Gaining traction as a start-up and maintaining sustainable business growth whilst your business scales is, of course, important if you want to achieve any kind of success.
There are countless blogs, articles, and books covering the knowledge and skills you require to achieve that. From the various on-line tools you may use for marketing to how you develop yourself and your team. These are important however how do you ensure your business continues to move forward?
You hop on your new bicycle, full of excitement and energy. How do you ride it without expending too much energy and being hindered by various challenges along the way? Do you pedal as fast as you can to reach your destination? Sure, you can give it a go but chances are you will arrive tired and possibly drenched in sweat.
How about riding that bicycle at a steady and manageable speed, without burning too much energy? Sounds logical, doesn’t it?
Here’s the thing:
It’s not logical when pedestrians randomly step out on the road making you swerve, perhaps even bumping into something. It’s not logical when your bike chain suddenly snaps. It’s certainly not logical when the route you chose to take becomes flooded in a downpour, making it way too dangerous to ride through.
I grew up in Singapore and used to ride through the busy streets from a young age with my two elder brothers. When I went solo at twelve years of age, I thought I was immortal. No mask and no helmet; just the flashiest racing bike I could afford. Lots of cars, trucks, and buses – and me on my bike.
It was the golden era of racing bikes. The cycling movie, Breaking Away, hit the cinemas and a craze began. Impromptu races such as from the top of bustling Orchard Road, (the main shopping thoroughfare), was the norm and almost expected. During my teens, I would take on anyone and race them as fast as I could whilst dodging the traffic right down to Selegie Road, approximately 3 miles away. The great thing about Orchard Road was it was all one-way traffic. Anything could happen along the way though. It was adrenaline crazy and, when I now reflect, it was in fact simply plain crazy! It’s, in fact, a bit of a miracle I survived riding around Singapore at all.
Various scrapes ensued; near crushes by buses and even sliding down on my side after avoiding a few pedestrians randomly stepping out in front of me making me crash rather badly into a set of railings. I, of course, didn’t win all my unofficial races, no matter how competitive and driven I felt. There were times I would limp home carrying my bike on my back, blood down my legs, much to the amusement of my family. For whatever reason, they really somehow had faith in me.
In a business context, what I’m illustrating here is this:
Things just, well, just happen – and randomly too. Lots of things can take place in our respective journeys, either hindering our progress or, more positively, giving us that much needed boost.
The challenging examples can be anything from someone going on sick leave; a third party supplier pulling out of a bid, putting all your own chances of winning it at risk; your once loyal customer suddenly deciding that paying on time is no longer necessary; your laptop powering down right in the midst of a client presentation. Anything.
These are what I usually refer to as “unforeseen circumstances.” In these cases, there is nothing much you can do about them. No amount of planning can see these things land randomly in front of you.
It’s how you deal with such unforeseen circumstances that will determine your future. Some cope better than others. That’s life.
However here’s the vital component that could determine just how successful you become.
Look up that word on-line and you’ll most probably see it described as: ‘The impetus and driving force gained by the development of a process or course of events.’
If you have drive and determination, you will get through most of the challenges. However, it’s key you make up for lost time if you wish to achieve or exceed your original sales targets. Do you work harder or smarter? Although it would be tempting for me to advise it’s all about working smarter, it usually doesn’t apply so much when you’re in recovery mode as it will mean working harder if you wish to make up for the time already lost. If are able to, applying extra resource may help if you’re satisfied it doesn’t impact too much on your finances. It’s very important to keep focussed and motivate others too.
Avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket. If you have one or two clients producing most of your profits, (note I did not state revenues), you need to find additional clients to reflect similar profits, ensuring your business survives any unforeseen circumstances like one of your clients going bust out of the blue. It does happen.
In this context, momentum can be time-related. Gantt charts can be very useful to keep track on progress as they act as a visual reference. Project Managers use them a lot. You can too but don’t complicate things. Keep them simple, like creating them in Microsoft® Excel or similar so you’re not getting side tracked. (Unless you are or want to be a Project Manager, which means you usually won’t be the one driving your business or team forward. Delegate that task if you can, however, ensure you see the charts or Excel bars often).
The downpour I mentioned was, in fact, a monsoon. There will be unforeseen circumstances where you will need to turn around, cycle an alternative route or go to safety. Steer clear or even ditch a project when you know the risks outweigh the benefits. Create a healthy pipeline of new opportunities instead. You and your business can be the ‘impetus’ and ‘driving force’ elsewhere.
Use momentum to your advantage and not just to recover time. It can be a central part of your marketing and sales strategy helping you create a breakaway from your competitors ensuring you’re leading with a yellow jersey.