We are thrilled that our excellent COO, Lisa Zevi, has agreed to be a guest author for the second time in this series. Walpole Partnership is growing fast, but the business can only continue to expand at this pace when its operations are well organised and grounded in process. Lisa keeps us all in check here at Walpole Partnership, and if you follow her advice, little will go wrong. Here she is explaining how to kill your business in three simple ways, so if you have a new business venture, make sure you’re not making these common mistakes.
How to Kill Your Business
Choosing the wrong kind of business model can kill your business faster than most other things. How you structure and organise your business, how it delivers value to its customers and how it makes money are all key decisions for the budding entrepreneur to ponder.
Here are the three most common business model mistakes that early stage businesses make:-
1) Not Understanding your Customer
Many technology founders spend a lot of time and effort building their product, getting terribly excited about all of its features, without actually asking anyone whether or not they actually need it or would pay for it, or even whether or not it solves a problem that their customers actually care about. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard is ‘sell it before you build it’ – check with potential customers what they would find valuable and be willing to pay for. You are looking for things that actually solve big problems that cause your customers real pain. It is important that you stay in touch with your customers as their needs are likely to evolve over time.
2) Wrong Business Model
Even if you have a kick-ass product that solves your customers’ greatest needs, if you don’t have an efficient, cost-effective delivery mechanism then your business will fail. If your customers don’t know you exist or can’t find you then you are unlikely to succeed, and if you don’t have any way of retaining them then you will not be able to sustain your company’s growth. It is important that your business model meets the needs of your business as well as your customers, and is flexible enough to adapt.
3) Poor Execution
Of course, any business model is only as good as your team’s ability to execute. If you do not align your people and processes to the key elements of your business model, you are unlikely to have a successful business. Good companies are good at executing their plan, but excellent companies constantly review their business models and flex them to meet customer and market needs. With all the recent focus on the so-called ‘gig economy’, flexible working and the needs of today’s workforce, it is even more essential to get the right people in the right roles to meet the needs of your customers.
Learning is key. Everyone makes mistakes, but the ability to learn, adapt and move on at speed is a key indicator of success.
I would suggest the following simple but effective way of operating for anyone looking to grow their business:-
1. Do and learn
2. Teach and observe
There are many different business models, and many potential pitfalls, business owners need to think carefully about which one will suit their business and its customers. No one way is right, but if companies do not adapt to the changing nature of work, and really consider how to meet the needs of their employees, partners and customer, they will get left behind by those that do.
A final thought to leave you with. If you are not looking to kill your business, then make sure your company’s values match your business model and how your business actually behaves. The cautionary tale of Volkswagen who has had to admit to lying and cheating – completely at odds with its core value and brand built around ‘responsibility’ – is a great reminder of how important consistency is across your whole business.
Lisa Zevi is the Operations Director of Walpole Partnership and the Founder of COO in a BOX.