Growing your own business is often described as a journey… which is like describing decapitation as having a mild sore throat. Growing your own business is a daring adventure! It’s an adventure that I thoroughly recommend if you yearn to solve a problem with passion, or contribute your skills in a way that is beyond the constraints of traditional employment.
Is mythology around what you need to succeed, holding you back? I discuss 5 items you may think you need – an entrepreneurial background, endless great ideas, a detailed business plan, multiple new products and services, and all the expertise – these are not essential. I do however recommend 5 other essentials – a desire to grow, persistence, a scalable MVP, systems, and strong collaborations. These are vital to grow your businesses and succeed.
- An entrepreneurial background
I marvel at stories of entrepreneurial children and teens. This early familiarity with business risk taking and success is a strong foundation. However if, like me, you didn’t launch a business before you could drive or vote, there’s still hope! Many successful entrepreneurs grow businesses later in life. Martha Stewart was nearly fifty before developing the Martha Stewart Living magazine, Vera Wang began designing clothes professionally aged 39, Colonel Sanders launched KFC at 40, and Ray Kroc scaled McDonalds from age 51.
You can grow a business after a traditional career, later in life, and around other priorities, if you have a growth mindset.
A growth mindset includes a desire to grow your business to follow your passion or purpose to the extent possible. A desire to grow includes believing that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This includes a love of learning and resilience, which are essential for scale and success.
- Endless great ideas
There’s a common perception that successful entrepreneurs have endless great ideas. Good ideas are plentiful. You will have a higher chance of success with one great idea/problem to solve, plus persistence.
Success requires persistence, testing, measuring and change. Edison didn’t give up and move from idea to idea, e.g. from electric lights to gas flares to glow worms. He famously made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts before successfully producing a commercially viable light bulb.
- A detailed business plan
VHS versus Beta shows that the best technology doesn’t always win. Kodak’s failure demonstrates that what succeeded in the past may not succeed in the future.
You do not need a detailed business plan that operates for years in advance, to grow your business. You need a minimum viable product or service that solves a problem, that the people with the problem are aware of, and want to buy, from you, now, at your price point.
It is important to protect your intellectual property in your minimum viable product or service. This includes keeping confidential information confidential, registering trademarks so that you have exclusive use in specified classes, and ensuring you use your branding widely online, so people know your minimum viable product or service and what you deliver.
Your clients or customers want to know what your brand stands for, then be able to obtain the high-quality products and services you sell, when they want them.
You then need to scale. This means you can deliver over and over, as demand increases, in a consistent method that others can follow.
- Multiple new products and services
You do not need to keep creating new products and services. If you have been going to the same hairdresser for years, you do not want him or her to now do your tax returns. You don’t go to McDonalds for fine French cuisine.
You need products and services that people want to buy, that you can deliver at a viable price, then scalable systems. Scalable systems move away from you providing the products or services, then away from you managing the delivery of the products or services. These constraints limit your growth.
If your business is going to successfully scale, you need to develop, implement and delegate standardised and repeatable systems and processes.
How might you do this? This requires investment in tech support systems and training.
One key tool is a centralised information, including a strong customer relationship management (CRM) tool, where you can collate lead and customer information. A great CRM can obtain website information, email information, data entered by your team, be used as a project management system, include automated reminders and more.
For services, you may develop an operations manual, induction training and ongoing training.
For products you need trusted manufacturing or supply, to deliver the quality you need, in the time-frames you need. Some businesses start with third-party manufacturer, then do it themselves, others make it themselves, then outsource. Your manufacturing or supply contract can protect your intellectual property, give you exclusivity, set out quality and time-frame standards and limit your liability.
- All the expertise
You don’t need to be an industry expert to launch a business in an industry. Richard Branson started selling records then grew his businesses from there. Arianna Huffington had limited journalistic experience before starting Huffington Post. Walt Disney had no formal professional training.
You do not need detailed business expertise to grow your business. As soon as possible, obtain bookkeeping, accounting and legal assistance from professionals. These do not need to be expensive and intimidating. If a professional cannot give you a fixed-fee price, a set time frame and a compelling reason why you need their assistance, keep moving. Find a professional who understands startups and scale-ups. They know your time and money are precious. They can share what has worked for other businesses to grow, scale and succeed, to help you do the same.
Your growth mindset can then extend to collaborations with other businesses. You can be one of many small suppliers selling through large retail chains. Many small businesses sell products the independent supermarkets or the large chains.
You can form collaborations with other small businesses. For example, we’re assisting a boutique food maker to sell their treats through boutique cafes.
You can provide services to large service organisations. The large accounting and consulting firms are building partnerships with many entrepreneurs to provide new services and tech solutions to their existing clients.
I started my own business, and have co-founded two businesses, one recently launched, one has scaled considerably. In 4 years we have grown from a team of 5 to 70, assisted over 10,000 business at no cost with online products and services, and over 4,000 businesses with bespoke paid legal services. We have researched and analysed and tested. We have developed robust tech and legal systems. We’ve built strong collaborations. We have a commitment to innovation for all team members and a commitment to help our clients’ succeed.
At times, growing your own business will demand more than you feel you have. If you maintain a desire to grow, be persistent, have scalable products and services, invest in systems, and build strong collaborations – you have the foundations to survive, scale and thrive!
Ursula Hogben I legalvision.com.au l realtimeminds.com.au l [email protected] l Twitter: @UrsulaHogben