Editor’s note: Michelle Stockman is an independent consultant with her company, Fort Smith-based Msaada Group. Stockman earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University-Chicago in communications and fine arts, and earned a master’s in entrepreneurship from Western Carolina University. Her thoughts on business success appear each week on The City Wire.
In a moment of weakness, and good excuses, a small four legged and four month old Brutus came to live in my home. The whirlwind that ensued for the first 48 hours brought comic relief as well as wonder about the puppy integrating into the daily life around the house. What I didn’t expect was the quick lessons I learned from the little guy that apply to business leadership.
Like puppies seeing a world of new possibilities as well as many obstacles (such as older and larger dogs) in their way, the opportunities ahead are enough to keep them moving. Entrepreneurs are very much the same. Entrepreneurs are the new kids in the neighborhood faced with opportunity and opposition at the same time from the industry and marketplace.
While some entrepreneurs will see the obstacles as challenges to overcome, others often become discouraged or they will not see the alternatives around the obstacles. It is inevitable that something or someone (most often both) will cause the business some form of setback. Whether a bad partnership, lawsuit, product recall, customer complaint, bad review, bank problem, vendor miscommunication, accounting error or any possible reason under the sun, small companies can sink quickly. Once the business has experienced the setback, the leadership of the entrepreneur is critical to moving the business forward.
For instance, a business that I have been working with for a while just finished its best and worst year. It was the best year in what was accomplished, yet it was the worst year because of a dysfunctional client who caused the company to skirt on the edge of bankruptcy in order to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Rather than giving up on the customer and the business, the entrepreneur took the time to see the opportunities that lie beyond the obstacles that were in front of the business. This entrepreneur realized that business operations needed to change, the company’s value proposition needed refining and the entrepreneur retargeted future business growth along with new channel growth areas.
While entering a season of business refinement may be frightening, it is often necessary and natural. Whether changing specs on the product you are selling, changing your approach to target customers, changing operations to accommodate growth or accommodating growth of your business overall, business owners should not be meek in handling the business demands. Rather, business owners need to stand straight and stick their heads up high to face each battle.
Another business I have worked with in the past had reached an impasse on start-up in generating a large enough customer base. After trying all the traditional avenues of advertising and maintaining business operations, a full review of the company found that implementing new inventory tracking methods and reducing overall inventory cut the business’ overhead enough to survive. Meanwhile, teaching the entrepreneur new marketing methods created the winning combination of saving the company from closing.
Change is rapid and instantaneous. It is not like our parents’ generation that dealt with change in terms of months and years. For example, 7.33 million iPads were sold in less than 12 months. It took more than 10 years to sell that many first generation televisions.
Take it from a 5-pound dog facing a 70-pound giant at home, don’t let what you see intimidate you. Learn from what’s in front of you, and then create steps to overcome or go around the challenges within the business.
Stockman can be reached at [email protected]