Being an entrepreneur is no easy feat. But there's also never been a better time to start a business.
Building a website costs next to nothing, and the internet is loaded with advice to help entrepreneurs hone their ideas, hire the right people, go to market faster, and scale with ease. Of course, this drastically oversimplifies what starting and running a company actually looks like.
The point is the market is filled with cutting-edge business tools and tactics available to help take a business to the next level. And while there's no question great tech and things like influencer marketing or a new hotshot sales executive can help close deals, these types of solutions will only get a company so far.
Why is it, with so much technology and expertise available to entrepreneurs, some companies thrive while many others tread water or fail? Because in spite of every top-tier tool and tactic, businesses will struggle if they haven't mastered the three pillars a company needs to succeed and thrive.
A pattern for success, or failure.
A recent trip to SaaStr Annual, one of the largest B2B software conferences, got me thinking about what successful companies have in common. Once I figured it out, I haven't been able to unsee a pattern -- especially in the businesses that are having a hard go of it.
Throughout the conference, there were a number of companies that had developed really strong software products and eye-catching brands, but their business models were full of holes. On the flip side, there were companies with solid business models and bold, memorable brands but, frankly, their products were a mess.
It was rare to see a company that had nailed the trifecta: product, brand, and business model.
These were usually the companies that made it on stage, the companies everyone came to the conference to learn from.
Two out of three is not enough.
Here's the thing. A lot of businesses can master two out of these three pillars and still secure major venture-backed funding.
But how long they'll last is another story. It's one thing to start a company, achieve initial growth, and operate it in the early stages based on assumptions and concepts mapped on paper. But once the flywheel starts churning, and you start adding more people to the mix, you realize you're trying to keep the tires on the bus while flying down the freeway.
For a company to thrive over the long haul, the equation requires all three pillars. Otherwise, you'll quickly start to see cracks in the equation.
When companies do miss the mark on product, brand, or business model, it won't matter what hot tech they adopt or which CMO they hire. At the end of the day, falling short in one or more of these key areas all but guarantees being crippled in today's competitive environment.
Revisiting the foundation of your business.
Think of everything outside of your product, brand, and business model as the dials you can turn. What does that look like?
Take customer experience and customer success initiatives, which are meant to keep customers around and happy. Even with the top people in charge of these efforts and more than enough resources, a bad product is a bad product. It's just a guarantee customers will churn. The best sales leader on the planet can close deals for you, but if your business model isn't right or your product isn't solid enough to keep customers returning, they'll just be treading water.
When companies do tread water, more often than not I'd bet it has to do with a deficiency in one of these three areas of their business.
Entrepreneurs have a wide range of resources at their disposal, perhaps making entrepreneurship easier than ever before. But there are some immutable laws that even the hottest tech offering won't change.
The products and strategies we look for to accelerate our business should enhance what we already have, and not distract us from the core pillars we need to master to be on solid ground. Otherwise, we're just chasing shiny objects.