Steps to Ensure the Long-term Success of Your Business
When first starting a business, it’s easy to focus solely on the startup necessities: getting funding, growing rapidly, finding customers and making a profit. Once the business has been around for a few years, however, it’s time to start thinking about long-term business viability.
To begin this planning, a business should think about the following:
- Ongoing Goals: When the business launched, specific goals were made for the first, second and possibly through the tenth year of business. Now, it’s time to start looking further. Products and services may need to evolve as trends change. Bill Gates once said, “In three years, every product my company makes will be obsolete. The only question is whether we will make them obsolete or somebody else will.” How will the business keep up with changes? How large should it grow over the next 20 years or so? How is the business going to create its own future? Create an ongoing plan just like the initial business plan. In fact, the business plan should be updated on a yearly basis.
- Long-term Funding: Many businesses often only think about startup capital. Yet, funding is needed throughout the life of the business to sustain it. Consider the business finances. How should they be prepared to ensure long-term success? Business owners also need to create a stable set of assets and think about how sales needs to grow over time to keep the business growing and thriving. For sales, look at longer trends as opposed to short-term ones. Don’t react to every minor trend. The longer ones are more important. Business owners shouldn’t just think about padding their pocketbooks. Reinvesting in the business will help sustain it.
- Business Growth Impediments: Continually survey the market and determine what forces may disrupt business expansion. Forecast consumer demand for the product or service over time. Is demand growing or slowing down? A slowdown could mean that the product/service has to be changed to meet future customer needs. Obtain customer feedback. Why are they not buying? Is it competition, the product itself or just bad marketing? Determine how the company would fare during the next economic turndown. If the outlook isn’t good, start stocking up capital and consider adjusting product offerings and pricing.
- Improvements: Review the company portfolio and resources. Look at products/services that have never done well. Phase these out if necessary. Review the workforce. Who is pulling their weight, and who isn't? If necessary, downsize non-productive staff. Even if someone is well-liked, if they’re draining money from the company, then it’s time to either let them go or train them for another position.
- Employee Attraction and Retention: Employees are the lifeblood of the company. Good ones can sustain the company over time. Bad ones can bring down the whole operation. Look at the types of employees that are being attracted to the company. Are they the best and the brightest or simply average or poor? If a company can’t get good people to even apply, then it may have a bad reputation in the field. Once good employees are hired, do they stay? If not, why? While most employees don’t give honest answers as to why they leave, it’s worth surveying them. Some may be just looking for more money; others, it may have to do with the culture. Whatever is keeping the best of the best from staying, a business will have to remedy that problem if it’s going to survive long-term.
Surviving in business for the long-haul is most business owners’ dream. Preparing for the future – both the good and the bad – can help that dream survive.