Successful businesses don't just happen. Just like the world's enduring architectural icons, they're constructed according to painstaking blueprints, with the end goal being to bring a particular creative vision to life. Every great business rests on solid, time-tested foundations, and enjoys structural integrity on the ground floor all the way to the top.
Here's how you can build a business that stands tall for years to come.
It All Starts With a Solid Foundation
"Build it, and they will come," goes the old adage. But a great idea is just the beginning of a successful business. For your business to truly stack up the way it needs to, it has to stand upon unshakeable foundations. We all love the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but as gravity has shown us, it's a concept that can only scale so far.
Here's what your business needs to make a truly solid start:
- Business plan. Your business plan is a roadmap of your goals - and how you plan to achieve them. It should encompass your products and services, your business model, your growth plans, and your financial projections. Ensure that your plan is based on rigorous and realistic research.
- Marketing plan. Often included as part of your business plan, your marketing plan outlines how you'll get your product or service into the hands of customers. It should break down your target audience, your unique selling proposition and strategies, your messaging, and your delivery distribution and strategies. It should be backed by solid market research.
- Right legal structure. There are several different ways to structure your business, each with its pros and cons. Before getting started, figure out which one's right for you, and ensure that you've checked all the legal and financial boxes in creating your business entity.
- Investment and funding. How will your business get the funds to operate? Will you be self-funded (bootstrapped), or will you be seeking investment from other partners or VCs? Will you be going the crowdfunding route?
- Customer outreach. How you'll acquire your customers is a major factor in your business success. Also known as "strategic communications," this is how you'll reach your customers and encourage them to convert.
- Talent acquisition. The strength of your team underpins the strength of your business. Make sure you have a plan for finding and keeping top talent as you grow and that you have solid HR practices in place.
Remember, while these things are all crucial, they're not chiseled in stone. You can refine and adjust them as your business and its needs to evolve.
Let's Hear it For the Leaders
Now that you've got the essentials covered, the building can begin. This is where your leadership team shines. Basically, their job is to oversee and guide the construction of the business from those early days all the way through to the placement of those final decorative details. In business, great leadership is like having a great general contractor - they ensure that construction proceeds as it should, on time, and on budget. No matter how great your product or business plan is, without good management, it's never going to reach its true potential.
So what does great management involve?
- Always-on strategic planning. Great managers are constantly looking at threats and opportunities and how to address them. They're always aware of the internal and external resources they have at their disposal, and they understand how to align them with the business's goals and plans.
- Leading by example. Management sets the company's culture, tone, and expectations. Leaders who understand this and channel it productively get more out of employees - and help build up the company's next leaders as well.
- Knowing your people. Great managers hire strategically, continue to invest in their team, keep the lines of communication open, and help leaders rise up through the ranks. This is vital for ensuring both continuity and longevity.
- Understanding the numbers. Gut feelings can only deliver so much value. Truly stand-out managers understand the numbers of their industry, their competitors, their products and their overheads. They make decisions based on numbers, data and metrics - and listen to expert advice when needed.
- Learning on the job. Management's job is never done. Businesses are always growing and evolving, and leaders need to grow and evolve with them. This means staying on top of new industry developments, making the most of time-saving tools, and rethinking current practices if the market or audience starts to shift.
It Takes Both to Succeed
You can't make it to the top without great foundations. But without great management, all you've got is a slab of concrete. To truly succeed in business, you need both: a solid roadmap and a leadership team that will help you get from breaking ground to groundbreaking. Keep the above in mind, and you'll be well on your way to building a business that stands the test of time.