Change sucks, but we have to deal with it

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On May 1, I began the most recent chapter in my life as CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, and with it brought about change to the organization.

It isn’t a radical change. I really don’t have grand plans to tear down the legacy Carol Odell left after her 21 years with the BBB, but as I told one employee, “I am change. Just me being here — even if I did everything the exact same as before, I represent change to the BBB.”

It was quickly obvious to me that what I anticipated was going to be true. No matter how bright, efficient and hard-working my staff was, I was going to have to help them manage the change occurring in our organization.

I asked the staff to all re-read the classic, “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson, in preparation for a staff meeting in which we would all discuss how we can individually and jointly adapt to the change before we all end up rending our clothes and gnashing our teeth in the style of Old Testament frustrations.

As I was re-reading it, it dawned on me that our business community could all stand to dust off their copy of this book and read it.

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s an overview: A group of characters is in a maze, and searching for cheese. It illustrates how each individual deals with the change when their apparently endless supply of cheese is moved. Some adapt quickly while others face death as they refuse to change.

It’s a cute read, and it carries a poignant message that change happens, but that’s not important. What is important is how you respond to the change.

The reason I say we as a business community need to read and re-read this book is that our “cheese” has been moved.

If you look back at the past three or four years in Colorado Springs, and begin to put together all of the things that look different in our city, the list begins to become overwhelming.

We now have a strong mayor, which people have strong opinions about. The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance has unified our beloved Chamber and EDC into one new organization that no one seems to be able to quite figure out, but there is an audible unified cry for familiar local business activities to come back.

Also, our city gets national news for smoke in Waldo Canyon, smoke in Black Forest, and of course smoke from medical marijuana shops, which have to be close to outnumbering coffee shops on every corner.

These are a few of the causes for increased anxiety among our small businesses, and I’m not sure there are enough Xanax-laced microbrews in the entire state to medicate ourselves back into how our city looked four years ago.

More importantly, I’m not sure that if you could actually medicate our local business mindset back into those days, it’s where we’d all want to go.

Without a doubt, our cheese has been moved, and wandering the favorite corridors of our maze is not going to magically make new cheese appear because we talked about it during our Tuesday networking lunch.

Instead, my encouragement is to embrace the change, and learn how to adapt to it. I can guarantee we won’t go back, but whether or not we move forward is up to us as a community.

Will we stop and sit down in our favorite corner of the maze and hope and pray that someday soon more cheese will reappear? Or, will we get up and move forward, unsure of what danger lurks around the next corner, but driven by the possibility that instead of danger it may be the reward of cheese?

I know many, if not most of the people I talk with, are unhappy about the direction they feel we’re going.

I know there is a sense that they could “Monday morning quarterback” this town into success so much better than anyone currently running it.

I also know that four years ago, when the city cried for change and got it, no one was promised that change would be an easy hike.

Change is hard, and often uncomfortable. Bottom line is that change sucks.

But, in the words of Winston Churchill: “If you find yourself going through Hell, keep going.”

So, I challenge us to “sniff” and “scurry” toward our next pile of cheese. I know you’re hungry, and feel scared, but it’s just around the corner.

I know we can get there together.

Matt Barrett is CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado.