The Importance of Realizing Potential


The dictionary defines potential this way: “existing in possibility, capable of development into actuality.” Here’s how I define it: you’re not doing it now. Whatever the task, you may be able to do it … until you actually do it, you only have the potential to do it.

People see your potential, meaning they think you have the skill to perform a task or the skills to perform a job. For example, someone notices your Receptionist is courteous on the telephone and tells you your Receptionist is really good.

Your Receptionist may courteous, but to be a good Receptionist, she’ll have to demonstrate skill (i.e., perform exceptionally) in several areas: answering questions, dealing with people, dealing with difficult people, returning calls promptly, taking messages, telephone etiquette, transferring calls. She goes from having the potential be a good Receptionist to being a good Receptionist when she consistently performs each task at a high level.

Your business has potential: to have better employees, improve customer service, improve its brand, increase market share, profit, and revenue, and upgrade technology. Every business has potential. What’s important is, when does your business realize its potential?

A hurdle exists between potential and accomplishment, a hurdle that takes months or even years to clear. Your goal may be to increase revenue ten percent each year and, even though you do everything you can to meet that goal, it still may take years accomplish.

Every business has the potential to be great, to realize its potential. Is your business realizing its potential? Assess your business by answering these questions:

  • Are revenues increasing each year? Are profits?
  • Are you advertising and marketing effectively?
  • Are you attracting and retaining new clients?
  • Are you hiring and retaining talented employees?
  • Are you providing competitive compensation packages?
  • Are you training your employees?
  • Are you upgrading your product or service? Your operating procedures?
  • Are you using Best Practices?
  • Are you using new software and technology?
  • Do you have adequate capital?
  • Does your business have a good reputation?
  • Does your business operate efficiently?
  • Is your brand well defined?

Answering “No” to even one question means your business is not realizing its potential.

Why Is Realizing Potential Important?

You’ve been in business for years and have a made a profit every year—who cares if your business is not realizing its potential? You’re making money.

Assume you work at a large company, and nine people do what you do. Your CEO rewards her high performers with theater tickets, tickets to sporting events, and bonuses. But she hates poor performance: she’s been known to fire underperforming employees the week before Christmas. Her goal, which she often repeats, is to make the company the best in the industry.

You’ve worked there several years at this company, and you’re well-paid. Unlike your nine peers, you have yet to receive an outstanding performance evaluation. Your best evaluations have been average. Suddenly there’s a knock on your door. Your boss, and your boss’s boss, wants to discuss your evaluations.

The market is like this CEO: it has no sympathy for underachievers.

It’s great when your Office Manager says your business has potential. But if he’s saying in Year Five what he’s been saying the last four years, “we have potential to increase revenue“ (because you’ve not actually increased revenue the last four years), it’s not a compliment. It’s an indication something is wrong. And if that something isn’t fixed,  there may not be a Year Six.