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Stuck in Survival Mode | Extraordinary Business

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Thinking about how to get your business to the next level? Here are a couple of thoughts on how you might do so.

imageIf you are like most small business owners, you have built your business over time, adding different products and services to meet the needs of the changing market, changed, explored different business models, ventured into informal partnerships and a slew of other activities to build your company. As a young business, you may have had a swinging door of employees, vendors and contractors that may or may not have added value to your company.  You may have toyed with ventures, such as hosting networking events, done joint product launches and joined affiliate networks to increase cash flow.

After all of the blood, sweat and tears, you have to ask yourself how your company has actually grown.  Would you say that you have a solid brand that people turn to, regularly, to gain a certain product or service, or are your company still considered “one of many?” Do you find your work time filled with “busyness” or strategically focused activities that will help you move your company toward your vision for it? Do you have a vision for your company…and is it limited?

Are you simply filled with the routine of trying to survive, or have you arrived at the point where you truly have options for what the next phase of your business will look like?

If the rumors are true, many small businesses never get out of what might be defined as the “survival” phase, wherein each day is filled with trying to figure out how to stay in business. There is little, if any, strategic approach, marketing and sales are slightly if not completely ad hoc, there is little if any brand recognition or differentiation, there is little clarity on the target market, how to reach them, what and why they buy, and most customers are made up of referrals of friends, family and colleagues.  Processes are nearly non-existent, and are probably more “guidelines” than tools established to help control company costs and efficiency, budgeting is an interesting  concept and “lowest cost” tends to be the purchasing strategy.

This stage in the business could also be termed the “evolutionary” stage, wherein the business has opportunity to develop and turn into something viable, something with definition, growth potential, that is desirable by the marketplace and could become a sustainable entity.  By understanding where your company is, and its deficits, you can take steps toward moving to the next level.

In the post “Leading the Organization that Survives” the business is compared to a person, and needs are identified in a hierarchy, similar to the way that Abraham Maslow described in his “:Hierarchy of Human Needs” or Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

The first two stages in growing a business, known as the “existence” phase include meeting survival and safety needs, from determining who your market is, what there need is, how you will address it, to ensuring that the business is in compliance, has access to expertise and is aware of internal strengths and weakness and external opportunities and threats. The focus on the business and communications is primarily internal.

The next phase, where growth seems to slow, is where the business establishes the activities that allow it to become more efficient and scale to meet the needs of the market as it begins to grow. If the earlier stages are not met, obviously, a business will typically stall at this stage; it doesn’t truly have any identity!  With no identity, it is unable to determine how it fits into the marketplace, how it is different, what markets might be attracted to it, etc. Marketers often say that these businesses use a buckshot approach to the marketplace.

In order to progress from this phase, two things need to happen:

1) The company needs to establish its management practices – systems, processes, team building, effective product development, and analyzing how effective activities are and how they contribute to the business. The thinking is that we are putting tools in the place that will enable the company to operate as efficiently as possible, controlling costs, quality, assets and resources.

2) The company needs to switch its focus from internal to external. This doesn’t mean that it takes its eye off the ball, but rather, that it operates more strategically. NOTE: there is no point in focusing on this stage until you have satisfied lower-level needs. Much of this focus will be on communication and providing value for stakeholders – clients, employees, vendors, investors and the community. While advertising does fall under this umbrella, so does team building and enlisting stakeholders in your company mission and vision.

As you can see, growing a company requires diligence that cannot be met when you, as the business leader, are constantly focused on putting out fires. It may require that you hire other people to help you accomplish and manage these tasks, such as an administrative professional, general manager or an office manager. It may also require that you let go of some control in order to develop a high performing team that can help you dig in and get these things done.

Regardless, if your goal is to build an extraordinary business, it must be done.

Have an extraordinary day.

~Rick

Rick Meekins is the Managing Consultant at Aepiphanni, the trusted advisor for business leaders who are seeking forward-thinking solutions to help them plan for and navigate through the challenges of business growth. Our entrepreneurial multidisciplinary team works with clients to develop differentiating solutions and provide direction focused on lasting, strategic results.  We exist to help our clients CREATE | DESIGN | BUILD extraordinary businesses.

We would love to hear from you.  Please share your thoughts and comments below. If you are seeking advice on how to grow your business, streamline systems and processes, implement software or overcoming challenges to growth, please contact us, directly or submit a request for a complimentary Coffee & a Consult to learn how we can help you CREATE | DESIGN | BUILD an extraordinary company..

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