According to 2016 data from the Labor Bureau of Statistics, just over 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first four years. Considering this statistic, you need to be aware of the many "land mines," and strive to create robust strategies that will build a profitable business, with long-term impact.
Twenty-five years ago, I took a leap of faith and formed my consulting company. I've learned many lessons along the way, including the fact that people will always be your most valuable asset -- this is true regardless of business or industry. Whether you are interacting with clients, employees or suppliers, people need to be valued, respected and listened to -- these are "universal needs" that show up in every facet of life. Of course, solid business acumen and a sense of humor to get you through tough times are also essential.
The question is: what, specifically, sets a winning business apart from one that misses the mark? As Babe Ruth once said, "Yesterday's home runs don't win today's games." Your consistent dedication to improving your business, and making the necessary corrections along the way, is key. A winning process is something that is shaped over time -- but there are a few essential elements that all businesses should be mindful of.
Here are the top five tenets that propelled my business forward for the last two-and-a-half decades:
1. Build lasting relationships with your customers.
Keep in mind: your customers are your most "influential influencers"-- on social media and through word of mouth. This fact has transformed the way we do business, as our customers and clients are empowered to make their presence -- and opinions-known. This means that they have the inherent power to change events, promote products more effectively than advertising, and can build (or break) your brand for future renown. In my mind, transparent and authentic communication is the key to shape enduring partnerships -- not just on social channels -- but more importantly, in face-to-face communication. Never take a client relationship for granted. Go the extra mile. Tell your clients or customers just how much they are valued, and why.
2. Expect the unexpected.
This one is simple, yet often overlooked. Cash flow is vital for riding out the storms. Be sure to set up the financial resources for events and actions that are out of your control. Reinvention is, at times, inevitable. Recessions come and go, clients move on and contracts fall through. Without reliable cash flow you may not survive your exposure to change.
3. Hire the best people, and then empower them.
If you want people to commit to your business, you've got to make a commitment to them. Provide employees with opportunities for growth, and development. Be a heart-centered leader. Wielding power over others will not expand your influence. Reach beyond forced control and autocratic leadership styles and create a lasting impact. When you empower your people, and let go of the reigns of control, the bonds of trust are formed and they will strive to do their very best, for you and your customers.
4. Keep an eye on current and future trends.
Many companies get caught up in an unrealistic, perpetual growth phase of business, and they believe it will go on forever. Our businesses are all in a constant state of flux -- so open-minded thinking is a necessity. Never get comfortable with being comfortable. Challenge yourself to do things differently and break out of your daily routine. Read predictions of future trends in business and culture. This will intensify your creativity and foster innovation.
5. Have the courage to change course.
This means listening to your gut -- and embracing a sense of resilience and grit to reject the voice of fear. Even the most long-standing, successful companies will tell you that, as time went on, they had to rethink, reorganize, and retool their ideas and business model in order to remain relevant in the marketplace.