Most of us are invested in building a lasting business, but the longer we persevere, the tougher that becomes. It could be that while we need to be flexible, we too easily abandon our core. After the early days, we allow reality to dictate our actions.
Very soon, we are not running the business we thought would make a difference, but one that’s in vogue. Let’s take a look at how to be flexible while keeping sight of the motivations that got us on the journey, to begin with.
After all, you are likely to succeed in what you have been dreaming of most of your life. The sudden epiphanies you get every day after browsing twitter will not make the foundations for building a lasting business. So how do you go about it?
Be steadfast, without being rigid
Building a lasting business requires a great amount of flexibility, expertly balanced with a commitment to your core. Despite their evolution, at their core, Coca-Cola is hydrating and Google is managing the world’s information.
This is the key to longevity, have an over-arching set of goals that tether you to your clients. It’s from these goals that your value proposition comes from.
If that value proposition is to sell affordable, durable clothing, then eCommerce is an opportunity to expand your reach. It’s not an opportunity to invest in product lines that have zero relation to your core.
For this to be feasible, have a comprehensive understanding of this value proposition. Think in terms of problems solved, not fleeting trends.
No matter how we evolve, for the foreseeable future, humans will need nutrition and sustenance. How we’ll be farming a decade from now is not so cast in stone.
When building a lasting business, remember the problem you solve is sustainable food production, not whatever farming trend is there now.
Keep an original business plan, go back to it now and then
The early days of building a business are a truly amazing time. Entrepreneurs are starry-eyed visionaries with a singular goal of changing the world.
The realities of business and the world have not yet tainted this vision. The mission and vision are clear, the goals are precise, and the values are truly noble. Spoiler alert, this does not last very long.
The demands of keeping the business afloat quickly erode this way of thinking and survival quickly takes over. In the short run, deviations in the plan are necessary for the greater good.
In the long run, though, that vision has to come to fruition. However, In a bid to survive, you can lose sight of that vision.
That’s why it’s important to document these lofty goals, values, vision and mission. Every now and then, take the time to come back to them and asses where you are from them.
Entrepreneurs building a lasting business need a roadmap, and this plan will serve as that. This is the roadmap that will tell you if your business still represents what you started your entrepreneurship for.
As always, adapting is necessary, but whatever new direction is taken, the vision should remain just as noble.
Don’t rush to get past the basics
A recent article in The Marketing Analytics Intercept made this point painfully clear to us. As a business, it’s tough to resist the lure of the complex and the mind-boggling.
Sooner than later, you find yourself chasing the next new thing before you’ve fully explored your foundation. In a way, the child in us who loves the newest toy the best never really dies out. Unfortunately, the relentless pursuit of evolution before mastery is the shallow grave a lot of businesses are buried in.
Be it product design, value proposition, brand philosophy, reporting systems or company culture, failure to establish these fundamentals will be the onset of your business’s demise.
Take the time to build a solid foundation, and as your business grows it’ll have solid ground to build on. As you venture into new areas and incorporate more people, you’ll build upon this strength.
These fundamentals can’t be left for later either. You can’t strengthen the foundation of a structure when it’s already standing. It’s an exercise squarely set for the start of the business.
Take the time to know the core of;
- Who you are,
- Why you are,
- For whom you are,
And your business will survive generations of you. This core forms the basis of your evolution. Should you believe it’s time to evolve beyond this core, go back to the drawing board and answer these questions for this new vision. This is an absolute necessity in building a lasting business.
Emphasise building a culture
Neil Patel wrote an article on why he “regrets” building himself into a bigger brand than his companies. The reasoning is simple, founder oriented companies tend to struggle, and ultimately fall apart after the founder. A lot of this has to do with a loss of culture.
The culture that you build internally, and the culture that your clients associate with your brand determine if it achieves legendary status. If that lies with you, the founder, then it leaves and dies with you.
All the values you enshrined, the questions you sought to answer with your business, even how you sought to answer them. After you, the business loses touch with why it came into being, and that’s an enemy to building a business that lasts.
