Every business that ever took off and that eventually shaped up to be viable and recognisable on the market, started off from absolute scratch. It was born out of someone’s mix of dreams, high ambitions and a strong desire for independence. To this end, the entrepreneur had to relentlessly pursue their vision, but to also gradually add ingredients in the mix that would make that idea real, sustainable and ultimately successful.
However, business development naturally has its own stages that are easily identifiable and that will give any business owner a good insight as to what needs to be done further on. There are typically five stages that every business goes through, regardless of the industry they operate in.
First of all, there’s the existence phase, in which you have marvellous idea, but it needs to ultimately turn into a product or service that people will pay money for. At this point, there is nothing to lose, so there’s plenty of room for experimenting, testing the waters and getting valuable feedback from the public.
Then comes survival, as the second phase of business development. This is perhaps the phase at which many businesses come to a halt, since they can’t manage to sell enough products at a high enough price and to ultimately sustain themselves and gain profit. The third stage entails that a business should do more than just sustain itself – it needs to gain enough profit to either provide you with a generous salary or to enable you to invest back in the business for further growth.
The fourth stage comes with a great deal of excitement, since your company will face a time of rapid growth, that needs to be managed really well. At this stage, your business will become more decentralized – you will probably need to develop a custom accounting software or invest in professional HR systems. The fifth stage is the final one and it means that your company is past the rapid growth phase and is slowly, but surely maturing and consolidating its position on the market.
All these stages sound exciting and challenging, but they are in no way accessible if a business does not successfully grow out of the startup phase. As this is a challenging stage for many companies out there, below you can read on the ways in which you can improve your business and efficiently navigate it out of the startup phase:
1. Maintain Focus on What Works Best
Your company already probably knows which its best selling items or services are, based on the revenue they generated and the feedback they received. A lot of companies actually tend to reach a point – too early in their development, when they become overly opportunistic. They want to quickly grow and expand, so they shift their focus to new venues and ideas, while at the same time becoming oblivious to the features that drew in the most customers.
This can be an unfortunate waste of valuable resources and dissipation of focus. Growth is necessary, but it needs to be targeted and calculated.
2. Think Strategically to Maintain and Even Increase Expectations
After having carefully analyzed the information you have on your best-selling items, use that to build sharp strategies that can take those items to the next level. Use this opportunity to also identify products or services that perform poorly and eventually weed them out.
This will allow you to penetrate your representative niche, thus ensuring that your existing customers are there intentionally and know exactly what they want and where to get it from. Similarly to the above mentioned tip, you need to constantly innovate your services and products, while at the same time needing to focus on calculated and steady expansion.
Innovation is possible and, if carried out carefully, can yield great results and steal large slices of the market share. It can either be a new feature to the item itself, making it distinguishable among similar items on the market, or something as creative as changing the way customers can test out that product, by adjusting the warranty terms.
One of the most important factor to remember when trying to juggle both consolidation and growth processes is to constantly challenge yourself to remember your vision and mission, so that you can further infuse these into your products and your team.
3. Focus on Your Processes and Products
It’s only natural that at the beginning, your company was the very employees it had under its belt, as well as the skills and knowledge they possessed. However, the personnel you have can be unreliable, since they most likely won’t stay with the company as long as you need them to.
This is precisely why there comes a time in a company’s development stages when processes need to be automated and standardized, so it can gain more efficiency and become more self-reliant. This does not mean that you should focus on getting best-in-class technology only, but also on creating efficient hiring techniques and an amazing company cultures that spurs great communication and collaboration.
4. It’s All About Branding
Regardless how much you focus on the operational aspect of your business, if you haven’t built a strong, recognizable brand, your efforts will double and your chances for success will dwindle. First of all, customers need to know exactly why they are logging onto your website and browsing through your items – they need to have a clear sense of what your company stands for and of the feeling you are trying to convey through your products or services. This means the company needs to invest in finding out what their image is on the market and how it is perceived by the target audience.
In the end, it’s all about positive experiences. They have the power to take the customer from a point of initial contact to wanting to come back and to recommending your brand to other people. Having said this, it’s important to remember that positive perception is built through powerful product development, great customer service and a general orientation towards the customer’s wants and needs.
Ultimately, it all comes down to crystal-clear focus and determination to put in the hours to innovate and grow. As mentioned above, companies need to better focus on what works for them best and to efficiently eliminate low-performing products or services. Apart from this, businesses need to strive for innovation and a higher level of professionalism, in order to securely navigate their way through the growth stage and avoid flatlining.