The first few years of a business are generally the trickiest time to traverse, with obstacles arising on a regular basis. To be more accurate, those obstacles won’t stop arising the longer the business goes on; you will just have more experience in handling them and know which ones to take seriously.
So for any new business, the immediate focus has to be on reacting to every bump in the road, neutralizing its impact, and banking the institutional memory that is gained by overcoming a problem that could sink another business.
For all that we have learned in recent years about how simple it is to start a business from scratch, we need to balance that fact with some more sobering knowledge. The fact that you can start a business with little capital and no experience is one thing, but it says nothing about the chances for continuing that business on a successful basis.
Starting a business and running one are two vastly different endeavors, and it is only when you have piloted a business through those early stages that you can really have some success to point to.
At the base of this challenge is the unavoidable truth that when you start your business, the business landscape will look a certain way, and you can plan for dealing with that. However – as this year has clearly taught us – that picture can change in a hurry. Some changes we can predict, because as humans we learn to recognize patterns.
Others, like the pandemic, can blindside everyone, you included. Sometimes, then, it is worth recognizing the importance of how you react to change; it is this characteristic that will be vital in piloting a new business.
Are you prepared for “anything”?
Few businesses across the world were truly ready for what happened this year. How on earth could they have been? 2020 has seen a genuinely unique set of circumstances, and we are generally considered to be doing well if we’re ready for even 75% of foreseeable events. This year was anything but foreseeable.
The lesson from this is that, in business, you need to have a contingency plan for the unexpected. By necessity, it can’t be in-depth when it comes to detail, but it needs to be flexible enough to address sudden shocks.
It is sensible when launching a business to have a Plan B – or maybe we should call it a Plan “?” – that allows you to change course and react to events as diverse as a sudden dramatic loss of cashflow, or the consequences of a lockdown. What this plan will look like depends to some extent on what niche your business serves, but it will usually include having spare capital to address immediate needs, and an alternative promotional strategy to take account of extreme circumstances.
Do you keep up with trends?
Another vital aspect of running a new business is the ability to pivot to new opportunities. Changes that spring up out of the blue can be bad news (like the pandemic), but they can also be positive (like new functionality that allows your business to reach more people).
You may be running a promotional agency that has done very well sticking to its original practices, but if the opportunity arises to grow your agency with white label PPC then you will be well advised to branch out and take advantage of the new opportunity. This ability to spot an opening and exploit it can make a huge difference to your business.
There will always be a temptation in business to stick with your initial plans, because you’ve visualized how they will work and are comfortable implementing them. However, being flexible means you can update those plans to take account of new realities. While any new business owner could be excused for being risk-averse, it can be hugely beneficial to appreciate that the path to success doesn’t always run straight.
See your business as a vehicle
Sometimes it helps to see the world of business through an analogy. For example, look at your business as a car traversing a tough terrain. As you gain experience and come through challenges, that can be seen as comparable to fitting bigger tires and a stronger chassis, and other features that equip you for the bumps ahead.
To begin with, you’ll need to be adaptable and steer a path around the obstacles. Bigger global businesses are like the monster trucks of this landscape – they can drive over the rough spots without concern, but you’re not there just yet.
There is no point telling yourself that you have a set roadmap to success, and that deviating from it would be a mistake. In this analogy, the safer approach is to keep both hands on the wheel and be ready to steer away from the hazards, which means that you will need to embrace change, good or bad.
There will be plenty of changes, both positive and negative, for you to deal with as you seek to build your business, so you might as well include that fact in your mission statement.
Evaluate each decision carefully
All of the above might give the impression that, as soon as you encounter a situation that isn’t covered in your initial planning, your whole plan should go out the window. That’s not the message to take away here. Your business plan will still be good for most situations you face in your startup journey, and it’s much better to have a map than not.
The most important message to take from this is that you will have some decisions to make in the early days of your business, and you shouldn’t shy away from changing what you are doing when the facts change.
One day, when you have come through several expansions and your business has been repeatedly subjected to the trials of a changeable world, you will have the advantage of knowing that you can fall back on experience. To begin with, you’ll need to embrace change and correct course – and that will only make you stronger in the future.