If you were building a house, would you try to make the walls stand up on whatever ground was beneath you?
Of course not. You would make sure there was a proper foundation to hold everything else up.
So why aren’t you doing that with your business?
Navigating the stages
Last time, I talked about the three stages of your business. Mostly, I talked about all the ways your business could stall and fail to evolve from one stage to the next. It was kind of depressing, I know.
Today, I’ll focus on what it takes to succeed in the infancy stage. It’s a transition that many businesses never make. It’s one that even more businesses make, but then falter because they were unprepared.
Here’s how to avoid that fate.
Infancy is all about building foundations
Businesses in their infancy are not necessarily new, though they may be. Unlike a child, a business could remain in its infancy forever. It could even grow to adolescence and then revert to infancy.
Infancy as a stage of business is more about the conditions inside the business than the length of time it’s been around.
Businesses in their infancy are scrappy, small operations. They tend to survive on the sweat, drive, and guile of the owner. They often grow by more luck and circumstance than by plan. All too often, they collapse under the weight of that growth.
In some ways, it’s like fate is setting a trap for the business owner. What every business at this stage most needs is more sales. More sales means more money for the owner. These businesses get into a cycle.
More work gets more customers gets more money.
That’s where the trap is laid.
That cycle feels like success early on. But it is that cycle that eventually turns on the owner and brings the whole thing crashing down on their head.
You can’t really blame the owner. After all, they’re following the maxim they’ve heard their entire life. Work hard and reward will follow. Initially, at least, it looks like that is true.
The problem is that all the owner’s time and effort goes into getting more sales. None of the effort goes into building a foundation for growth.
Building that foundation means devoting time to planning, strategy, and building core systems.
Spinach before ice cream
Sales is like ice cream. Everyone really wants it. Especially kids (or businesses in infancy).
Planning and strategy building are like spinach. No kid wants anything to do with it. Neither do most businesses in infancy.
Eat too much ice cream as a kid and a few things happen to you in adolescence. You are the one who always gets picked last for the team and sits home saying you didn’t want to go to that stupid prom anyway.
Eat your spinach as a kid and you’re the adolescent that everyone else is trying to keep up with.
So it is with your business. Eat your spinach while in infancy and you’ll enter adolescence with a step up on the competition. You’ll also have a much better chance of thriving once there.
So, can I interest you in some sautéd spinach?
All the Americone Dream you can eat is waiting for you in the freezer. I promise.
Essential planning steps
Here are the essential planning steps you need to build a strong foundation for growth.
I’ve written about all them on this blog. Follow the links for more information about how to work on some of the specific steps.
- Understand yourself and get clear about your vision for the business. You are the business and the business is you. Whatever traits, good or bad, you bring to the party are going to permeate the business. Understanding yourself is key to amplifying the good and managing the bad. Also, a business without a vision is adrift. Your vision plots the course. Without it, how are you going to know which way to go?
- Set a clear strategy for marketing your business. Get clear about the value your business provides, how it is different than everyone else, and who the best customer actually is. Without this, you’re either relying on whoever happens to walk in the door or competing on price. Neither of those options usually ends well.
- Establish financial controls and a plan to manage the money. This is pretty simple. Fail to manage the finances and you will be out of business sooner rather than later. Establish budgets and key metrics to understand if the business is working as intended.
- Create, document, and perfect processes for the most important aspects of your operation. Look at all the things that need to happen in your business and create the process for getting them done. In the absence of this, you will be re-creating the wheel every time you do something. And you’ll be delivering inconsistent service and results to your customers. That is a great recipe for creating former customers. These processes should cover the whole business; operations, marketing, sales, customer service, and finance.
If you complete the four steps above, you will have built a strong foundation. A foundation that will support the rapid growth of your business in the adolescent stage.
Come back next week to learn how to survive adolescence.
Need help with these steps? Let’s talk.