It is common knowledge that out of ten businesses that are started, seven fail by the fifth year. If you talked with any of the entrepreneurs whose businesses failed, you will find that when they started, basically all of them had dreams of building their businesses into successful enterprises. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. They were unable to transform their dreams into sustainable businesses that lasted the distance.
Building a successful and sustainable business requires that the entrepreneur put in place specific structures that will empower the business to withstand the ups and downs that a business usually have to deal with particularly in the early years. These structures allow a startup business to quickly establish itself in the marketplace and secure enough share of the market to be profitable. Once profitability is achieved, there is a great chance that the business will not only survive, it will thrive.
To build a business that will not fail but thrive, look to do the following:
Establish a Long-Term Vision
This is a very crucial step in ensuring that your business does not end up in the grave yard. A long term vision motivates everyone associated with your business, including your employees to give their best because it tells them that they are part of something great. A long-term vision communicates to your employees that your startup business will ultimately become a mega business creating products or offering services that positively impact people in the years ahead. In addition, a long-term vision guides your actions and those of your team members and helps you make strategic plans that when properly executed, will move the business from one stage to the next until it becomes the mega-empire you envisioned at the start.
Establish Clear Goals and Objectives
If you truly desire to avoid your business failing, then you must appreciate the inherent value of setting goals and objectives for your business. Setting goals and objectives will help you achieve your vision for your business both over the short and long haul. That is why you will need to set both short-term and long-term goals with the short-term goals serving as building blocks to reach your long-term goals.
While setting goals and objectives, you should endeavor to cover all areas of your business and not restrict yourself to only some aspect of your operation. And once you have decided on what you goals and objectives are, you should write them down and constantly go over them to refresh them and to check up on how your business is coming along with respect to the set objectives.
Furthermore, your goals and objectives should be SMART, which means that they should be:
Specific – Make the goals as detailed and as specific as possible
Measurable – Come up with yardsticks for deciding or knowing when a goal is accomplished
Achievable – See to it that each of your goal or objective is something you and your team can realistically achieved within the limit of the resources you have at your disposal
Relevant – Your goals should align with your ultimate vision for your business. Each objective, when achieved, should lead you closer to achieving your ultimate vision for your business.
Time-bound – Put a deadline for achieving each goal. This will help motivate and keep you and your team on track.
Make Sure You Understand Clearly What Customers Want
To create products or come up with services that people will buy, you must clearly understand what it is that your target customers want. No one will buy what they don’t want or don’t believe that they need.
When people want something, they are strongly motivated to buy it. At that point, all you have to do is make them see that you have what they want. Businesses that fail to make the efforts to find out what customers want before they create products or services usually struggle to attract customers and eventually fizzle out.
If you endeavor to constantly stay informed regarding what your target customers want and tailor your products or service to satisfy their want, your business will always have customers trooping through your door.
Establish a World-Class Customer Service Culture
According to Sam Walton, “There is only one boss; the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Your customers are the lifeblood of your business; they are your greatest assets. Without customers, your business will not exist. This is why you must build a culture of treating your customers excellently if your startup business must succeed and not fail. It is not enough to create products that solve problems for your customers or make their lives easier, you must treat them as kings and queens by ‘rolling out the red carpet’ for them. This means that you should make your customers feel important and cherished each time they interact with your business. And this should be a culture in your business involving everyone on your team. It needs to be a core of your business’s DNA. It should be an attitude that everyone on your team breathe!
Be Aware of the Competition and Strive to Stay on Top of Your Game
No matter what line of business you are into, it is most likely that there are other businesses operating in the industry. Those businesses form your competition. It will be a mistake to focus your entire attention on what they are doing instead of focusing on what you can do in your business to create the best possible products or offer the best possible service to your clients. However, it will also be a mistake to carry on as though competition does not exist. The key is to strike a balance between these two factors: strive all the time to create innovative products or services for your customers and at the same time, stay conscious of the fact that if you let up, your customers will move over to any of your competitors who offer them what you are not offering. Use these twin factors to motivate yourself and your team to stay on top of your game.
