The path to success contains lots of twists and turns. As Albert Einstein said, "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new." But you're not doomed to stumble every time.

Once you take those initial ideas out of your head and put them on paper, sticking to a plan is the key to success -- and the key to eliminating chaos. By developing a strategy, you can avoid becoming another failed business statistic.  

But, as they say, timing is everything. And if you time your big moves incorrectly, even the best-laid plans can fall apart.

Timing Your Big Moves Right

Being proactive, not reactive, is the key to launching or scaling a successful business. As a leader, you have to find your sweet spot when it comes to making the right decisions. Move too quickly, and your team won't be able to support your pivot; move too slowly, and the marketplace will pass you by.

Here are four areas where your timing matters more than you might realize:

1. Research

Trying to please everyone isn't just impossible; it's also a colossal waste of time and money. You want to identify your audience as soon as possible using laser-focused market research. While the anticipated cost of market research keeps many entrepreneurs from even considering it, a lack of information can kill your business before it's off the ground.  

Plan to collect primary data from prospective customers and secondary data from government agencies, trade associations and your local chamber of commerce. The National Business Research Institute recommends prioritizing market research when forming your business plan. Your research should be completed before signing a lease for building space -- how will you pay rent if your idea is DOA?

2. Calling in an expert

Once market research has helped identify the best path forward, you want to build your team of advisors. I coach many leadership teams on aspects of growth, and I've seen firsthand the value of having the right experts on your team.

One example is when it comes time to securing office or retail space. Commercial real estate is one of the largest investments you'll make as an entrepreneur; it's your first impression. You don't need to be an expert on nebulous real estate laws, however. As a business owner, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is negotiating your own lease agreement.

Fostering a partnership with experts is a smart way to find the sweet spot between being patient and aggressive. Healthcare realty expert CARR recommends locating a real estate professional 60 days to 24 months in advance, depending on the type of transaction you're anticipating. Having a professional will help ensure you don't waste valuable time investigating options that won't work for your business. If you really only need 2,000 square feet, you don't want to get distracted by the 5,000-square-foot beauty with high overhead.

3. Outsourcing

Most small businesses start out tackling as many functions in-house as they can. While automation tools are helpful, they can only take so much of the load off. Startups looking for additional time savings and cost controls should consider shifting some budget toward outsourcing specific functions.

Start with areas loaded with regulations, like payroll. Payroll services can help you avoid costly mistakes with tools like payroll calculators and free up time so you can focus on running your business. Remember, too, that the time it takes to research your accounting or legal options -- and defend yourself if you make the wrong move -- can be a setback in itself.

4. Hiring the right people at the right time

If you find your business is missing out on growth opportunities because your staff is overloaded, it's time to consider hiring. To determine whether it's necessary, entrepreneur Peter Gasca, director of the Community and Business Engagement Institute at Coastal Carolina University, who is a fellow Inc.com columnist, recommends answering two simple questions:

  • How will this individual help you meet your sustainable revenue goal?
  • How are these tasks being handled right now, and what would happen if you didn't hire anyone right now?

Hiring too many employees off the bat could cause unnecessary financial hardship. Not hiring enough employees takes away from your ability to concentrate on the big picture. I've run into this issue many times in growing my companies.

The quality of your hires is a concern, too: Hiring the wrong person can cost you time and money. so finding the right fit is critical. Trust your instincts during the hiring process, but verify those feelings by checking references and getting perspective from an objective outsider.

Growing a business is a complex undertaking. Making tough calls can be stressful. But if you time your biggest moves well, you can avoid a lot of "What if?" questions--and a lot of regrets.

Published on: Mar 29, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.