It’s really easy to articulate this one – “just get it right first time”. In fact it’s much easier said than done because when you are running a business there are so many moving parts to assemble in a constantly changing landscape with components that are mostly airborne. It’s a bit like doing a 1000 piece jigsaw in a 4×4 while map reading on the Trans-Siberian Highway. When I was a bag-carrying salesman (although we never really stop selling which ever path we take) life was much more simple. Your success was due to getting the correct combination of target, territory and timing. If you negotiated an achievable target on a fertile ‘patch’ that had a little low hanging fruit you were on your way to fortune and fame and of course peer recognition. If on the other hand you were a little short in each area with a gargantuan new business goal in virgin territory with a brand, new untried and untested product, you were, short of ‘act of god’ – toast! Being the consummate sales professional that I was I always tried to ensure that my best result of the year came from pre kick-off meetings with the management to ensure that my three fundamental drivers were in place well before kick off.
So now you are running your own business and life is a little more complicated. Your personal factors of production are endless combinations of finite resources and time bound instruments. You now need to manage your cash, execute your plans (both operational and business), build a team that works in an infrastructure (that also works). If that is not enough you also need to create business models that not only sustain, but scale into a profitable and exit-able businesses – that’s exit as in getting out successfully. So how are you going to manage all this and how are you going to get it right first time?
1) Have some good operational plans – not only a business plan – but some good 30,60,90 day ones that will help you manage the company on a daily basis. Something that will allow you to delegate to your team and encourage them to take responsibility for reaching the required milestones. This business is all about getting marginal gains from everybody and getting all those little gains to add up to something big.
2) Don’t keep repeating mistakes. Einstein’s theory of madness is thus expressed : “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. So why is that businesses owners are often prone to keep on repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results? I recently met one owner of an unprofitable online business who was (repeatedly) getting a poor month on month return from his digital marketing campaign. His single-threaded digital marketing plan relied solely on Google Ad words – and it was failing. There was no social media plan, no changes to the business model and no partnership plan. Not only that but the figures were actually declining month on month and nothing was changing – and why would it? Building your business is not an exercise to see how hard you can hit your head against a brick wall to measure the pain. So – make your mistakes early and avoid repetition at your peril.
3) Have a Plan B: So Plan A is not working fully – your product doesn’t fit, your pricing is not getting the right traction or your sales forecasts are not being met. Do you have a Plan B? If not why not? The problem is that your greatest resource or rather lack of it (other than cash of course) is time and you cannot afford to waste any. Once you have decided that Plan A is not working slip straight into Plan B without prevarication. You will not get a second chance and that cash is burning.
4) Have a vision. Without one you are deeply flawed. What is your end game? If it is just cornering a cosy little piece of the market it is not going to be good enough to secure any venture funding. You don’t have to think that you will conquer the world but an easily articulated and well-researched vision will win you admirers.
5) Get some help. Secure the services of a wizened, gnarled, old veteran who will be able to help you when times get tough. You will need him or her. Whether it’s a mentor, a non-exec, an executive chairman or a good commercial director – just make sure you have some reasonable counsel. You have a lonely job at times and sometimes you just need to get timely advice and support at critical periods. The right person will also steer you through dark places when it helps most. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice – even Ronaldo has a coach!
Once you have got all this in place – what could possibly go wrong?