Don't let your business get old with you

Many business owners and entrepreneurs try to build their companies overnight in an era of promising quick success. Most of them are still trying decades later.

Two things that strike me:

  • just how long it takes to build a healthy business,
  • you can never do it by yourself.

The problem is that so few entrepreneurial types believe in getting help. They are so possessive of their idea and determined to succeed that they often "go it alone, forever." The result is many a promising business stuck in adolescence.

These "stunted" businesses go around in circles because the owner refuses to reach out for help. They get more determined as the business increasingly loses more momentum. The website starts to look stale. Price discounting becomes the norm, and razor-thin margins suffocate progress. Customers start to bully the business. Competitors copy it and eventually outperform it. Sometimes even the office building itself starts to look like a museum.

Inside these businesses, staff get old with the company. There's little fresh blood at the senior level. No one truly challenges the (ageing) owner, who by now is so fixed in their ways that they are impenetrable. Everyone is old and hanging onto a sinking ship. 

A special case is the family business usually run by the male “head of the household” and often staffed by family members ill-equipped for their role in growing the business. They won’t challenge his ideas, and he won’t let others into his domain.

What is often the main source of business, the owner’s network, also ages and eventually retires or dies, drying up the sales pipeline.

I'm talking from first-hand experience here. I regularly encounter these businesses - they often reach out to me in a desperate attempt for some marketing magic. These owners get a shock when I call it as I see it and tell them their companies lack strategic direction, making any marketing campaign useless.

You can't successfully promote a stale business.

My view is that many more entrepreneurs should find ways to actively challenge their thinking and bring new ideas into the business from early on. They need to make themselves much more vulnerable and allow both outsiders and insiders to challenge them. Entrepreneurs could find a confidant or coach whose only interest is the success of their business and then schedule a regular “straight-talking” session to discuss all or any aspect of their venture right from the start.

I'll repeat it - way too many owners are going it alone and treat their business like sacred soil at the expense of unlocking its potential.


This post is written in partnership with Cedric de Beer, a strategy and leadership consultant and coach. You will find his LinkedIn profile here.

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