To the uninformed observer, business growth can look easy. And to the business owner who doesn't really pay attention, a boom experienced by the competition can look sudden and unwarranted. But the truth is, there is nothing easy, automatic, or unwarranted about business growth and success, especially if that growth and success is sustained over time.
As a business grows, taking time to analyze how you got here can mean the difference between sliding backwards and sustaining the growth. It can also provide lessons to help deal with the growth and all the problems that come with success. Furthermore, thoughtful analysis of the past can lead to an understanding of your present phase of growth, and what it might take to get to the next level.
Every business at every level is built on guiding principles-whether good or bad, they do exist. Marketing professionals will tell you that it doesn't really matter how you view your business, what really matters is how your customers view your business. So, when growth happens and you want to know why, ask your customers. What you will probably hear are phrases like: your business does what is promises; your pricing is reasonable and you tend to exceed expectation; I can count on you and your staff to give me the straight scoop and do whatever it takes to keep commitments. If this is what you hear from your customers then these are your guiding principles, even if they're not written down.
If you're running a business in decline or one that is experiencing difficulties, you are probably in that place of wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. If you are running a business that is growing and succeeding, you are probably scared that it will end, and hence avoid doing anything to rock the boat. Unfortunately these may be precisely the wrong approaches to take.
The last thing to do is worry. Your time and energy must be spent confronting the brutal facts of your situation, planning changes that will turn things around, and applying patience as you implement those changes. Panic generally just accelerates decline.
A growing business is a dynamic and changing thing, and if you don't embrace and accelerate change, you will stagnate and decline. When growing your business, one goal is to achieve stability, but that doesn't mean keeping everything the same. What got you here isn't necessarily what will keep you here-or more importantly, take you to the next level. Stability is important, but only to the extent that it supports sustained growth, which is the ultimate sign of strength.
The bigger you get and the faster you grow, the more acute your sense of hearing needs to become. Instead of getting caught up in the minutia, you would do well to learn to let go, trust others, and spend more time listening and looking for signs of trouble, and planning the necessary changes to accommodate growth while applying the guiding principles.
A funny thing can happen while you are growing a successful business-you might come to realize that you have fewer and fewer real competitors. People like to be associated with a winner, and customers like to know they are doing business with the best. If you can manage your business to that magical place where your marketing image is that of a great business that backs up their promises, you will achieve momentum that finds customers seeking you out rather than the other way around. You will at that moment need to shift from working hard on building the momentum to working smart to sustain the growth.