You may know that I’m an avid skier and golfer, and you can find me skiing at Big Sky, Montana, throughout the winter season, and golfing there in the summer. I’ve been asked to contribute a bi-weekly business column to Explore Big Sky. You’ll find my latest column below, and you can also see it HERE (I’m on page 17!).
There are steps you can take to maximize the opportunities to successfully grow your business.
As a company founder, recognize if you’re an asset or a liability to the growth of your business. No matter how proud you are of the business you’ve successfully launched, if you can’t grow it hire someone to step in. I’ve been brought in by many investors to mediate situations where founders weren’t effectively scaling a company. Identify relationships early that will create an optimal scenario for all stakeholders: you, as well as your employees, customers, investors and partners.
Focus. It’s imperative that you don’t diversify too early. Focus on growing the sectors that can build a sustainable business and brand recognition. Avoid constantly changing your positioning by reacting to the competition. While being fully aware of the competitive landscape, stay on course with a clear strategy.
Build your infrastructure and automate what you must. Regardless of the size of your business, the sooner you can implement the right systems to help you scale, the more efficient and effective you’ll be. I’ve seen too many companies confronted with the challenges of growing while trying to remain savvy regarding operational efficiency as they scale up.
Monitor. It’s important to actively track as much data as you can about your business during its early stages. Ideally, you’ve entered into this venture with a well-researched hypothesis about what it will take to thrive. Once your “doors are open,” you’re in an active testing period that requires careful monitoring. This should include:
- Meticulous financial record keeping, including detailed return on investment regarding all business costs
- An up-to-the minute database and customer relationship management of prospects
- Up-to-date, real-time inventory monitoring
- Regular reviews of employee performance.
You need to be in a position to take a “business pulse” and to have an accurate status report at any time.
Be flexible. If any aspect of your original hypothesis isn’t producing the expected results, you must have the humility to adapt. Many businesses fail because the people behind them refuse to reconsider their choices when something isn’t working. Don’t let stubbornness sink your venture!
Have comprehensive contingency plans in place. A fixation on “what ifs” can inhibit progress, but it’s important to consider them in business planning. Unexpected challenges should inform your choices regarding purchasing insurance; securing legal counsel and financial advisors; making succession plans for yourself and key staff members; maintaining files of back-up vendors who can meet unanticipated needs; and purchasing emergency supplies like a back-up generator, for example. Know when your suppliers are unable to deliver goods, and be proactive in identifying services and products that can supplement your revenue stream.
Marketing never stops. If you’ve got money in the budget to promote the launch of your new business, but haven’t thought about promoting it post-launch, you’ve skipped an important step. The likelihood that your launch will be so successful that you’ll never have to actively market again is pretty slim.
Talk to someone who knows the landscape. If you’re new to business ownership, you can save yourself a great deal of “learning the hard way” by talking to a professional advisor about how to set up effective systems. And know when having an advisory board is right for you. The cost of doing it right from the beginning will pay dividends in the long term.
Remember, growth and operational efficiency are not mutually exclusive!
Johanne Bouchard, a former high-tech marketing executive, is a leadership advisor to CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs, as well as an expert in corporate board composition and dynamics. Visit johannebouchard.com to learn more or download her recently published eBooks “Board Composition” and “Board Basics.”