Your small business has made it through year one – Now what? Part 5: Are you stable long term?
No one starts a company with the end in mind. The goal is always to create something that will withstand the many tests of time – something that will leave a lasting, relevant mark on the world (or at least the regional market). That’s why getting past that first year of ups and downs and achieving some level of stability will most likely leave you thinking, “This is really happening, my business will go the distance.”
But before you run away with any subsequent visions of grandeur, it’s important to make a very stern assessment of the future of your company. Because even though you may be stable in the moment, you’re not necessarily set for the long term. Lasting success requires a mix of incisive action, and ongoing deliberation.
So if long-term stability for your business is the goal – and it most likely is – here are a few pointers to get you on a road to lasting success.
Set short-term and long-term goals
Remember, progress doesn’t end with the completion of your very first big milestone, which often is to get past year one. You’ll need to continue creating well-defined short-term objectives. According to Business.com, these could be monthly or quarterly directives that serve a very specific function; for example, revamping your company website to generate more leads. These types of goals are extremely important for forward momentum, especially when the way forward isn’t entirely clear. In fact, focusing too heavily on a big-picture, long-term goal can actually prevent your company from moving up the proverbial business ladder. It’s like trying to climb an actual ladder with only two rungs, one at the bottom, and one at the top. Short-term success precipitates long-term stability.
At the same time, it’s important to have some sort of vision for the future of your business. Whether it’s expanding your reach over a certain geographic region, creating a second location, achieving enough credibility to work with higher-tier clients or something else, there needs to be some sort of driver that supersedes simply getting through another day. That same advice applies to so many things in life, and it’s an essential component of long-term stability for a small business.
Be willing to change with the times
One of the top business buzzwords of our time is “agile,” and for good reason. An agile business is a malleable business. It can adjust to changing conditions quickly and effectively enough to stay afloat, and in many cases, to accelerate toward new and better shores. Given that change is the only real constant – even the universe is expanding – agile is the way to be.
Consider the cautionary tale of once renown book-selling behemoth, Borders. In 2011, shortly after the demise of the company, NPR’s All Things Considered featured a segment about why Barnes & Noble made it, and Borders didn’t. The reason, quite simply was that Barnes & Noble staved off internet competition by creating an online store, and by developing its own electronic reader called the Nook. Meanwhile, Borders fed the giant that is Amazon by outsourcing its sales to them, and grew its brick-and-mortar presence.
Like most things in life, the moral of the story here can be summed up by one line from iconic folk singer-song writer Bob Dylan: “You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin’.” Be willing to change with them, or risk getting left behind.
Know when to play it safe, and when to take risks
To that end, one of the most important aspects of running a business is knowing what risks are worth taking. There isn’t necessarily a platitude or catch-all piece of advice that you can refer back to at every business crossroad, but rather, an amalgamation of various tenets that, when comprehensively assessed, may be able to show you a way forward.
For instance, if your business is in a rut – despite having made it past the one-year marker – and the problem is a lack of immediate merchant capital to adjust to shifting market values, take out a small business loan to get the cash you need to evolve the right way. Coming up with a response strategy that’s held together with chicken wire and duct tape won’t help you weather the storm.
Or, let’s say that you see a huge market opportunity. Maybe new, more expensive real estate is available in a part of town where you know your stable business will thrive, and you don’t have the business capital to finance the relocation. Again, that’s the type of risk that will ultimately help cultivate long-term stability. While it’s very true that the terms “risk” and “stability” are essentially antithetical, sometimes you can’t have one without first having the other.
Don’t let your small business stagnate. Continue developing new goals, keep a finger on your market’s pulse and every now and then, take a risk. Do all of that, and you’ll be in a better position for long-term stability.