During the past couple of years, what have you been doing in your business? Have you been a “rock skipper” or a “puddle jumper”? I know its a strange question to ask on a site dedicated to strategy, but its an important question because they speak to the mentality of a companies strategic approach. Consider the differences:
Companies that “puddle jump” are making moves that allow them to avoid the next X, Y or Z that can befall them. They are making very tactical moves that are by design cautious and practical. As an example, a puddle jumper is a company that probably reduced their advertising/marketing spend in the past couple of years.
Rock skippers are doing things a little differently because their focus isn’t geared towards avoiding the water, but getting across the water as quickly as possible. They recognize that because of the nature of business sooner or later they are going to get wet. As an example, a rock skipper probably increased their sales/marketing budget during the past couple of years and likely made some strategic investments in people, equipment and opportunity.
There is obviously a time and place for puddle jumping; the early part of 2009 was definitely a year for puddle jumping, both because of fear and sheer necessity. However, you can’t be a puddle jumper for too long because sooner or later the rock skippers are going to come out to play because they see the opportunity in others hesitation. The fundamental difference is that puddle jumpers have been positioning themselves to survive to the end of the recession while rock skippers have spent the past couple of years positioning themselves to not only survive but also be growing during and after the end of the recession.
Is it better to be one or the other? I suppose it depends on the personal preference of each company, but I like being a rock skipper.