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Dose of Reality

We’ve tens of thousands of small businesses on this island. Some grow. Too many don’t. We can blame the government…the banks… the small domestic market…. Europe…

We also have to look into our hearts, perhaps, to figure out why.

If your business is struggling, here’s some hard questions about business strategy you should ask yourself. Maybe they’re a dose of reality. If used as context when writing a business plan, they might help you do some serious reflection on your business and where it’s going. Or not going?

  • First of all, ask some questions of yourself. Are you the right person to run the business and grow it from here? It could be that your strengths are in product development. You might need a sales oriented person to lead from now on. Or you’re too hands on and are poor on strategy and plotting a way forward for the business?
  • Then again you could be convinced (or self deluded)  that you’re the only one that understands the business… that you have to do everything at the moment. But you are open to taking on a new person?….when the right person comes along….. it’s just that you haven’t found that person yet…..
  • Do you have the drive, energy and focus needed to run a business? It’s a 100% commitment? Some say that they want to start their own businesss because it allows them to control their own destinies; that they want the freedom to be able to express themselves. However for controlling ones own destiny, for many, read: ‘doesn’t want to be accountable’. For freedom read:  ‘lazy? – the freedom to take a day off, or start a bit late or put off that piece of work for another day?’
  • Maybe you’re a visionary. Do you see opportunities everywhere? Well, if you roll up the sleeves, pick one opportunity and do the graft needed to get the opportunity off the ground, then perhaps you are. However,  if you  move from opportunity to opportunity without the work ethic or focus to develop any really well, that makes you…….a bit flaky?
  • Hey, you’re a people person and a great networker.  But if you turn up at events without a goal, then all you could be doing is wasting time doing busy work and building a rolodex of business cards that’ll never be used.

Jack Welsh of GE often talked about the culture he built with his managers where they dealt with reality. One can surmise that reality is about asking hard questions about oneself, and not being delusional. And if you can’t ask the hard questions about yourself, then how can you ask and answer the hard questions about your business.

Is it sustainable? Or is it a Turkey? Where has the revenue to date (if any) come from. Where will future revenue come from? Is there really a market? What’s the access to that market?

Many businesses start with one customer. They build a product for that customer and then take it to other customers in that sector. Hopefully new business is generated, distribution opportunities open up and scale happens. But many businesses also build a product for one customer and adapt it, and adapt it again and then try and break into other customers by doing pilots and more pilots..then adaptions….After one or two years of doing this, do you have a business, or a glorified pipeline?

And what about the pipeline? You can argue that closing is not just about getting a deal from a prospect, it’s also about asking a ‘hot’ prospect’ that’s hanging around a bit too long, if its serious. By creating a closing event i.e. a special offer or a great price, you call the prospect out and challenge it to see the colour of its money. However asking these hard questions of the pipe will tell if you have a business or not. Some, really deep  down, can’t face the harsh reality of those answers.

But aren’t you getting plenty of help dealing with these questions? There’s at least 600 state agencies on the island that provide mentoring, programs, grants sand business planning support. It’s their job to help you deal with these questions. However if you’re after going through one of those programs or maybe two and you’re applying for a third (which is not uncommon), then either the programs aren’t working…or your business isn’t.

Or is it you?

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