Growing a Small Business with 5 Essential Principles

We tend to hear about people when they are successful but not when they are struggling. This creates a distorted perception that people succeed overnight.

Behind every "overnight success" is a story of a person or a team toiling away for years, with very few people except themselves and perhaps a few friends and partners supporting them. Consider the following two stories:

Overnight Delivery, Not so Overnight: On March 12th, 1973, founder of FedEx, Fred Smith secured just seven packages for the first night's run. He sent his salesmen back into the field, more than doubled his network to 25 cities, and re-launched the service a month later -- this time handling a grand total of 186 packages. Smith was so desperate for cash that he flew to Las Vegas to play the blackjack tables. He wired the27,000 he won back to FedEx. Needless to say, Smith's persistence paid off.

Rising from the Ashes: At the beginning of 2009, the creator of mega successful video game Angry Birds, Rovio (located in in Espoo, a 20-minute drive west of Helsinki) was close to bankruptcy. Angry Birds was Rovio's 52nd game. The 'overnight success' of Angry Birds took just eight years. And the founders of Rovio had been thinking about video games for long before that.

So many business founders come up with a good idea yet they are unable to scale their companies for growth. Through my own journey as an entrepreneur, I've learned that every business is unique, but there are certain key precepts to follow for success. The few that do succeed do so with unmatched focus, discipline, and unconventional thinking.

Although it takes more than just this to be a success in business, here are five essential principles that you can begin implementing right away as you begin your journey toward growing your business:

1. Timing is Everything
The timing of your product or service must be right in the marketplace. If the market isn't ready and you are way ahead of the market, then you must possess the drive and the willingness to sacrifice in order to make that product or service work.

You will need to choose to either wait for the market to catch up (requiring the resources to survive during that period, and accepting the risk of emerging competition), or you'll need to adjust your offering to something more palatable to the market's current readiness.

Smaller businesses have the advantage of being able to make choices and implement changes without the exhaustive process and conflicting points of view that slow down major corporations. You need to anticipate your market and customers' needs and constantly innovate to stay ahead. This requires leadership with agility, resilience, and a willingness to fail -- and to recognize that failure quickly enough to adapt and move forward.

2. Brand, Brand, Brand
Today's economy requires business leaders to create positive memories for customers and partners, or customers will turn to a competitor in search of a better experience. If you want to create a scalable business, you have to understand just how crucial it is to build brand equity. The emotional attachment that links customers to your product, as opposed to any other, translates into sustainable growth. Here are some basic rules to connect, shape, influence, and lead with your brand:

  • Choose your target audience - the surest road to product failure is to try to be all things to all people.
  • Connect with the public - your objective is to make your audience feel an emotional attachment to your brand.
  • Inspire and influence your audience - an inspirational brand message is far more influential than one that just highlights product feature functions.
  • Reinforce the brand image within your company - make sure employees at every level of your organization work and behave in a way that reinforces your brand image.

3. Scale Your Sales
Creating a unique product and a unique brand isn't enough. It takes repeatable sales processes to create a scalable business. It is one thing to sign up a few customers; it is another thing entirely to identify, design, and implement repeatable sales and customer delivery processes. You've created a repeatable and scalable sales model when:

  • You can add new hires at the same productivity level as yourself or your sales leader.
  • You can increase the sources of your customer leads on a consistent basis.
  • Your sales conversion rate and revenue can be consistently forecasted.
  • Your cost to acquire a new customer is significantly less than the amount you can earn from that customer over time.
  • Your customers get the right product in the right place at the right time.

A repeatable sales model builds the platform to scale. Like the search for product/market fit, it can take major experimentation/R&D to find a repeatable and scalable sales model.

4. Embrace Technology
Nearly two thirds, or 64%, of the recent Bank of America (BofA) Small Business Owner Survey respondents said they wish they took better advantage of technology innovations to help manage their business. If a small business can identify a genuine need, technology likely exists to fulfill that need both locally and globally. There are few barriers to entry in an age where anyone with wireless can cheaply and quickly access the enabling technologies needed to execute their business model. It comes down to creating the right operating blueprint that connects the dots between your business model and the application of accessible technologies.

5. De-Stress for Success
Most small business owners consider managing the ongoing success of their business to be twice as stressful as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner, nearly three times as stressful as raising children and more than four times as stressful as managing their own personal finances, according to the same Bank of America report mentioned earlier. The survey indicates that small business owners routinely forgo physical fitness and other personal priorities to keep up with business demands. Thirty-eight percent of small business owners maintain full or part-time jobs while running their own business.

The stressors can be relentless. But if you're not happy, healthy and motivated, you can't create a business model that provides a positive market experience. You also set the tone for everyone who works with you. Nobody wants to do business with a grouchy, bitter and exhausted owner. Therefore, investing the time and effort to adequately take care of your physical and mental well-being will further increase your chances for long term success. Mental health is not just about going to the gym to let off steam. It's about achieving a state of mental calmness to see you though the relentless challenges - but that's another topic in itself!

For more by Faisal Hoque, click here.

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