To succeed in business, you must be willing to work very hard for it. Successful entrepreneur and stock trader Tim Sykes describe this desire to work harder than most as being “crazy aggressive.” In his case, he turned the $12K he received for his bar mitzvah into $4 million by the time he was only 22 years old. As he describes it, “I was crazy aggressive, but that kind of determination is what has made me successful.”
The word aggressive in this case doesn’t denote hostile behavior, but instead refers to your determined efforts to truly make your business all that it has the potential to be. As a small business owner, you need to be particularly aggressive when it comes to transitioning from a startup company to an established, successful business. This transition can be especially challenging, which is why a majority of small businesses never make it.
Many businesses that successfully move to the next stage lose sight of their original goals of creating an innovative product or service. These businesses expand so quickly that the only thing that seems to matter is their profit margin and annual growth percentage.
Blanchette Press is an exception to this idea of super growth, and as such, has been aggressive in its efforts to always stay just the right size. After over 45 years in business, the company’s business concept still revolves around being the best printer, not the biggest.
As Blanchette Press owner and founder Kim Blanchette puts it, “As you grow outside of what we’ll call your ‘sweet spot,’ many things tend to become less important and capital growth is often the only thing that matters. Businesses will put the blinkers on and lose sight of what gets them to that point. We believe our sweet spot is the people we serve.”
Surviving the Transition from Startup to Established Business
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, up to 70 percent of businesses fail in their first five years of existence. They never make the transition to becoming a long-term, established business. Forbes contributor Martin Zwilling says, “Early-stage entrepreneurs rightly keep their focus on creating an innovative product or service. After celebrating success at that level, they often find themselves ill prepared to move to the next stage, for scaling their business into a high-performing enterprise that delivers a superlative customer experience.”
As your business becomes more established, you should avoid growing so large that you no longer meet the needs of your customers. This means keeping a high standard of quality and innovation in your products and services. Although technology can play a significant role in your business’s transition, it should never replace personal contact with customers—they are ultimately the foundation your success is built upon.
During this period when your business is transitioning, you need to take time to reflect upon your company’s future and where you want it to be in the next five years. Dan Arens, business growth advisor for Inside Indiana Business, suggests performing an internal assessment of your company by asking these kinds of questions:
- Does my business have a budget?
- Does my company have any kind of planning or review process?
- Can I easily differentiate my products or services from those of my competitors?
When you ask these questions, you start thinking about your business long term. By assessing your business’s strengths and weaknesses, you have a chance to study what opportunities and threats are on the horizon. Once you analyze your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, your final step becomes identifying your business’s primary advantage and key core competency.
As a result, you can accentuate your business’s strengths and opportunities, making them work to your advantage, while at the same time minimizing the risk associated with its weaknesses. What you are actually doing is helping your business realize its full potential.
Using Technology to Stay Dynamic
Technology is a strategic tool to help stay aggressive during the transition from startup. Strategic technology adoption provides an excellent way to gain a relative advantage over competitors, particularly with regards to small businesses. Michael Evans, managing director for Newport Board Group, explains, “The expansion of commerce to the Internet from a ‘bricks and mortar’ store presence provides small businesses the opportunity to compete with large businesses on a level playing field, and may give them an advantage as small businesses are not saddled with high fixed costs of a traditional model.”
Small and mid-size businesses have increasingly begun to rely on new technology solutions to improve areas such as product development, marketing, and customer relationship management (CRM). At the same time, automated technology should never control all the aspects of your business’s customer service, as call centers are impersonal and can never replace personal contact with customers. This is especially true when transitioning into an established company, because it’s essential to remain in touch with and not alienate the customer base that initially made your business successful in the first place.
No matter how small your company remains or how large it becomes, it’s important to stay dynamically aggressive in your mission to provide the best possible products and services to customers. You should strive to reach the point where your business is small enough to maintain its quality, while at the same time sufficiently equipped to handle larger customers. As Blanchette Press founder Kim Blanchette says, “We aim to keep the business small enough to be nimble and responsive, but large enough to handle the business of large, renowned clients. Morgan Stanley and American Express are two clients that we were large enough to handle aggressively, but small enough to approach with flexibility and insight.”