I know an architect whose favorite phrase is: “When I drive by any building, I know what it looks like with its clothes off.”
You gotta admit that phrase cuts to the chase.
The same is true of your business.
How do you keep your business head on straight?
Your business or startup appears to be humming along nicely. You or your reps sell all kinds of products and services to all types of customers. As long as money is coming in, you “look” successful.
At least on the outside.
Business success is not just about making sales and generating income. It’s about generating the type of revenue, from the appropriate customer base, that ends up sustaining your business.
Let’s explore further.
When I work with companies, the first thing we do is figure out what their business looks like without its clothes on. This can be a rude awakening.
Scenario One: One small manufacturing company enjoyed a meteoric increase in revenue over the past 5 years. In their eyes, they were poised for growth and expansion. The management team was euphoric until they scrutinized how jobs were being won and what types of companies were doing business with them. Their contracted sales reps discounted and low balled to win work. Management perceived the company as a high quality producer of manufactured outcomes. The marketplace had another opinion: a low ball, low quality commodity job shop.
Ouch! Time to recalibrate fantasy with reality.
Scenario Two: A food startup was first to market with an organic snack food product. They had a decent Facebook fan base, yet < 5% of followers were purchasers. They operated at a loss but had a heck of a lot of fun making and selling product. Their primary conduit for selling: weekend farmers markets. Their primary conduit for distribution: mom and pop stores ordering sporadically in small quantities. The founders had dreams of distribution via major grocery retailers yet they weren’t selling to regional or corporate divisions. Why? One founder loved the showmanship involved in one-to-one, small-scale selling. The other founder wanted to inject process and discipline to scale up production to meet volume distribution demands from major retail chains.
Ouch! The founders discovered they were nurturing a grand hobby instead of a true startup.
Before you start scrambling around chasing all sorts of business goals, slow down. At least quarterly, scrutinize what your business looks like with its clothes off.
You might be surprised by what you discover.
Babette N. Ten Haken, President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, catalyzes business transition, startup growth, and professional development. This post originally appeared on July 30 on LinkedIn and is reproduced with this author’s permission.