As a business, you’re going to face birth and growth pangs in equal measure. When you start your business, you are brimming with confidence about the business’s chances, but aren’t entirely sure whether it will succeed or not. The beginning of your business is a rollercoaster ride of emotions where the lack of finances seems like an insurmountable hurdle, the first sale is a matter of much celebration, increasing demand is cause for pride, but lack of resources to meet this demand is cause for alarm.
Slowly and very surely you get your bearing rights and you start entrenching your business in the market with the quality of its products/services, solid customer support, product innovation and a single minded focus on improving the business’s profits.
But this sets in motion a different sort of challenge. All your efforts are bearing fruit and your business is growing, and it is growing at a pace that leads to all sorts of problems. Some of these challenges have the potential to actually halt its spiraling growth if nothing is done to fix them.
While there are many challenges that impact a growing business, here are 5 that look innocuous at first sight, but have the potential to destroy your business:
Complacency creeps up on a business when it’s doing well. It hides in the shadows of its successes and just when you think you’ve got it made, it takes down the business. It strikes without warning, and brings the business to its knees. We have plenty of examples in front of us such as BlackBerry, Zynga and Quiznos amongst others that were iconic brands in their own right but, today, are struggling to stay afloat. Some years ago, everybody wanted to own a BlackBerry; result – it got complacent and couldn’t compete against two upstarts that challenged its market leadership, the iPhone and Android devices. Today, it is struggling to stay relevant.
Lack of innovation is a forerunner of complacency. If you sit back and relax thinking your product doesn’t have any competition in the market and it will stay that way, you are setting yourself up for trouble. Regular product innovation is a must for staying relevant. There is no harm in believing your business is the best, but you need to make concerted efforts to keep it that way.
Fix: One goal achieved, set sights on the next goal. That’s the way to kill complacency. Make sure employees know there is no room for complacency in your organization. Instill in them a culture of product innovation.
2. Lack of 3 Es – Energy, Engagement and Enthusiasm
The business is doing well, everything is right with the world, but there is just one small problem – your employees are showing lack of enthusiasm for their jobs, the kind of go-getter spirit that made your business successful is missing. This is a human resource problem that needs to be sorted out as soon as possible. You need to create and implement strategies that will infuse new enthusiasm into your team and re-energize them to achieve bigger and better business growth.
Shift the goal posts, offer better incentives, take steps to improve the work environment and ensure you make them stakeholders in your business’s growth story. Your employees are your most valuable assets, and while you might be reason why your business exists in the first places, it’s your employees who are moving it forward. So, make sure they are on the button all the time. It is when your business is on an upward growth trajectory that employee energy levels should be at their highest.
Fix: Make sure you give your employees a pep talk; tell them why they are important; implement a performance linked reward system and do anything and everything else to ensure your employees feel invested in your business growth.
3. Inability to Manage Multiple Commerce Channels
Are you making optimum use of your multiple commerce channels? Are you able to manage sales happening across these sales channels, in real time? Are you able to process the orders quickly? Is your front end system fully integrated with your sales system to offer results driven customer support?
These and many other questions revolving around your commercial activities must be asked to ensure you deliver on your customers’ expectations. Sales, order processing, customer support, targeted marketing campaigns and customer data must be seamlessly integrated with the front office to ensure these activities are handled with precision and the kind of timeliness that it demands of them.
Your sales efforts are the lifeline of your company. As your business grows, sales management becomes a massive and very complicated exercise. If you don’t give it the attention it deserves, it will slowly offer diminishing returns.
Fix: Try to use an integrated business management system that helps you tie in your sales and business operations into one seamless entity. Work with the one that meets the needs and requirements of your business best.
4. Growth Overwhelms
Every business owner wants double digit growth and the real optimists only see growth in triple digits. This is the stuff their dreams are made of. But what if the dream comes true? In many cases, they are not equipped to handle this growth. They are overwhelmed by it. They don’t have a policy in place to quickly scale up their processes, controls and people to meet escalating growth. They lose their bearing quickly which means the growth wreaks havoc with their business structure. If they are not careful, it can collapse all around them.
Fix: Prepare for growth from day one. Institutionalize policies and structures that help you manage company growth. You must ensure that the financial, reputational and quality risks that come bundled with high growth figures do not go out of hand.
5. Transitioning to a Leadership Role
When your business hits high growth, you are not only the owner of the business but also its leader. The challenge is to transition to a leadership role. Leaders take difficult decisions, delegate tasks, trust their employees, provide direction and learning, and have the capability to get the best out of their team. You must become a friend, coach and mentor. This is the real challenge.
Fix: Spend time listening to your top management and also make sure the channels of communication between you and your employees, not only the management, are always open. You need to understand their professional, as well as, emotional needs. This requires patience and the ability to connect with your employees at a personal level. Guardian has an excellent article on Mindfulness, Purpose and the Quest for Productive Employees. It’s a must read for people who want to play a leadership role in their organizations.
As your business keeps growing, you’ll keep facing these and many other challenges. One of the better ways to handle them is to plan for them in advance by following a strategy of optimism where you know your business will grow and have put in place a policy to handle this growth. A knee jerk reaction to a challenge will never work over the long term. So think for the future and create and institutionalize policies that will help you handle challenges associated with the growth your business will experience over the long term.
Tags: Commerce Suite, Sales Channels