Proof Positive: 5 Facts to Breathe Life into Your Business
If you’re an entrepreneur or an entrepreneur-hopeful, it’s probably difficult to keep those four words from causing you to second guess your every move as you plan and run your business. They become especially hard to ignore when you consider the fact that less than 30 percent of businesses last more than 10 years, and most failures happen within the first few years of operation. The truth is, many things could go wrong: an ill-conceived business idea, poor planning, lack of capital, ineffective leadership, and more. In the high stakes world of running a business, those are the facts.
But, says Bill McBean, author of the new book The Facts of Business Life: What Every Successful Business Owner Knows That You Don’t, there are other important facts about business ownership. Facts that could help you avoid the mistakes and pitfalls that trip up so many others, and go on to achieve the success you’ve dreamed of. He calls them the Facts of Business Life.
“Of course, there are a variety of skills owners need to know in order to make a business work,” says McBean. “But after many decades of running my own successful businesses, and learning how other successful owners have created success, I have come to the conclusion that these facts are the seven essential concepts needed to create a successful business life.”
“Now, don’t get me wrong,” McBean clarifies. “There are no guarantees for entrepreneurs—and to add to the challenge, each business is one of a kind, in terms of how it competes, its constraints, and how it operates. But what you can do is tilt the odds in your favor.”
If you’re ready to build a strong, lasting foundation for your business, then read on for an overview of McBean’s tried-and-true seven Facts of Business Life:
Fact 1: If you don’t lead, no one will follow. At first, this statement seems mind-numbingly obvious. But often, “leadership” is one of those words that is thrown around by people who haven’t given much thought to what it looks like in action. According to McBean, good business leadership begins with defining the destination and direction of your company and deciding how the business should look and operate when it arrives. But it doesn’t stop there. It also involves developing and continuously improving on a set of skills in order to move your business from where it is today to where you want it to be tomorrow.
“What’s important to understand is without effective leadership your managers or employees have no idea what is important to the owner, what to manage, or what success and failure look like,” notes McBean.
Fact 2: If you don’t control it, you don’t own it. Control is the owner’s management reality. If you don’t control your company by defining key tasks and dictating how they must be handled, and “inspect what you expect,” then you don’t truly “own” the business because all you are is a spectator watching others play with your money.
“There are two overriding or macro concepts successful owners understand over their unsuccessful competitors,” explains McBean. “First, great procedures and processes need controls, and these in turn create great employees. This happens because procedures and processes operate the business, and employees operate the processes. This is one of those business basics that owners must understand to be successful.
Fact 3: Protecting your company’s assets should be your first priority. Were you surprised because this fact didn’t instruct you to first protect your company’s sales, profits, and growth? If so, you’re not alone. But the truth is, assets—which include both tangible and intangible assets—are what power sales, profits, and growth.
Usually, owners and soon-to-be owners understand the need for insurance on assets like their buildings and equipment. In fact, bankers insist on insuring specific assets they lend money on like facilities, equipment, and sometimes even insurance on an owner’s life. However, successful owners don’t stop at protecting obvious assets. They understand the importance of every asset, because assets represent invested cash, which should be managed to produce exceptional and maximized profits.
Fact 4: Planning is about preparing for the future, not predicting it. Nobody knows what tomorrow, next week, or next year will bring for your business. But you can make educated guesses based on the most current, accurate information available as well as your own past experiences, and this should be an ongoing process. Effective planning, McBean asserts, is a mix of science (gathering pertinent information) and art (taking that information and turning it into a plan that will move your business from “here” to “there” over a specific time period).
“Being able to plan better than your competitors can give you a significant competitive edge in the market,” he adds. “Ford Motor Company is a great example. In 2008 and 2009, its competitors, GM and Chrysler, ran out of cash and needed taxpayer bailouts to avoid bankruptcy. But not Ford. Years prior to the credit crunch, Ford began to restructure its debt and raised billions as it continually added to cash reserves. Was this luck or good planning? Industry insiders will say good planning. The point is Ford knew, as you should, that planning is important because it focuses owners on what’s important and it prepares them for what lies ahead.”
Fact 5: If you don’t market your business, you won’t have one. Maybe working to market and advertise your product isn’t your cup of tea. Or maybe you believe your product is so great that it should speak for itself. If so, too bad—you’re going to have to do it anyway. The bottom line is, if people don’t know about your product, you won’t be successful.
Bill McBean is the author of The Facts of Business Life. For more information, visit www.FactsOfBusinessLife.com.