Thinking about how to get your business out of survival mode and through this Corona Virus crisis? Here's a couple of thoughts on how you might do just that.
If you’re like most small business owners in the UK, you’ve built your business over time. Different products and services have been added to meet the needs of the changing market, changed, and explored different business models. You've ventured into informal partnerships and a raft of other activities to build your company. As a young business, you may have had a revolving door of employees, suppliers and contractors that may or may not have added value to your company.
After all that blood, sweat and tears, and then in sweeps a virus that takes over the world.
Would you still say that you have a solid brand that people will turn to after “that C-word”, by default, to gain a certain product or service? Or is your company considered one of many who have succumbed to the scythe? Do you find your work time filled with strategically focused work that'll help you move your company toward your vision for it? Or are you at home, twiddling your thumbs, wondering how to pay for the kids’ cereal next week? Do you have a vision for your company…or is it limited to the view outside your home office for now?
Is your day filled with the routine of trying to survive? Or have you arrived at the point where you have tangible options for what the next phase of your business will look like after “that C-word”?
If rumours are true, small businesses in the UK might never get out of the “survival” phase. A phase where each day is full of brain-scratching trying to figure out how to stay in business. We can generally see a lack of strategic approach or planned marketing and sales. There's little brand recognition or differentiation, there's no target persona, and most customers are referrals of friends, family and colleagues. Processes are nearly non-existent and are probably more “guidelines” than tools established to help control costs and efficiency; budgeting is an interesting concept, and “cheapest” tends to be the strategy for buying stuff.
This stage in the business could also be termed the “evolutionary” stage. This is where the you've got opportunity to develop and turn it into something viable. Something with definition and growth potential. Something that is desirable by the marketplace and could become a sustainable entity. By understanding where your company is, and its deficits, you can take steps toward moving to the next level.
In the post “Leading the Organization that Survives” the business is compared to a person, and needs are identified in a hierarchy, like the way that Abraham Maslow described in his “Hierarchy of Human Needs” or Stephen Covey’s "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People".
The first two stages in growing a business, known as the “existence” phase include meeting survival and safety needs. These range from determining who your market is, what there need is, how you will address it, to ensuring that the business is in compliance, has access to expertise and is aware of internal strengths and weakness and external opportunities and threats. The focus on the business and communications is internal.
The next phase, where growth seems to slow, is where the business establishes the activities that allow it to become more efficient and scale to meet the needs of the market as it begins to grow. If the earlier stages are not met, a business will stall at this stage; it doesn’t have any identity! With no identity, it's unable to determine how it fits into the marketplace. How it's different, what markets are attracted to it, etc. Marketers often say that these businesses use a grapeshot approach to the market.
To move on from this phase, two things you need to do:
- You need to establish your management practices: systems, processes, team building, and effective product development. Followed up with analysing how effective activities are and how they contribute to the business. This means we're putting tools in place that will enable the company to operate as efficiently as possible, controlling costs, quality, assets and resources.
- You needs to switch your focus from internal to external. This doesn’t mean that you take your eye off the ball, but more that you (as a business) operate more strategically. Yet, there’s no point in focusing on this stage until you have satisfied lower-level needs. A lot of focus will be on communication and providing value for your stakeholders. While advertising falls in this bucket, so does teambuilding and communicating your company mission and vision.
Growing a company requires diligence that cannot be met when you, as the business owner, are focused on firefighting. (Unless that's your line of business of course). It may need you to hire other people to help you manage these tasks, such as an administrative professional, general manager or an office manager. It may also need you to let go of some reins to develop a high performing team that can help you dig in and get these things done.
No Matter What, if your goal is to build an exceptional business, you've got to get on with it.