Like many business owners, I wasn't born to be an entrepreneur, I never planned on running a business, and I most assuredly had no experience in successfully growing one. However, over the course of my nearly 21 years of business ownership, I have learned a few things that have helped keep the bumps and bruises to a minimum while maintaining double-digit growth year over year. Regardless of the industry you are in, you can be highly successful if you live by these very simple ideologies:
1. Know what you do and what you don't do.
Some of the best advice I learned early on was don't try to be all things to all people, because it typically means you are not very good at any one thing. As such, I believe that it is a mistake to take on far-reaching service offerings, develop products outside your comfort zone or expand outside of your target markets just to make a few extra bucks. When you do that, you jeopardize your true strength to focus on what you may not be successful at and create undo pressures for your team, your budgets, and your company as a whole.
2. Stay focused on the prize.
We have always tried to be very strategic in our approach to growth. We set three year business plans, track against those plans, and modify them when necessary. I believe that if you don't set goals you have no way of measuring yourself, your team and your company against some pre-determined objectives. When everyone understands in a very crystal clear way what the overall goals of the organization are, it allows everyone to rally together and take pride in successfully accomplishing them.
3. Remember that people work for people, not companies.
It is rare when a business can successfully operate and grow without talented people. In fact, we often talk about our people being the only asset we have to sell and we are always looking for ways to improve our culture, our benefits, and the reasons why employees would want to keep working for us. I believe that many companies forget that true loyalty comes when employees believe that the organization and its leadership team care about them personally and professionally. This ultimately results in long-tenured employees, which has a very real and direct effect on company growth.
4. Running a business well is different than being good at a trade or profession.
I have often said that just because someone is good in PR, it doesn't mean they will be good at running a PR agency. The same is true for any profession. Growing a successful business is all about having a good business mind, combined with a strong skillset in your particular area of expertise. The behind-the-scenes side of business--such as process, people management, billing and operations--are critical to business success. I have seen a number of very smart people get into business only to ultimately fail because they didn't look at their business through the lens of operational success, and instead focused solely on being good at their profession.
5. Passion is contagious.
When you love what you do it shows to the people surrounding you every day in the office, facility or production plant. Showing excitement and enthusiasm cannot be underscored enough in terms of how it relates to your team working harder, being more focused, and ultimately more successful at their job. This translates to a better end-product. The opposite can be said for someone who is an unhappy person, leads through negative motivation, creates a challenging work environment or frankly doesn't love what they do.
6. Challenge yourself to always keep improving.
Technology is changing the world we live in every day. In order to stay relevant, it is important to innovate, regardless of your industry, as well as want to get better. This could mean new programs, new thinking or new processes. I believe that you are either moving forward or you are becoming obsolete. At Formula, we are constantly looking at our way of doing things and looking for ways to improve our end product, improve our client relations skills, and become more efficient at what we do, which ultimately drives greater profitability.
7. Forget the "Build it and they will come" mentality.
During a challenging economy, many brands look at marketing as an expense and therefore try to cut it from the budget. However, the marketplace is littered with good ideas that lacked the marketing support to gain traction or they were launched with the ideology of "our product is so great, that consumers will flock to it." Consumers are incredibly discerning about their money; as a result, they generally buy products that they have either sampled or have been referred to them. Therefore, make sure that marketing is completely aligned with product innovation and roll-out to ensure that when the product is ready for retail consumption strong consideration has been given to how the product will be marketed.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee for business success. It takes a combination of right brain strategic logic and left brain creative thinking to ensure that a brand or business is successful. However, the aforementioned recommendations will help alleviate some of the common pitfalls that many businesses face as they look to gain traction and acceptance.