When you set out with a big idea for a new business, you often find yourself twisting and turning to suit the current market or even compromising with your business partners to find a happy middle-ground. Shifting focus to perfect the idea comes with the territory, but what if you are facing the decision to completely change your business direction? Do you abandon your dream and follow the money or stick to your guns and ride it out?
Having been through this situation many years ago when my business was in its infancy, I remember all too well the feeling of being at a crossroad. We’d followed our passions and threw a tonne of money at projects that had no return. Essentially, the market we wanted to commercialise wasn’t there, leaving us with the question; pivot to where the money was or die.
So how do you steer your business in the direction of success without entirely losing your vision or your drive?
Know who you are
Too often businesses sprawl out to reach all corners of the market, attempting to nail every trend, responding to every client brief irrespective of budget or how it relates to their long-term strategy, and in doing so become a jack-of-all-trades master of none. Strategy is choosing what not to do. Whilst it is important to create revenue when starting a business, it is equally important to not lose sight of who you are as a company.
Current market trends should still be front of mind and impact your business decisions where appropriate, but they should never pull you away from what you excel at or even what you love. Dedicating your time and launching your startup to make your big idea blossom is a bold move in itself, so having a strong sense of self and not losing sight of the bigger picture is critical to success.
Be smart and adapt
The most critical element you need to implement in your business is to develop a core offering that you can rinse and repeat. This enables sustainability and efficiency and therefore, profitability.
If you have to continually start new projects from scratch, it’s a never-ending cycle of trial and error. You’ll never be able to make a profit because you’re forever going to be on a learning journey to deliver a product - and learning is expensive. It doesn't have to be cookie-cutter ideas but having holistic and replicable production processes, software or templates in place makes all the difference.
If you need to adapt to where the money is, but you also want to stay true to your vision to looking to find a core component within your product or service that is repeatable and consistently brings money into the business because once you’ve cracked that code, you’ve got the foundation from which to build your business.
Align or Leave
One of the biggest issues that startups face is executive teams not being in sync. Team alignment is fundamental to success; a lack of focus erodes the business as resources are drained and time and money is wasted. It is important, especially in the early days, to have a team that is totally committed to one purpose. If you don’t agree on something, either disagree and commit or leave.
A lot of people don’t like saying no, and a lot of people don’t have the courage to leave. As a founder, it is crucial to be astute to people's behaviours, more so than what they are saying. As the adage goes, actions (or lack thereof) speak louder than words.
Consequently, my advice to business leaders is to not only take the time to differentiate between authentic commitment versus those offering lip service when they say they’re on board but also turn this lens onto yourself by asking; “Do I really believe in this?” Because building a business takes absolute commitment, and if it’s not there from the entire exec team, including you, it won’t succeed.
Hang in there
Every dollar that you earn equals time, and the more time you have the more freedom you have. The sooner you can get your business to break even, the sooner you have the freedom of a longer runway and are thereby one step closer to making your vision a sustainable and profitable business.
Once your nose is above water and you have a little buffer, so many more opportunities present themselves. So as quickly as possible, get your business breaking even because the moment you do, you’re creating time, and with time comes opportunities and growth.
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