Everyone wants to grow their business, but doing so isn’t exactly an easy task. You may have done market research and tried to imitate your (more successful) competitors. But are you missing the writing on the wall? This article will explore the business problems you must solve if you want to grow and have a successful business.
Finding a Clear Focus
It’s important to find a clear focus as a business owner. This is why businesses have mission statements. What type of business will you be? Non-profit? For-profit? What will your main product/service be?
And more importantly, what problem(s) will you solve for your customers? I have been in personal finance for a couple of years now, so to vaguely say you’re going to “help customers with money” isn’t good enough. Money is actually an extremely broad topic. Similar would be to say you’ll help customers get better with computers.
The point is that you must determine what specific problems you will solve. If you don’t get specific with a very clear vision from the beginning, you’ll end up doing a bunch of random, disjointed projects that don’t make you stand out.
You need your customers to immediately think of you anytime they think about that particular problem you set out to solve. Without that clear focus, no one will ever think of you first.
Spreading Yourself Too Thin
Related to finding a clear focus is the idea of spreading yourself too thin.
It seems like these days, Amazon is practically ruling the world. They’re the largest online retailer, the largest provider of cloud computing via Amazon Web Services (AWS), and they recently acquired Whole Foods.
But despite Amazon’s increasing dominance, let’s not forget that they started small.
Amazon was founded by Mr. Jeff Bezos himself in 1994. That may not sound all that long ago, but at the time, he operated the company out of his garage and only sold books!
The reason for mentioning Amazon is because, while Amazon has an expansive business now, the company started only doing one thing. Over two and a half decades, the company grew into what it is now.
When you’re starting out, learn how to do one thing extremely well – become the best in the business at it. At that point, you may want to consider adding additional sources of revenue.
But if you try to do everything under the sun on day one, you will likely fail. Successful businesses need time to grow.
Bad Personnel Decisions
This is a big one. You can’t run a successful business without the right people. AI certainly can’t replace all of the “soft” skills associated with running a business, and that means you need real people to work for and with you.
But hiring people takes time – and money. You can’t simply replace all of your staff overnight – especially if you operate in a low-turnover industry.
You may need to work with a hiring consultant or even train people to do the job.
Distractions can be a significant issue in today’s workplace and can seriously hinder productivity. Whether you’re a “solopreneur” or you have a team of people, no one is totally immune to distractions in the digital age.
Keeping engaged is certainly not easy. Plus, you don’t want to micro-manage. Instead, if you do have a team of employees, keeping an open line of communication is important. Make yourself available for any issues they have, and have regular one-to-one meetings if necessary.
And don’t forget the fun stuff! Having social events with your team can be a great way for them to get to know you – and each other – better. Of course, you want to be productive, but giving your team a chance to bond can be just as important as the work itself.
Increasingly Global Markets
Increased globalization is something with which we’re all faced to some extent. Even if you own a small town, chances are that globalization still affects you to a certain degree.
Nowadays, even if you operate locally, you aren’t just competing with local businesses anymore. Globalization means that people can get anything they want shipped anywhere in the world – often at a lower price than local suppliers and provide.
There are a number of ways you can potentially help mitigate this problem:
- Offer services that can’t be shipped (or done online) – such as in-person consultations
- Offer goods/services that can be sold and/or marketed online
- Find a way to differentiate yourself so that you stand out. How is what you are doing different?
These are just a few ideas, but the overall concept is that globalization makes everything more competitive. Many of the ways in which people traditionally made an “honest living” aren’t around anymore.
The business landscape is always changing; thus, we must be willing to adapt. Lack of adaptability is what caused companies like Blockbuster to go under. Other companies, such as America Online (AOL), Kodak, and Toys “R” Us nearly went out of business due to lack of adaptability.
The reasons for all of them are similar. Here’s what drove profits for them and why they now struggle or no longer exist:
- Blockbuster – rentals of physical movies and video games (made obsolete by streaming services and online game stores)
- Kodak – sales of film for film cameras (made obsolete by digital photos)
- Toys “R” Us – large brick-and-mortar toy stores (made obsolete by online retailers such as Amazon)
- AOL – dialup internet and web portal (made obsolete by broadband internet)
There is a common theme here – with the exception of AOL, all of these companies made most of their money from physical products – which are no longer necessary thanks to the internet.
And even AOL was the victim of changing trends in the online world.
If you can diversify your income streams and adapt as times change, you’ll be less susceptible to changing markets. “Putting all your eggs in one basket” applies just as much in the business world as it does in the investing world.
If you’ve ever worked for a large organization, you probably know the pain of feeling like you never know what anyone else in the company is doing. Suddenly someone makes a significant change that fundamentally affects your work – and you didn’t even know it was happening! I’ve experienced this first-hand working at large healthcare organizations supporting their electronic medical records.
I must admit that it’s not easy to overcome this problem if you have hundreds of people working in the same system every day. We would have weekly or even daily change review calls, but several things inevitably slipped through the cracks.
The obvious way to avoid this situation is to keep your operation a bit smaller. Or you could keep things more segmented. What do I mean by segmented? Consider the business model of chain restaurants/cafes.
What someone does to their Starbucks store in Seattle probably has no impact on the day-to-day operations of a store in New York. Sure, they might have a change to their website or something, but changes within the store only affect that one store.
The more interconnected those working on your product/service are, the more you will struggle to keep everyone on the same page. That is the reality. If you are willing to accept that reality, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s something to keep in mind.
Focus on the Customer
At the end of the day, the most important problems to solve are those of the customer you are trying to secure. All of the above are important, but they all must be considered against the backdrop of the customer’s needs.
It’s great to do something you enjoy, but as a business owner, solving the customer’s problem supersedes everything else. If you can make your customer’s life easier, there’s a good chance they will be willing to pay you for it.
And if you can’t do that? Well, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.