Is my business failing? This is the question we are going to try and answer over the course of this post.
Business is inherently hard. There are a lot of moving parts and something just always seems to be going wrong. At times you may be wondering when you will finally get a chance to catch your breath. As your reading this, you may not have had good sleep in over a year. There may be a large bill that you are struggling to pay. Perhaps it is the dreaded tax season at the end of the year. Right now, it’s probably related to COVID-19 and the resiliency of your business model.
A lot of times these frustrations are due to a lack of structure and proper planning. Businesses usually start because the owner has a passion, specific knowledge or it is inherited. Though that is a good basis for starting, that is not will keep it running for 10, 20 or 100 years. I am sure you know of a few businesses you have patronized that are no longer there. They failed. I want to help you understand why your business is failing so that you can make adjustments.
What are businesses like Sainsbury’s, Harrods, Coca-Cola and Pfizer doing that you are not?
1. They know who they are
“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?” – Marcus Aurelius
My first 2 business attempts failed because I did not truly understand this fact. To be more objective, I lacked self awareness. Knowing ones self in business goes beyond choosing the industry you operate in and what your product is. Those things are a given. If you own a coffee shop, do you like making the drinks or talking with customers? Do you have people skills or are you more of a numbers person? Do you even want to be in your business at all day to day or you want to strategize? All of these options are possible but you have to know what you want.
Often times in the beginning, a business owner has to do everything. They are the accountant, store keeper, marketing executive, sales executive, cashier and janitor. Though this is part of the process of starting a business, you must keep the core of who you are handy so that you don’t lose sight of why you wanted to start the business in the first place.
2. They hire the right people
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs
There is a great book called the e-myth that talks about what can be done about hiring and mindset. For some people, there may be a fear that the person they are bringing in will mess up their efforts. Personally, if I do not like the person, I will not hire them. It is the same for friendships. When you meet someone for the first time you can tell if you will get along or not. The same thing applies for the people you will be spending the majority of your life around in your business. There is no need to feel any kind of way about it. Some people are meant to work with you and others are not.
I wish I knew this sooner. My main issue was telling team members what to do and trusting that they were capable enough to do it. When I talk about this topic, the comment I always get is “but they will leave eventually with all the knowledge.” This is true and should not be feared. I am sure you worked in a few places where your boss was hoping that you would be their next replacement.
3. They rebrand
“Brand names are worthless without any gained or perceived value.” ― Bernard Kelvin Clive
Branding is quite unique because it is between design and business. This is where the customer picks up on perceived value. If you look at items that you own, there was a reason you chose to buy them and that boils down to branding. A lot of times business owners get wrapped up in logo, fonts and colors but that is only one aspect. The brand also includes how your staff members talk to each other and how they perceive their work. In my current place of work, the font on the initial sign was made in Times New Roman and the environment was stuffy. Believe it or not, that did not stop customers from coming in. The value the brand had far outweighed the physical look. Though they were not excelling in graphic design, the customer service and availability of items were on another level.
So then, what can you do as a company when the vision you have for you business is not aligning with what is currently happening? You rebrand!
Rebranding is not reserved for large companies. Every business can make incremental changes that will deepen the bond you have with your customers. For you it may be that you need to work on reminding some of your customers that you have a particular service. Perhaps a venture you engaged in crashed and burned in a way that completely killed all trust your customers had in you. It may be the sign that is 20 years old and rusted on the edges. Depending on your spending capacity, your rebranding can be in stages over a month or a year. The important thing is to keep at it. Your customers will see that you care about them and your staff members will be happy to work in a new environment.
We all respond positively to intentional change.
4. They invest in the future
“In investing, what is comfortable is rarely profitable.” – Robert Arnott
In business, investments are often thought of in terms of money. Though it is extremely important to be wise with earning and spending, what about knowledge? You can not fill a cup more than its capacity. A lot of times it is not easy to see how the work you are doing now is setting you up for future success. When you look deeply within, what are you lacking? How conversant are you with looking at reports? What do you know about sleep and rest? How about the bread baking or health interest you have? Have you considered going to therapy to get your mind right? Every one of these areas have a direct impact on your life and should be explored. As you round yourself out as a person, your business will also shape up.
The common excuse I hear is that “I have no time.” I hate to break it to you, but you will never have time. Running a business is a marathon and not a sprint. You have to pace yourself and know when to take your water breaks. You are the only one that can know when you need to rest and refocus.
5. They pivot
“In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” —Warren Buffett
This is where the pareto 80/20 principle comes in. 80% of your efforts create 20% of your results and 20% of your efforts produce 80% of your results. Keeping this in mind, it is important to always assess what your doing and how it can be improved. I am finding that business owners have an emotional attachment to the way things have always been done, but that does not mean it is the best way. It can often be scary to dive into the unknown but sometimes it is the only way.
Think of a business like Blackberry that was early to the smartphone game in 2002. They had the qwerty keypad and push notifications long before other phones did. They held onto what was working and did not see what the iPhone would do to change the game. The same can be said if you compare Blockbuster and Netflix.
At times it may seem like what the world is doing is just a passive trend. What you need to keep in mind is that some of these seemingly unimportant things will change your business. Nobody 20 years ago could have foreseen what Instagram would do for business or even have considered opening and e-commerce site. Now it a norm. You are almost seen as an unserious business if you are not on any form of social media or at least appear in a Google search.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to dealing with business problems. The important thing is that you stay attentive and always keep moving towards improving what you are doing. There are always ways to make what you are doing slightly easier. If your business seems like it is failing at the moment, take a step back and reassess. One of these 5 things may actually help you out of the hole you are in.
What is something you have done in your business that produced results you could not have imagined?