I have been both a serial entrepreneur and intrapreneur for most of my life. The difference being that I have set up new businesses both inside and outside of corporations. While there are many similarities, there are also differences—namely, working with and without corporate support. And both have advantages and disadvantages. But for today, I would like to focus on the commonalities.
5 critical issues that strongly affect business success
Here are my thoughts:
- It’s all about the numbers. Whether you are inside a corporation or creating a business from scratch as an entrepreneur, and whether you are a creative type or not, you must understand the numbers. While you might be able to intuitively understand success, immediate success without course correction is rare. So, your numbers really become part of your roadmap. Because without a roadmap, how do you make modifications? How do you make mid-course changes? Thus, measurement—the numbers—against specific goals is critical.
- Identify your most difficult challenges and plan/understand how you will bring them to their knees. My experience as an entrepreneur has been that most challenges cut across industry. For example, capitalization, or rather undercapitalization, is a potential roadblock regardless of industry. And securing working capital inside a corporation, either as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, is a problem. Resource huddles just come with growing a business. So does finding the right people.
- Understanding the company culture that you want to create is something that requires thought. No one business culture is necessarily better than another yet having one culture for your organization and getting your people to work within that culture is critical to success. In a Simon Associates Management Associates blog entitled, “Has Your Business Stalled? Maybe It's Time For A Culture Change!” we define four different types of cultures. What is yours and do your people subscribe to that culture?
As an aside, if you have been in the business world for a long time, I bet once or twice you’ve been in an organization where somehow the “fit” just wasn’t there. It has happened to me and if you are an entrepreneur, you need to understand that not everyone fits your culture and that this could significantly impact your mission.
To illustrate my point, I’ll give you an example of what happened to me. I joined an old line ethical drug company that wanted to get into the proprietary drug business. I was hired after having run half of the marketing for a successful competitor in the proprietary drug field. My old company was made up of young guys, very aggressive and focused on increasing revenues and profits. No one cared about anything but growing the business.
The new organization was conservative, status quo and my peers were 20 years older than I. So, I thought I was successful in tripling the business and profits in a year, building a sales force and anticipating great things. Guess what? I was asked to resign!
Why? Because I didn’t fit. I was out of sync with the corporate culture. As Peter Drucker, renowned management consultant, educator and author famously said, “Corporate culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
The lesson learned here is that despite all the planning we do and all the strategy development we work on, everyone in the organization needs to be aligned with a common culture.
- Some people work out and some don’t. Don’t wait too long for the don’ts. Not everyone makes it in every organization. There are two types of “don’t make it.” The first relates to skills. It becomes apparent quickly when someone is a bad fit because they do not have the skills for the job nor the temperament to perform inside the organization. In these cases, make a decision to terminate quickly because if it is not working, the odds are poor that it will work in the future.
But there is a second bad fit and that ties to what I said previously about organizational culture. As hard as people try, some are uncomfortable in certain corporate cultures. While it takes longer to identify and recognize, this issue will never go away. They are bad fits because they cannot adjust and become part of the team, and time is not going to change this.
- Lifelong learning is mandatory today. Let’s not kid ourselves. It gets more difficult every day to keep up with technology and the changes it brings in our society. Recently I was reading Thomas Friedman’s new book, “Thank You for Being Late.” In it, he quotes Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, who states, “We are entering the age of acceleration. The models underlying society at any level, which are largely based on a linear model of change, are going to have to be redefined. Because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the twenty-first century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress: organizations have to be able to redefine themselves at a faster and faster pace.”
So, what does this mean? That if you are not on the technology merry-go-round, you need to get on it. The world is changing so rapidly that not keeping up with change could put you significantly behind, perhaps to the point of never being able to catch up. And that’s why you need to be thinking about lifetime learning. What you knew or did yesterday will probably not help you in the future!
So where does this leave us?
We know that the world of business is made up of three things: people, product and process. Having said that, there are a number of issues that affect success. And you as an entrepreneur need to understand this. Because, at a certain point, you might encounter a stall point. Given that prospect, you might want to take another look at the five critical issues I mentioned above. Addressing (and following) this checklist might help you eliminate the stall point before it hits and instead, take your business to new heights.
For more on successful entrepreneurship, check out these 2 blogs
Is your corporate culture holding you back rather than propelling you forward? How about a free consultation.
Has your business stalled? Is your corporate culture part of the problem? Do you even know what your culture is? Perhaps a free 1-hour corporate culture consultation with us could help you and your management team "see, feel and think" in new ways about how to grow your business. Please contact us.
Andy Simon, Partner
Simon Associates Management Consultants