In Erik Kruger’s most recent book, Dangerous, he shares a story about an experiment in which researchers created a self-contained ecosystem, sheltered from natural elements. A strange thing happened. The trees would grow to a certain size, and then fall over. The researchers eventually figured out that this was due to a lack of wind. A tree that is not exposed to wind faces no difficulties. Without the need to deepen and widen its root structure to withstand the adversity of wind, it just falls over!
It’s a powerful lesson that lies at the heart of what it means to be a business owner and leader. The past few years have brought more than their fair share of gale force winds. But, those who have survived have learned new skills in managing their business and have a renewed resilience. We’ve all been forced to dig deep and stretch ourselves wide.
“There’s a sense of ‘we have hit the bottom for many people’ and the only way right now is up. And I get a sense from entrepreneurs who I deal with on a daily basis that we are all in now. We’ve survived this thing and we’ve got no more excuses. And we are going to make this work now.” - Allon Raiz
There’s a power to knowing that you’ve survived so much. There’s also power in knowing that you want to go all in and achieve sustained growth. With that in mind, here are a few strategies to keep front and centre. In many ways, we are all getting back to basics – but they are basics for a reason. They work!
Know your customer – even when you think you know them, turn that assumption over and over again. I often hear people say ‘but my customer said,’ which more often than not is an audience of one or two. As a business owner, you’re extremely busy, but it is important to create space for engagement and jump at the opportunity for face-time with your client (not the tech version).
You’re not a numbers person? Ensure you have someone on your team or an external professional keeping the books. And upskill yourself to be able to read the financials and identify the stories the numbers tell. Knowing the numbers enables you to assess and improve performance, make prudent and realistic plans for growth and minimise your risk.
Culture – I cannot stress this enough. Regardless of the size of the business, it is important to spend time thinking about the type of culture you want to have that will attract and retain talent. It also has an impact on client engagement as your culture extends into your teams engagements with your clients. Culture does not happen by chance, and does not eat strategy for breakfast (sorry Peter Drucker). Great cultures are strategies, and great strategies are a form of culture.
Which leads us straight into people – be courageous enough to have difficult conversations and if it’s not working, cut it, early on. Be sure to spend time finding the right people and testing skills. I can sell ice to an Eskimo, but let’s test the other abilities where thinking, strategy, and listening are required.
Listening – one of the most underrated skills. Listen to learn and reflect on views that are not your own for in them you’ll learn more than by speaking.
Plan conservatively, then shoot the lights out. It’s much better to set realistic expectations and have a clear plan on how to reach these goals versus falling short which can be disastrous to your business.
Finally, find a mentor(s). If you just talk to yourself, there is no rigour in your thinking. Allon Raiz recently spoke at an Ignite event hosted by Mark Sham at The Tryst where he stressed the importance of mentors. He says that mentors can provide the advice, motivation, and challenging insights required to push a business owner to accelerate their success. I would encourage you to watch the interview here where there are a gazillion gems and mentor moments.
There is nothing small about small business.
BIG heart. BIG dreams. BIG risk. BIG passion. BIG commitment. BIG self-belief. BIG doubt. BIG fear. BIG hope. BIG everything.
I see you, business owner.
Cheerleading you to success!