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Marie started her estate care business when she was in high school. Growing up in an affluent community where her father was essentially the mayor, she was well-connected and had no shortage of potential clients who all needed her services. Over the next 20 years, she grew her business into a large full-service landscape management business, employing over 100 people at peak season. Life was good, that is, until she began to have an identity crisis, not personally, but with respect to her business. Marie’s hallmark traits of confidence and clarity of direction were being replaced with hesitancy and murkiness. Something had to give.

When we hear of someone having an identity crisis, we think of a person who is questioning who they are what their place is in the world. An identity crisis can happen in the life of a business as well, and it’s not a bad thing. In reality, this process of questioning happens frequently and is a healthy endeavor for business leaders to work through.

Marie’s business had a clear direction for its first 20 years — a linear path that brought her to where she was today. This clear path became murky when one of her commercial clients asked her to oversee their entire portfolio of properties, which happened to be spread throughout the United States. Marie never said no to an opportunity, so she jumped at it and set up an operations team to manage this portfolio.

The new opportunity was successful. In fact, it was so successful that it was producing more revenue and profit, with much less hassle, than the rest of her company’s accounts combined. She took on additional portfolio clients and realized there was a huge market to be pursued. Needless to say, she began to question her business model and the future of her company.

Marie is faced with a question of strategy. More specifically, she has to decide how to position her company — or companies — in the marketplace. She will need to seek to understand her current positioning in relationship to her competitors and she will need to make some projections about the future and how her companies are to be positioned. Once this is done, she will need to determine the action steps required and she will need her team to execute this new strategic direction.

Until Marie and her team clarify a new strategic direction, they are essentially stuck, and everyone can sense it. What used to make sense doesn’t anymore. Things don’t fit together like they used to. Incentive compensation programs are based on old assumptions that no longer apply. The organizational structure is in need of updating. The list goes on and on.

An identity crisis is an opportunity to reinvent your business with a new strategic direction — a new vision for the future. If you are having an identity crisis, my advice is to seize the opportunity, harness the energy and momentum, and go for it. Every day you remain stuck is another day your team suffers from a lack of clarity.

Now go forth.

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About the Author:

Phil Harwood is a Senior Advisor with Tamarisk Business Advisors. Contact him at

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