Striving, Yet Not Thriving: When “Good Enough” Isn’t Good Enough

Chances are, you know of at least one small business that failed early on in its concept phase or struggled to stay afloat before it eventually tanked prematurely. Perhaps the entrepreneur had an exceptional idea for a product or service he wanted to market, but for reasons unexplainable, the business never took off.

Maybe you know small company owners personally that are striving to keep their companies going, working 80-hour workweeks, yet they are not thriving in their personal or professional lives. As a result, these leaders are burned out and their businesses never reach their full, extraordinary potential.

Here are five critical mistakes that keep small businesses from transforming into extraordinary companies:

  • An unclear vision or unidentifiable mission statement
  • Revenue-driven over purpose-driven
  • An unsustainable business model
  • Not setting the bar high enough
  • Maintaining a “for-profit only” mindset

Unclear Vision or Unidentifiable Mission Statement

Nothing stunts a business’ growth like an unclear vision or an unidentifiable mission statement. Your company’s vision statement sets forth your “why.” It should clearly define your purpose. It answers the questions, why are we here? What impact do we want to make in the world? How do our products and services meet a specific need? Where there is no vision, the people perish. That is true of businesses as well. Due to an unclear vision, many companies wither and die before they begin to take shape, often as early as the concept phase.

In “The Importance of a Vision Statement,” an article published on SCU.edu, the author poignantly reminds us that a good vision statement “should be possible, but not easily attainable. It should be clear and should be described in enough detail so that people can imagine what it will be like when they get there.” While your business may be able to merely function without a clear vision, it will not thrive and reach its extraordinary potential without one.”

Revenue-Driven Over Purpose-Driven

In a recent post published by Harvard Business School Online, the author discusses living out a purpose-driven mindset in your company by implementing a business strategy called the Triple Bottom Line: “The triple bottom line is a business concept that posits firms should commit to measuring their social and environmental impact—in addition to their financial performance—rather than solely focusing on generating profit, or the standard ‘bottom line.’”

Although no one can argue the importance of profitability in a company, when revenue is your only focus, you end up missing the mark. Money can only take your business so far. That’s the reason “get rich quick” schemes never pan out. Eventually, there needs to be a purpose behind the profit. A values-driven company takes a holistic approach to the business strategy. It includes positively impacting people in their primary objective.

Few can argue the profitability of a company like Tesla. Elon Musk recognized the need for electric cars because of the ever-growing price and impracticality of fossil fuels. His drive was deeper than simply attaining wealth; he saw a social and environmental problem and presented a solution. The money came later.

An Unsustainable Business Model

A business model that seeks to address both profitability while also making a positive social impact is more sustainable in the long run. A business model that embodies these ideals is often referred to as the Social Enterprise business model. It is less about driving revenue for profit, but rather sustainability. According to an article published in The Good Trade, the author points out, “Put simply, a social enterprise is a cause-driven business improving social objectives and serving the common good. Social enterprise models are a smart, savvy way to combine the best of traditional non-profits and traditional businesses.”

Not Setting the Bar High Enough: No Legacy for Future Companies

What influence do you want to have on future businesses? Should they look to your business as a guide and emulate your marketing approach? What makes your business approach a cut above the rest? Being successful in business not only profits you and those within your organization, but it also benefits future generations of business owners. You need to set the bar high. When Steve Jobs started Apple in 1976, he not only created a company with a clear vision of changing the way people viewed computers, but he also created jobs for a countless number of people, and a business model and mindset that future company leaders would look to as the ideal marketing approach.

A “For-Profit Only” Mindset

A “for-profit only” mindset goes back to the concept of being revenue-driven over purpose-driven, and the idea of the revolutionary social enterprise. A Social Enterprise business model seeks to merge a “for-profit” mindset with a “not-for-profit” approach. A “not-for-profit” organization, while not producing substantial revenue, has a specific objective in mind—helping people and benefiting the common good. When we merge these two mindsets together, we achieve something extraordinary—a company that produces a profit and perpetuates a cycle of productivity and sustainability for generations to come.

How Can We Avoid These Pitfalls?

Extraordinary businesses take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying goes. By implementing the five strategies outlined above, you will take your small, ordinary business to extraordinary.

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