Framed in the simplest terms, a business is an enterprise that provides a service or a product to customers in exchange for money. Without customers, businesses would fail. And as an entrepreneur and owner of an on-line business, aside from a viable pool of customers, you also need to have a considerable repertoire of hard and soft skills to see your business through good times and bad.
What else do you need?
You need to know the core mission of your business. You can earn money doing a lot of things: sell digital art, buy and fix thrift-store furniture and resell it, run a food-truck, etc. but you need to know: what is your business here for?
Times change, and the factors that sparked the seed of life for your business can change with them. Think of Kodak — once the world leader in photographic film, it went bankrupt when it wasn’t able to adapt quickly enough to take full advantage of the rise of digital imaging technology. The company re-imagined itself and now it offers “packaging, functional printing, graphic communications and professional services for businesses around the world,” upon coming up from the ashes of its former success.
You need a long-term vision: where do you want to go with the business, and where do you want it to take you?
What you also need for your business are good relationships. Good businesses work to maintain long-term relationships with old customers, while inviting new people to join the group, and taking care of the ones who keep coming back. Solid relationships with your peers, partners and associates in your business community are also vital.
No-one ever really gets anywhere worth going to all by themselves. Help people up, build friendships, and your reward would be a supportive community, a deep sense of belonging, and the privilege of being able to give back.
To keep a weather eye on the health of your business you need intimate knowledge of what that means exactly.
- What are your parameters for optimal health? In what key areas? What data do you need?
- How do you track and gather the information you need? How far into the future can you extrapolate from it?
- What are your support plans in case of bad times, lean times, and emergencies?
- What are you doing to forecast trends and look ahead for changes that will affect your business?
- How are you preparing to adjust so you can meet those trends?
There are things beyond your sphere of influence: what you can directly affect is the relationship you have with your customers, with your people, and with your peers. Focus on what you can affect, built strong reserves to anticipate and deal with the things you can’t.
Customers and good support personnel contribute directly to your bottom line and to the survival of your business. Your challenge is to find sustainable ways to help them be at their best for as long as you want your business to last.
Any good business owner needs to be intimately aware of all the the things affecting the health of their business, and for long term success to be assured, you needed to know what you’re working on to keep people interested in your products and relying on you. That means keeping up quality, support, and keeping in touch with the needs of the times.
Brainstorm productive changes to get ahead of the curve. It’s like gaming the future when you do this. Foresight as applied to industry trends and longer reaching shifts help you plan for the necessary evolution of your business, and avoid too many upheavals. A very large part of being successful is ensuring the stability of your business, which means being able to navigate through rough waters and make it out safely.
It’s common sense: to navigate well, you need to have a very good idea of where the rough patches would present themselves . If you can get a good idea where they would be the likeliest to present themselves ahead of time, you can avoid them, and if you can’t find any other way past them, you can prepare your business to withstand the discomfort and the changes until you get clear.
Plan for the worst.
Disaster planning is part of good business practices. This is where you dream up the worst things that can possible happen to ruin your business–and then come up with ways to deal. You let your fears run wild, then when you’ve let them run down you let logic take over.
Disaster-planning and prevention/preparedness doesn’t have to be done and finished all in a day. That would be emotionally exhausting, and if you do decide to do this, enlist help from people who can offer solid support and insight as to what are the most likely scenarios to happen, and to advise you on those, as well as being ready to help you out if they actually happen.
Grow strong relationships.
In case you missed reading between the lines, aside from disaster planning, you also need a community of supportive, generous people who you know you can trust and rely on, and that means cultivating strong, mutually beneficial relationships across various social groups and diverse backgrounds. What you need to have in common is being able to trust one another, and respect what each brings to the table.
These kinds of relationships don’t grow overnight. It takes time and real effort to grown strong links, so you need to be aware of what you bring to the relationship, and be willing to offer help even when it doesn’t seem to be needed, and prepare to follow through. If you don’t want to associate with people who just take and don’t give anything back, then try your best not to be one of those people. You can’t get what you don’t give, not in the long-term, and we are talking long-term here, right?
Check-in, assess, and tweak as you move forward.
Set aside solid blocks time at regular intervals to check in with your goals, progress and projects. Just as you can use quite time on the weekend to plan and prepare for the week ahead, you can also use those times to assess the previous week and see what you can improve, adjust or drop in the week to come. Do the same for the end of the month, and put those months in their place at the end of one quarter to assess and plan forward to the next quarter.
Planning is an excellent skill to have but the danger is sticking to the plan when the circumstances change. When a mudslide buries the road you planned to take, having back-up routes available is good, right? The plan is a guide to keep you moving on the path, but it isn’t carved in stone. Things change, you should be able to adjust as well.
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