Running a business is a world fraught with perils, and if you don’t tread carefully, you’re likely to be in deep water at best, and bankrupt at worst.
The key to powering well beyond those fragile first 18 months is to look at every single decision you make and assess whether or not that choice is a smart one for the long term. There are many ways you can improve and grow your business temporarily, but if you’re not making choices in light of your future hopes and goals, they are likely not the right choices.
Revamp That Business Plan
When you originally began your business, you hopefully laid out a strategic plan that allowed you to survive those pivotal early weeks. If you’ve succeeded in navigating the first 18 months, it’s likely time to revisit your plan. Assess where you are, and then assess where you want to go.
Vision: What is the vision that you have for your company now that you’ve established some stability? What is the end result you’re shooting for?
Mission: Similarly, but not completely the same, what is the mission of your company? What do you hope it will accomplish?
Goals: What goals need to be in place for the coming months and years so that you can achieve the vision and the mission you’ve laid out?
Strategies: To accomplish goals, you need to decide which strategies will get you there. How do your strategies need to evolve as you analyze how your company has changed and grown?
Your business plan should not become a static entity lost in the bottom of an old filing cabinet, instead it needs to be adapted to reflect the changes that have transpired.
Create Solutions for Problems
If you’re normal, you will not have needed to operate your business for very long at all to recognize where the main problems are. Long-term success means meeting those problems head on. It means brainstorming for solutions that prevent issues from becoming roadblocks to your success.
Don’t stop working on an issue until you have a feasible, actionable plan in place to combat the problem. Then work on implementing the plan, assigning duties and making sure that steps are followed through. Leaders become good at what they do when they’re effective problem solvers.
Plan an Objective-Based Timeline
If you are not assertive about planning your timeline and sticking to it, the goals that you make will not be goals you achieve. At the start of each year, lay out everything from the minor to the important. When you chart out peak seasons, and even just the holidays that your company will recognize, it allows you to better see when it will be wise to make hard pushes that will result in goals and expectations being met.
This may be sales goals or leads generated. It may physical changes to your space or upgrades to your product. Whatever it looks like for your company, your commitment to setting these objectives and striving to meet them is one of the most important components to the long-term success of your business.
These objectives are like strategic support beams that the future of your business rests on. Without them, growth will slow down and eventually end, and that is a blow that your business as a whole simply cannot take.
Look for New Opportunities to Grow Your Business
Similar to setting goals within the realm of where your company already operates, it can’t be stressed enough that striving for new opportunities outside the realm of what your business is already doing is essential for your long-term success.
This can look like a lot of different things. Perhaps it means looking at other target audiences and shifting things revolving around your products and how you market those products so that you can connect with more customers. Perhaps it means creating brand new products or services that will require new marketing strategies, teams assigned to them, etc.
This is an area where you must tread carefully. It’s a balancing act. If you aren’t constantly exploring and pushing the next thing that your company is going to do well in the spirit of innovation, then long-term success is not going to happen. Instead, your company will become stale. However, new things are costly. It’s important to make smart financing decisions that will give your business the support it needs and not the alternative.
See Your Customer’s Evolution
Here’s the tough thing about knowing your customer: you have to recognize that just because you knew them once doesn’t mean you still do. Ultimately, like everything else, customers are always evolving. If you do not actively work on understanding them, you won’t.
Presently, this often means business analytics will come into play. Data is transformed into predictive analytics that can help you recognize the behaviors and patterns of your customers. That way, when they inevitably change, you aren’t blind-sided — you’re ready for it.
It’s important to note that there are a lot of misconceptions about what smart branding looks like. Just as your customer is always changing, their perception of your brand, and your brand itself is never static.
Now more than ever, customers place as much weight on being able to connect with the lifestyle that your brand represents as they do the product you’re offering them. Offering fresh, relevant products to your target demographic is great, but offering it to them within the context of a brand that represents them well… now that’s awesome.
It’s wise to study what your audience is interested in, and then reflect those interests back to them.
Don’t Let Up
If you’ve waded through the difficult and harrowing first 18 months or so of business, then you’re already doing much better than most, and you’re probably doing a lot of things right.
This is the pivotal time when you make a concentrated effort to keep doing things right so that the long-term future of your business remains viable. If none of the challenges associated with starting a business existed, then neither would the bone-deep pleasure that comes from it’s success.
Meet the Author: Avery Phillips
Avery Phillips is a unicorn of a human being who loves all things relating to people and their entrepeneurial spirits.
Comment below or tweet her @a_taylorian.