A new fact of life in the Digital Era is that the survival span of businesses seems to be shrinking. A few very large companies can measure their age in decades. More often, however, we see tech-related firms emerge quickly, bring innovation to market, and then disappear into a larger organization or become irrelevant because another emerging business has out-innovated them.
Those firms that are able to adapt to the rapidly evolving business climate may survive and grow, while others become part of the food chain.
Here are six of lessons that can serve as pillars for companies to build a lasting and successful business.
Lesson 1: Values matter. Every professional service firm must be anchored in a set of values that guide its actions and its growth path. Six values to embrace that can help bring a business closer to clients and chosen vision include: fun, collaboration, accountability, leadership, learning, and service.
Lesson 2: Grow together. Whether you are a marketing agency, a financial institution, a service provider, or a systems supplier, as you raise the standing of your clients’ business, you simultaneously increase your own reputation. Companies become famous for excellence through performance for their clients. As your client is awarded acclaim, your own firm gains credibility and its own applause.
Lesson 3: Broad and deep. Companies no longer can afford to focus on a single specialty area, because specialties are short-lived these days. A decade of expertise in a narrow arena can be replaced today by an app. To survive and prosper, businesses must view their capabilities on a higher level. A travel agent becomes a hospitality industry expert. A railroad becomes a transportation company. Reach out to encompass a wider scope of clients and capabilities, and apply your expertise in new ways to new audiences.
Lesson 4: Think small. Small businesses often make a huge impact on innovation. Businesses that started out in garages or dorm rooms today have names like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Disney, and Facebook. The most successful companies today are those that recognize the potential of small clients and largely unknown prospects. While you may be one key supplier out of hundreds for a large client, you can grow alongside your small accounts into an amazing partnership for success.
Lesson 5: Know your destination. Create a business plan. Some companies may find a five-year plan the most effective in providing guidance; others may need to revise their business plan every five months. Whatever its timeframe, a business plan provides a path for achieving your objectives. It should include milestones that can be measured along the way and should ready you as well to survive the unexpected, incorporating steps to take should a crisis erupt.
Lesson 6: Employees matter. Survey your employees regularly to ensure your company values continue to align with your staff members’ personal values. Be as open as you can with information on the business and its progress. Lead your employees in community programs to support others. Remember how you were treated as you rose through the ranks, and use that lesson to treat employees fairly and compassionately. Your clients will recognize and appreciate a devoted staff.
To survive, learn from nature: Adapt to the constantly changing landscape, collaborate with others to reach your goals, and extend your influence by better understanding others.
Lisa Vallee-Smith is CEO of Airfoil Group in Royal Oak.