Written by Dave Cantin for Forbes.com
In a capitalistic business environment, entrepreneurs play a critical role in economic growth. They stimulate employment, disrupt industries and launch services previously unconceived, all of which accelerate economic development. In the ever-changing and ever more competitive business environment, how you launch and what you focus on before, during and after that launch is paramount.
Of course, any business venture has to start with a well-thought-out business plan. But the basics are just that: basics. The steps after are the ones entrepreneurs need to focus on more critically if they want to not only successfully launch but also have their business break through the stratosphere.
There are six key elements that worked for me when I launched my business and beyond. These elements are worth the time, energy and focus in order to maximize business growth and success.
Keep your eyes on finances. Cement your financial goals. Cash management can make or break a company regardless of how great the product or service is. In fact, many small businesses fail due to financial mismanagement. Watch your cash flow and payments. Be sure there are cash reserves for unforeseen circumstances. If you aren’t an expert in this arena, you might consider bringing in a professional financial advisor or manager.
Walk before you run, and listen. Avoid initially overexpanding into markets that are too large, even if you feel you only want a small percentage of that business. You want to assure you grow incrementally while developing your network and brand, as well as that you’re meeting your market’s specific needs. Whether you are responding to the latest trend or refining your product or service, pay attention to feedback. Don’t just listen—hear.
Be flexible, and focus effort where it counts. Evaluate the trajectory of your business. We all learned how to pivot during the recent pandemic. This is a perfect example of the flexibility needed to survive. You have to understand when a change needs to be made, whether you feel you need to shift operations (i.e., online as opposed to brick-and-mortar) or cater to evolving market demand (i.e., restaurants moving toward home delivery when necessary). Be honest with yourself and heed constructive criticism. Be open to new approaches whether technological or structural. You might want to consider outsourcing administrative functions so you can focus more on acquisitions and growth.
Learn to say no. While it might be tempting to take on every opportunity that comes your way, that might not be the best idea. Consider your company’s market, size and culture. You want to be sure you do your best work. This helps establish your reputation in your industry. Taking on a project that doesn’t necessarily fit is a mistake that could follow you and possibly hurt your long-term business. While you can chase lucrative clients, if they don’t fit your culture or your core expertise, it won’t work for anyone. You’ll be in the learning mode as well. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Hitting Your Five-Year Goals
Break down your long-term goals into achievable short-term projects. It’s imperative to be realistic and not set your goals too high. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Break down projects into specific duties and milestones. By doing so, those long-term goals feel more manageable and more realistic. Not only will you not feel so deluged, but you will also be better able to focus on your real actionable properties. Whether for process or outcome, setting goals is also a way to have some accountability. While long-term goals fluctuate, the process for achieving those goals remains the same regardless of what they might be.
Consider the Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of results come from 20% of efforts. This concept can determine what to prioritize so that your efforts have maximum impact. This might sound obvious, but it’s important to focus on the smallest efforts that produce the greatest results. It’s impossible to reach every goal all at once. You can use this in your daily routine, in finding solutions to issues that arise and even in quality control. Consider, however, that the Pareto Principle doesn’t refer to the effort you’re putting in, but to the whys and wherefores involved in what you’re working on. The goal is not to minimize the amount of effort, but to focus your effort on a specific portion of work to create a bigger impact. You have to be laser-focused on putting in every bit of the effort into that 20% to accomplish 80% of results.
In the end, get in the mindset of already being a successful entrepreneur. Be passionate about what you do. Strategically plan. Have an inspiring, realistic vision, and surround yourself with other successful entrepreneurs. When you do, spend more time listening to their stories and adopting the winning principles they share that you believe will take your business to lucrative, successful heights.