Running a small business isn’t easy, but then if it were, everyone would be doing it, wouldn’t they? But it can be fun, as long as you learn a few fundamentals around mindset, critical thinking and planning.
Are you growing or dying?
One question I always ask business owners who I meet is, “Are you in maintenance mode or growth mode?” Which of these two do you connect with? You must look in the mirror and make a conscious choice about this because they are two different mindsets and whichever approach you take will affect each and every decision you make in your business. If you’re not clear about which mode you are in you could be heading for trouble.
You may think you should be in maintenance mode, treading carefully and being conservative until you can get back on your feet, and then you can worry about growth. But let me tell you something right now: you should always be in growth mode. That’s right, always.
To be in growth mode means you are focused on the future. You should have three five-year goals and shorter-term targets to ensure you’re on track to the greater destination.
Being in growth mode means having a strategic plan that is the basis for all the decisions you make. It means having the right team who will grow with you, and the right physical environment that takes into account your future needs so you won’t have to scramble together unsatisfactory solutions at the last minute.
Always remember that the short term is just a step on the journey to long term, so you must always be clear on your destination. Sometimes you must go two steps backwards to go four steps forward, but you must see the opportunities before you and not just the costs. Focus on the cost of opportunity, not the cost of growth, and be prepared and strategic to take a short-term hit for long-term gain.
Every Plan A should have a Plan B
So, having decided that you are in growth mode you must always ensure that every plan A has a plan B. I always say, “every problem I am experiencing today, started out as a great idea!”
When things start to go pear-shaped do you start making decisions in a blind panic just to get out of the current mess?
Just as important as using your plan to guide your decisions and growth is having a plan B or everything you do. We all know that despite best efforts and careful planning things still go wrong from time to time. All businesses hit speed bumps; it’s inevitable. So whenever you make an important decision in your business, make sure you have a backup plan as well.
Focus on the basics
Keep things simple and focus on executing well. Make sure your team has this attitude too, both your internal team and any support you outsource.
• Have effective communications systems:
You need to have effective systems in place that allow you to communicate quickly and easily with your current and future clients. Make all communication relevant and frequent.
• Have effective operating cashflow management:
This is vital. It doesn’t matter how many clients you have or how great your products are, if you can’t pay your bills or re-invest in your business you are going out of business.
• Manage the hard decisions:
When it’s time, you need to wield the axe. You are the leader in your business and that comes with the responsibility to make tough decisions. You need to embrace this mindset. It’s part of your responsibility as leader of the business. If you don’t accept this role, your hesitation and inconsistency when making decisions will cause confusion and this will cause you to fail.
• Create a positive environment:
If you operate in fear of losing clients, if you don’t do the things that separate you from the competition, if you don’t push yourself and your business to be the best you can be, you will die. If you operate with a positive outlook and an attitude of abundance you can thrive and grow.
What about when times get tough?
When I tell business owners that they always need to be in growth mode, they often ask me, “but what about when times are tough?” My response is: “which part of always did you not understand?”
Too many business owners allow themselves to be victims of the environment around them. If you have built a robust business, you know your market intimately and what clients want from you, and you know how to deliver it, tough times will bring you no fear.
Sometimes when things get tough people automatically turn to survival tactics, without a strategy or belief that they are better than this. Yes, we need to get through tough times, but we don’t need to throw out all our hard work and forget who we are and what we do.
When you’ve found the right target market and know your numbers, tough times won’t worry you.
Growth mode is about planning, maintenance is about fear
Are you at your full potential? It’s not about who is the smartest, it’s about recognising the void and filling it.
When the opportunity moves from the head to the heart you will move forward. When you fully own and take responsibility for what you are doing, and when you are totally committed, good things will start to happen.
Business is demanding. It always has been and it always will be.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, here’s a great exercise that can help you clear the decks a little bit. It’s called the Traffic Light Exercise. For many clients I find that this is a moment of truth and a moment of clarity. It’s actually very simple, but also very powerful. Simply answer the following questions:
• What 3 things do you need to stop doing?
• What 3 things do you need to continue doing?
• What 3 things do you need to start doing?
You can begin this activity by looking at yourself. Everything you do in your business must be led by you. What do you need to stop, start and continue? Look at your default diary. What are the three key things to achieve today rather than the 50 trivial things to do?
Ask these three questions of your team too – the answers can be both surprising and liberating and result in massive steps forward for everyone.
This is a slightly amended version of an article written by Stefan Kazakis, business strategist and author of the new book ‘From Deadwood to Diamonds’.