Last week, Kenya Airways  management made an apparently tough decision. Some would say they swallowed a humble pie.

After launching the daily New York direct flight that was preceded by heightened fanfare, months of great marketing and publicity, it emerged that the number of daily customers did not make business sense. This was attributed to a biting winter in the US at this time.

The management moved fast to reduce the number of flights until conditions change to avert heavy losses.

The Indians have a saying that if you find yourself riding on a dead horse, the best thing to do is to dismount immediately.

In business, as in life generally, success depends largely on what you do not do as much as on what you do. For example, you should not continue investing on a dead project. You have to learn when to quit even as you learn to stick on.

Persistence is a virtue that is rightly cherished but you persist when the ‘horse’ is alive and needs to be well fed or massaged to move on. When it is dead, no amount of flogging or even changing the rider will do magic. Dismounting is the only viable option. The earlier you do it, the better.

One lesson we learn from the decision by KQ is that it is prudent to change tactics immediately you realize there is a need to, rather than wait too long. If you introduce a product in the market and customers reject it, or are too few to make business sense, don’t shy away from making a radical change. This requires courage and humility.

Sometimes we worry about what people would say if I moved my office from town to the estate or even to my house to save on rent and other costs. What would people say if I sold my expensive car or downsized my business to weather a storm? It is none of their business!

Of course many people decided to stick on and persistently work hard to finance unnecessary baggage just to protect their image. Some manage to absorb the cost and survive but still others succumb to the pressure at a later stage. They dismount when it is too late.

Wisdom demands you don’t throw good money after bad. I know people who changed careers after investing a lot of time and money in it. I also know people who decided to hold onto a career they don’t like because they felt they had invested too much and quitting would mean losing out big. I know the difference. Those who make early changes are mostly happier and successful.

In business, you cannot avoid making wrong and often costly decisions because we live in a changing world where dynamics change. In fact, most of the time it is not the decisions that are bad, it is things that change and render our decisions impotent. However, we can avoid getting stuck with them by discarding them like a hot potato once we discover we are off the mark.

 

This article was first published in The Business Daily on November 20, 2018.

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