If Frodo Can Do It...........
So you've survived the start-up stage, you've done the mad scramble to get as many clients as you can, as fast as you can, and you now officially have a business. Congratulations! Now that you've reached this first plateau, it's time to take your business to the next level and really step into your role as Business Owner/Director, and the first task..........Getting really clear on what your end goal is and directing the business development in line with this.
Taking your business to the next level is often a difficult process - one that many businesses unfortunately don't survive and it requires huge levels of determination, clarity and focus to get you to the other side. And the first step in the process is getting really clear on where "there" is - what's the end goal? What's the target?
Growing and developing your business will be a journey- think of Frodo making his journey in the Lord of the Rings, it's a long, difficult journey with lots of unexpected challenges and distractions, but what keeps him moving forward when the going gets tough is his clear and specific end goal - to destroy the ring in the fires of Orodruin in Mordor. However, If he hadn't known before he started out what his end goal was, what the purpose of his journey was, do you think he would have made it? Do you think he would've pushed himself through those challenges to continue towards Mordor, or do you think after the first few challenges and distractions he might have been swayed off course to a completely different destination, or even worse just given up and gone back to The Shire to put his feet up?!
I meet lots of business owners who tell me their goal is to make money........it's not! The point of having any business is for it to make money - whether that's for a personal income, to build an asset base, or in the case of social enterprises and charities to re-invest that money into causes and projects they believe in. That's like Frodo's saying his goal is to stay alive. Well yes, of course that's true, it's A goal, but it's not THE goal, it's just a pre-requisite to achieve it. If that were Frodo's goal he could just as well "stay alive" on a beach in Bali, or in a cave en-route to Mordor, or by returning to the Shire, and with a lot less stress and risk too. So why do you really want to make this journey? Your short-term, interim goal may well have been to make money, to get the business off the groud and proving itself, but the overall goal needs to be MUCH MORE than that, and much better defined - what is it you really see when you picture yourself and your business in 10 or 20 or 30 years time?
Once you're really clear on this you can start laying the right foundations and taking steps towards that end-goal even at this early stage, but what the end goal is will affect what your prioirites are right now;
Do you see your business as a lifestyle choice? You love doing the core "job" of your business and you want to keep doing it, whilst making it as profitable as possible and keeping the admin/business management tasks to a minimum. If so then you might now focus on customer profiling, getting really clear on where your key profit centres are, streamlining your management processes and refining your customer base.
Do you see your business as a source of "passive income" to fund a jet set lifestyle? Maybe your focus is on time and freedom and creating something that provides the income you want on a part-time basis; whether that's a consistent 3 days/week or full time but with 2 months of the year off completely. In that case your focus might be on how you're going to leverage yourself out of your company, or create a business structure that supports your part-time model, and putting very defined operating systems in place from an early stage.
Or, is your ultimate goal to sell your company for a lump-sum and walk away, in which case your focus might be on identifyng WHO yuor buyer is likely to be - are you looking to be bought by a larger company within your industry, or provide a "business in a box" for someone else to step into, or look to develop someone within your company to buy it from you in the future? Each of these would require a different approach - your focus might be a growth strategy to steadily increase the company's value, or it might be on positioning yourself within the market to be as attractive and visible as possible to your potential buyers.
Maybe it's none of the above, or a combination of them. Whatever is it, once you've got it really clear in your mind, you can start to identify where you need to concentrate your energies to move forward as quickly as possible and design the strategies best suited to achieve it. It sounds simple, but identifying where you want to end up at the end of this journey is crucial, and whilst many business owners often have a vague idea in their heads of where they think they want to end up, few take the time to get REALLY clear on it and make some definite decisions about it. This, (and writing it down), will make a huge difference to your clarity and confidence moving forward and the speed at which you do so. What if Frodo's "destination" had just been Mordor, or his goal just "to destroy the ring"? The more specific you can get, the better, so your answer's not just "to sell my business", it's "to sell my business......to who? when? for how much?" and the better you can define the goal, the better you can define your priorities and focus your actions to get there quicker.
As the ancient proverb states "a journey of 1000 miles begins with just a single step" - but knowing where you want that journey to end will dictate onto which path you direct that first step.