Even if this loss is only a perceived one by the market, the effect is still the same. As an entrepreneur, you need to transfer your, vision, mission, values, brilliance into your brand, internally and externally.
Moreover, make sure that these elements are associated with your brand and not you as an individual. Failure to do so increases the chance of your business becoming a shell of its former self after you.
Keep in touch with your original clients
Every single client you get in the early days of your business is worth a million when you are a well-established brand. They;
- Are investing in your vision, because they have no point of reference, so they simply believe your product and your ability to deliver is as good as you say, simply because you say so,
- Are validating your idea if they come back, because they tried it and believe it’s worth another try,
- Are helping you grow your business with the referrals they make, and,
- They are making a financial investment because the amounts they pay grow the business.
So whatever you are doing at that point must be very impressive, and you should preserve it in your formula.
Think about it, the brands you swear by now, would you be as eager for them before you knew they were this good?
It took me, personally, no less than five years to migrate to Gmail, today I defend it with my life. It’s the people who adopted it before they knew what I know now that made Gmail what it is today.
And the core principles that made them believe it better than Yahoo and Hotmail should not die from Gmail. Should you do, you stand a good chance of losing the clients who made you who you are.
Even worse, you strip the core of the product that made it attractive, and you lose the new ones as well.
Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture
At Mut-Con, we always advocate celebrating even the smallest victories in business. This is particularly important for new businesses, as these can be few and far in-between.
They should be treasured, they are the fuel keeps the team spirits high when the inevitable problems come. They are also the small signals that give reassurance that the concept works before the grand success.
That being said, small victories should not be your only point of focus. When building a lasting business, you need a bird’s eye view of your operation. Y
ou need to stay cognizant how everything is set to interact from your first step, and maintain this harmony. Whenever a small victory is achieved, it’s a perfect opportunity to assess;
- How it’s fitting in with the grand picture,
- What the cost of that victory was,
- What the benefit of that victory will be,
- And whether or not it’s in line with your vision for starting the business.
The same level of thinking goes for your losses. Instead of generically viewing them as a bad event, take a deeper look. Said problems could ultimately set you back on the path you want to be on.
They could be the loud danger alarm that important elements in your plan are being neglected. With proper analysis, business problems and losses, of money, clients or employees could stop you abandoning the core.
Don’t fall in love with the root of all evil
For this one, we’d like to start at the very beginning.
For the love of money is the root of all evil….
1 Timothy 6:10.
The more spiritually inclined among us know this verse to be present in one form or another in most religions. Better yet, they know that it is strictly the love of, not money that forms the root of all evil.
So in no religion, the sensible ones anyway, is it evil to be wealthy. But it is to covert wealth to a point where it’s the sole purpose for existence.
When building a business that lasts, growth will be an eventual by-product and it’ll accumulate value. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your business to be worth a lot either.
The problem is when you are tempted to make this your only goal. If you are motivated by nothing but making money, a lot of it, business success will be hard to come by.
An overemphasis on money, or profit by extension, causes you to;
- Take on contracts and clients with short-term value, but hold nothing in the future,
- Neglect clients that could grow with your business but don’t offer much in the present,
- Fail to see the importance of other business goals like building a strong team and good partnerships that are essential to building a lasting business,
- Pretty much overlook all the tenants of sustainability and longevity.
So balance is of the utmost importance. While profit, and ultimately money is the bottom line, it is the ends, not the means. More importantly, it is not the only end.
In the long run, the bottom line is keeping all your stakeholders happy, and they’ll give you the loyalty the yields longevity.
It’s highly unlikely that when you started your business it was for money alone. A lot of these goals that keep all stakeholders happy where part of the plan. Don’t lose sight of that, and you’ll build a lasting business.
If not, don’t bother getting started, we can almost guarantee success is unlikely to come by.
In a nutshell
Unless you are a rare entrepreneur we’ve yet to meet, building a lasting business is a common goal. If you are that rare being, we’d love to know, let us know in the comments.
We’ve already touched on how ancient civilizations may have secrets to your own lasting business empire. So there must be something to be learned from history. And there could be something to be learnt from yours.
What is it that motivated you to start your business that could make it last aeons after you?