Not having a tight grasp on the reality of your business could be the difference between success and failure. This article lays out some key concepts for small businesses to dramatically improve decision making through understanding reality.
I continuously run into well intentioned, and even, well informed clients who ignore this simple guidance. This is especially true in identifying target markets and pricing. For example, if you are not aware of Amazon pricing you are simply blind to the lead competitor, much like failing department stores have for years. Similarly, clients ignore even the reality of a simple google search to help identify competitors.
“You don’t want to know the truth!” – to paraphrase Jack Nicholson
However, there are lots of ways to handle the truth. On one hand, you must maintain your enthusiasm, confidence, and belief that you will succeed. Keep in mind, however, the challenges, barriers and realities of your efforts. Here are some tools to create a beautiful balance between your “expectations and reality”
Beware of confirmation bias
Don’t we always believe our ideas are terrific, and thus, focus more on their wonderfulness and potential for success? Of course, we do. The challenges are sometimes given a smaller amount of our attention, and downplayed. It’s just human nature. Review alternatives, enlist the help of industry experts and most important, make a special effort to examine competition.
Understand your goals
Understand your goals, resources and risk. In particular, your market analysis, competitors, how and why your company is different, and why customers should care. Are you focused on long term growth or quick profits? Many companies continue to keep growing when they should be pivoting to focus on profit. Having a clear less than one page mission statement is an excellent process to ensure you understand your goals.
When and how will you be profitable?
Only about 10% of startups and small businesses succeed and survive to their fifth year. The ones who do survive have developed flexible models to measure, and then compared alternatives. Many plans, forecasts, and proposals are done in a static format with one dimensional analysis and results. Usually they’re all wrong because we live in a more dynamic and interactive world (Startup Connection has developed a very simple model that lets you evaluate alternatives in less than 48 hours. Visit: www.startupconnection.net/business-templates/operating-profit-model-template/)
Do some market research
I cannot tell you how many clients discuss the uniqueness of their ideas when there are pages of competitors who are frequently more experienced, cheaper, with more compelling marketing on Google or Amazon. Even informal research can be highly productive in understanding markets and competition.
Hire good resources and continue to test, measure and adapt
Make certain the people you hire have real expertise and will do what you require. Hiring with the goal of saving money usually results in mediocre outcomes, at best. You get what you pay for. Remember the phrase “If you think an expert is expensive, try hiring an amateur.” That is especially true in trying to do everything yourself.
Make use of demographics
Understand and take advantage of the changes in demographics, the economy and your environment. For example, large companies frequently flounder with innovation and growth especially when considered in regard to demographic changes and the growth of mobile devices. Ensure that you can answer the questions who is your target audience and why would they want your product.
In summary, learning the truth or reality of your business involves continuously challenging your assumptions, reviewing alternatives and evaluating your progress. Don’t be a martyr, and encourage different perspectives. It just may make all the difference for your business.
Dr. Bert Shlensky, President of www.startupconnection.net, offers experience, skills and a team devoted to developing and executing winning strategies for small businesses. This combination and the personal hands-on approach has been the key to client success. For more info and his books for the business entrepreneur: Marketing Plan for Startups & Small Business and Passion & Reality for Business Success, are available at www.startupconnection.net.