Do You Know The Life Stage Of Your Business?
At a recent Rising Tide Society, Tuesdays Together meeting the classic "chicken before the egg" advertising question came up. If you're in slow season or business is down do you pay for more advertising? Or do you cut back your advertising to save money?
As you can imagine, there were different theories from different participants. The variety of responses begged the question in my mind...is that partially dependent on the life stage of your business? Yes.
If you are not familiar with the concept of life stages within your business listen up, because the lessons here are priceless.
From concept to opening your doors (be they virtual or brick and mortar), the moment you start spending money and collecting money, you have just given birth to your business.
Infancy is all about learning. Most find themselves in "survival mode" during this time but the doors are staying open and thing are moving forward. This is often when businesses make the jump to first hiring employees.
Your business at this phase is growing, sometimes quickly and easily, sometimes with a few bumps and bruises of still learning how to walk in this new biz. Employees in your biz are able to do many of the day to day operations but the business as a whole is still heavily reliant on you to make the critical decisions and manage cash flow. Many entrepreneurs in this phase tend to be reactive to the needs of their business, rather than proactive as they are finally able to breathe a bit.
You are clearly out of survival mode at this point. Your employees are able to manage your business in your absence and cash flow is of little concern. In this phase you are focusing on growing, diversifying and innovating your business into what you want it to be. Sometimes though, the confidence and desire to innovate can mean trouble by growing to fast or in the wrong direction.
You've learned a few lessons the hard way and have settled in knowing the rate at which you can grow and how many things you can focus on at once. You now choose to focus on proactively developing systems and processes that build the foundation of the business. This may be a time as well that you choose to rebrand based on what you're business has now defined itself as and what you want your business model to look like going forward.
Zone of Maximization / Maturity
This is the place we all want to be. This is the goal, this is your sweet spot. Your business is running itself with consistent accelerating cash flow, a great management team and a customer base that is consistently growing and happy with your product/service. This is when you know who you are, where you want to be and have an adaptable plan that allows you to navigate the entrepreneurial landscape and be consistently moving towards your long term objectives, even as the industry shifts.
Things have been clicking along for awhile, but it's time to look at your progress and see if they are really as good as they feel. This is where you have to stop and look at real numbers. This is where those who don't want to me measured become those who don't want to be held accountable...and business starts to turn downward.
By not evaluating and altering your direction the business begins to take a turn for the worse. Loyal employees leave, the energy once felt for your business now begins to be complacent or be replaced with anxiety about it's downward turn, rather than welcoming new ideas, new input, innovation and change.
Your business is surviving only because of it's longevity and the system in place. The lack of innovation, attention to details and customer service has crippled you and is ruining your reputation. You begin to got into debt in order to keep the doors open.
At this point the team nor your customers believe in what your business has to offer. Your business is no longer sustainable.
Now...stop and think about what life stage your business is truly in. Take the time to ask a few of your key employees or your spouse if they work the business with you...what stage they see your business in. Generally speaking, if you are in any phase before the mid-life evaluation...advertising is key. If you are anywhere after the evaluation...it's time to innovate. Why? Because advertising an outdated lack luster brand will not change the aging of your business, it will only delay it.
The key? Always be analyzing real numbers and real feedback. Don't be afraid to ask employees, clients, even people who chose not to become your clients...what their impression of your product/services is. This is critical information to being able to always staying "In The Zone"!
In addition...seek out a mentor or a coach. This isn't about me promoting myself or my business, it's about me offering true advice. The times I've changed the most, and for the best, are times when I've reached out to those who have the mindset I desire, and discovered how they got there. Be it life or business, save yourself the time and effort of learning lessons the hard way...and seek out counsel from those who've gone before you. “Behind every great leader, at the base of every great tale of success, you will find an indispensable circle of trusted advisors, mentors, and colleagues.” – Unknown
You won't regret.