being angry with you, Dancing with you is naturally out of the question!
The Yellow Elephant denotes the people around us who are cowardly, timid or fearful. Their fear overwhelms them. They are too afraid to Dance, restricted by concerns such as health & safety. They say ‘Dancing with Elephants is just too risky, so nobody should do it’.
Then we have the Black Elephant symbolising the people around us who are nihilistic. ‘It’s not possible to Dance with the Elephants and there’s no point even if it were possible.’ They blow out any flickering flame of hope. Their world is black and dark, and doesn’t involve Dance.
What about the Magnolia Elephant? Have you ever noticed when you go into a new property that the prevailing colour is magnolia? Magnolia is designed not to offend, to be bland, to be inconspicuous. There may be a Dance but it’s so subtle, so unremarkable, that it is hardly noticeable. The Elephants that Dance are remarkable, not magnolia.
Then we find the envious Green Elephant. Green Elephants spend all their energy on the achievements of others, wondering why others have more than they have. They desire to be better, but focus only on why their lot in life is so inferior to that of other people instead of getting on with transforming their own lot. They watch others Dance, and rage inside at the injustice.
Next is the Sepia Elephant, obsessed with the ‘Golden Age’ when things were so perfect – an Age that can never be recreated. In their heart of hearts, no matter what they do now or in the future, nothing can be as good as back then. They long for the Dance that once was, not the Dances that could be.
You may find the Plaid Elephant, the multi-coloured Elephant. These people try to be all things to all people at all times. When you ask ‘Who is our best customer, our target customer?’ they may be the people in your small business who respond ‘Everybody!’ Hopelessly lacking focus, they want to Dance with everybody rather than taking action to find the best Elephants to Dance with.
Next you might recognise the Steel Elephant which symbolises the people who are all about hard, cold facts. They have little interest in imagination, emotion or passion. ‘Show me the facts now, rather than imagining what it would be like to Dance with the Elephants!’
Or you may have encountered the Sky-Blue Pink Elephants. These people are ‘away with the fairies’. They love to dream, they dream to live, but they do very little. They are good at dreaming about how it would be to Dance with the Elephants, but you will never see them on the Dance floor.
Or what about the Yellow Polka Dot Elephant? Yellow Polka Dot as in the old song ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’. These are the dedicated followers of fashion! They relentlessly pursue the latest fashion, whether or not it’s relevant to the business. Find these Elephants by listening for their language. They talk endlessly about implementing best practice within your business, spending their time looking at what other people are doing to implement the latest best practices. Instead of creating differentiation for your small business, they’re trying to make it look like everybody else’s. Don’t get me wrong, there are some benefits from implementing best practice. I’m a fan of whatever works well. But slavishly implementing what the Elephants have already done doesn’t necessarily enable you to Dance with the Elephants successfully.
What about the Grey Elephant? This Elephant represents the dull, the boring, the mind-numbing. The Grey Elephant doesn’t Dance. Dancing is too exciting. They prefer their familiar and comfortable ennui.
How many of the coloured Elephants have you recognised that may now be in the Rooms of your small business? Perhaps they have been in the Room with you in the past, and you decided not to address them. This book, along with the bonus materials available from the official website of the book will help you to address the Elephants in your Rooms. I will show you how to get even these Elephants to Dance.
I will also show you how to Dance with the Elephants that represent far bigger companies that are Dancing in your marketplaces. My intention is not to turn you into an Elephant but to help you Dance with them!
The essence of this chapter: Small businesses can Dance with much larger businesses (Elephants). The Elephants in the Room of our small businesses can prevent you from Dancing with the Elephants in your marketplaces. Bonus materials are available from the book’s website. This book will enable you to transform your small business into big profits.