Growing a small business can be more stressful than raising children or maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse. Here are some basic principles to get you started on a sane journey toward growth.
Timing is Integral
The timing of your product or service must be right in the marketplace. Smaller businesses have the advantage of being able to make choices and implement product and or service 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.
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.
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:
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.
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 years, people have tried to correlate an entrepreneur’s age when they launched their startup, with the ultimate success of that startup. Many studies have been done on the topic, including reports by the Kauffman Foundation, Duke University and the Founder Institute, to name a few.
The collective summary of their learning is: the average entrepreneur is 40 when they launch their startup. People over 55 are twice as likely as people under 35 to launch a high-growth startup. The average age of a successful startup with over $1 million in revenues was 39. Age was less of a driver to entrepreneurial success than previous startup and industry experience.
Examining the age of a few successful entrepreneurs when they launched their companies shows it runs the gamut. The ages, from youngest to oldest: Facebook (20), Microsoft (20), Apple (21), Google (25), Twitter (30), Amazon (30), Tesla (34), Oracle (35), Netflix (37), Zynga (41), Walmart (44) and McDonald’s (53). Experience is a key driver for many of these entrepreneurs but is not required, as seen in the success of Facebook, Microsoft and Apple.
Studies have shown that for entrepreneurship, unlike typical markets, information networks are inefficient; this means founders identify different opportunities based on their unique prior knowledge.
While a 20-year old may have little more experience than going to classes, using their mobile apps, and pursuing their hobbies, a manager from a manufacturing company might recognize the need for new logistical software, or a technician in the energy industry might see the opportunity for a better ceramic filter. These opportunities are not sexy nor obvious to someone fresh out of college, but they can make a unique and compelling value proposition and the basis of a successful company.
Of course, ideas are only ideas until you execute. More experienced leaders tend to have deeper networks, experience managing teams, and better business savvy and skills for delivering on their vision.
Part of the reason youth culture reigns in Silicon Valley is that the region is dominated by Internet firms, a relatively new sector for which start-up costs are low and only minimal prior business expertise is necessary. Venture capitalists may also like working with young people because they are more impressionable and have fewer bad habits to unlearn.
Still, start-ups in some industries, such as biotech and business software, gain an edge from the experience that comes with a founder’s age. According to research by Vivek Wadhwa, an academic and tech entrepreneur, and the Kauffman Foundation, the average age of successful start-up founders in these and other high-growth industries was 40. And high-growth start-ups are almost twice as likely to be launched by people over 55 as by people 20 to 34.
If you have the financial resources, the right network and, most important, a great idea, age ain’t nothing but a number.
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