Manage Your Finances Wisely
One of the reasons businesses fail is the inability of the business owner to manage company money wisely. During the early stage of a business, money is hardly enough. If the owner fails to maintain a lean model and plough back into the business as much money as is needed to keep the business liquid, he will be setting his business up to fail. One way to avoid this happening is to always work with a budget. Create a budget at the beginning of each business year to cover all aspects of your business and discipline yourself and your team to stick to the budget. Without a budget and the discipline to stick to it, you are prone to impromptu and unplanned spending which will expose your business to the possibility of failing.
Ensure That a Strong Leadership is in Place
If there is any one place where strong leadership is needed, it is in a startup business. A startup business is usually very fluid with products or services that have not yet gained a foothold in the market, a culture that is not yet fully formed, a small team and several unknown. An environment like this require a strong leadership to maintain traction on a daily basis and help everyone align with the vision and goals of the company. A weak leadership will lack the capacity to navigate this treacherous stage resulting in wrong decisions that will fail to inspire employees. Ultimately, the future of the business will be put in jeopardy and whatever promise the business held would be out of the window. If you don’t have the wherewithal to provide strong leadership for your business, then you should bring on board an industry veteran as soon as possible. Someone who has worked in your industry for many years, has built relationships with many industry stakeholders, understands what it takes to get things done and has the personality to inspire others.
Establish Effective Processes and Systems
The startup stage of a business is stage that is constantly evolving. And running a business at this stage usually involves making decisions instinctively on a daily basis. However, if the business continues to be run this way, it will become vulnerable to failing. For the business to survive and thrive, you must develop solid procedures and systems for how the business should operate. You will have to develop procedures and processes to cover all areas of your operation including product development, customer service, sales, and others. Well-defined, clearly-spelt out procedures and systems usually guarantee efficiency, ensure quality control, raise employees’ productivity and strengthen customer service. They also provide a solid foundation for the growth and expansion of the business.
Ensure That Critical Skills are Not Lacking
It is not uncommon for a business to start as a one man with an idea and a dream who sets out to make it happen. However, for the business to grow and become successful, a broader set of skills than those possess by the founder must be brought on board. Without a team with a balanced set of skills, a startup business could end up closing shop. Your responsibility as a startup entrepreneur is to determine the skills that are most critical for your type of business and look to bring into your team people that possess those skills. Generally, most startups require a technical genius or product expert – who is usually the founder, a sales person or revenue driver, a marketing person and a person responsible for organizing everything – including ordering office supplies to keep the business running smoothly.
“A company’s ability to respond to an unplanned event, good or bad is a prime indicator of its ability to compete.” – Bill Gates
The business environment is constantly changing. What was in vogue a few months ago is probably considered obsolete today. As an entrepreneur, your ability to keep up with trends and adapt your products or services as well as business processes is a key factor in determining if your startup business will become a success or a failure. Your aim should be to constantly innovate and align your business with changing trends. Likewise, you should constantly seek to take advantage of trends to reinvent your business and develop up-to-date products and services so as to put your business over the top and ensure that you have competitive advantage.
Develop a Solid Marketing Strategy
If you know who your target customers are; if you find out exactly what they want and you develop products or services that will meet their needs but you fail to develop a solid plan to make them aware of your product or make them buy it, your business wouldn’t last the distance. A solid marketing plan includes all the above but it also involves marketing your products or service using the traditional media as well as digital media. It is important that you get a message out there about your products and services. Use social media, content marketing, PR and any other advertising channel that will get your message to your target audience. If you feel you cannot handle your marketing by yourself and you do not have an in-house marketing team that can do the job, hire a marketing agency or consultant so that they can help you develop a solid marketing plan and execute it. You need a solid marketing plan executed efficiently to attract customers and grow your business.
Build Good Relationships With Your Employees
According to Mary Kay Ash, “If you honor and serve the people who work for you, they will honor and serve you.” If you treat your employees well as valuable members of your team, they will take care of your customers and your business. Therefore, look to build good relationships with your employees and treat them with dignity and respect. By building good relationships with them and honoring them as important team members, you will be motivating them to always give their best shot to their jobs every time. This will ultimately culminate in a culture of excellent service delivery that will rapidly push your startup business up the growth ladder as opposed to failing and becoming a forgotten story.