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Starting a business is hard, making it successful is even harder.  Once a company has hit its first few major milestones, many will start to think about going to try and carve out a bigger chunk of the market for themselves.  This has been the downfall of more than one promising business, and before anyone thinks of expanding, they should look for a few key indicators that their organization is actually ready for that kind of growth. 


When the product is ready


So you’ve rolled out the initial version of your product/service, and it is a hit with your core customer base and other early adopters.  The question you must ask now is whether it is ready for mainstream public consumption.  Trying to expand a business centered around a flawed product can lower the ceiling for your potential market share and sabotage your potential.  Analyze your product against the competition, and make absolutely sure that it’s ready to blow everyone else out of the water before you embark on a marketing and hiring blitz.


When you know the market is there


If the growth of your current market is limited, it should only be because of a lack of infrastructure or funding on your part.  It is incredibly risky to expand and try to “find” a larger market.  Lots of money will be spent on marketing and business development for returns that are unpredictable at best.  The market should already be there ahead of time.  In cases where your business has a very particular niche, it is similarly dangerous to try and expand beyond that small market.  It is one thing to convince customers that you have a great solution to a common problem; it is much harder to convince them that you have a solution to a problem they don’t even think about.


When customer base exceeds customer support


One of the most important elements in maintaining a successful business is making sure fast, quality support is available to every one of your customers.  Even the best products can fail if there isn’t sufficient infrastructure in place to help customers who are struggling some element of its use.  Word of bad service will spread quickly and will easily undo good publicity from advertising.  Resist the urge to keep growing your clientele without investing in more support reps to match.


Most successful leaders meticulously plan the start of their business, and they should always exercise similar caution and reflection when dealing with expansion.  The danger is that entrepreneurs will get caught up in the storm of their early success and miss key indications that their company is not yet ready for the big time.  Enthusiasm is great, but it is equally important that you maintain a critical eye when looking at your business.  A bit of caution now can pay big dividends in the long term and can save your company from burning out early.


Lance | Contributing Writer

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Blog

A key aspect of successful businesses is what sets them apart from their competition. The unique qualities of running a business, such as focusing on steady performance as opposed to operating on survival mode, can make the difference between an innovative company and a struggling one. Businesses running on survival mode are normally unstable and only focus on short term goals. This eventually leads to a difficult work environment. A flourishing business knows how to compete by incorporating the use of non-traditional methods, having a steady focus on what their clients need the most, and a great understanding of how their service or product can positively affect the world. You too can set your business apart from the competition by following the traits of these leading businesses.


The Best Opportunities Are Outside the Box


Instead of competing in cluttered and saturated markets, strong organizations seek out the opportunities that others miss. These leaders are not afraid to test out new methods and create new industries – even if they might fail. Great companies focus on developing new and myriad innovative products that give the user or client a unique experience. They embark on projects that others would deem difficult or unnecessary. Efforts are directed towards developing products and services that change the lives of individuals in great ways. For example, companies like Uber, Skype, Facebook, and Apple have developed game-changing products and services. In addition, great organizations hire the best and unique talent to assist in the creation of new opportunities.


A Structural and Entrepreneurial Balance


This is not an easy balance to achieve as most businesses either have a structured or entrepreneurial strategy. However, successful businesses such as Facebook and Google have mastered this tactic.  These companies operate on a structured basis while maintaining a flexible entrepreneurial mindset. They ensure that they meet all the organization’s performance goals while encouraging innovation, new ways of thinking and action towards projects. To accomplish this, it is essential to have a leading team that is open to celebrating uniqueness and differences, while maintaining trust in its employees. It’s important to note that success comes from a diverse team who can find success in a variety of ways – not just one. This often leads to breakthroughs in companies as they end up discovering innovative solutions that others miss.


Avoid Distractions at All Costs


There are many distractions that a business can face. Businesses have a hard time staying focused especially when the economy is unpredictable. Essentially, being strategic does not only revolve around focusing on your competition, but it also means being openly aware of change and crisis that can potentially occur. Businesses that are strategically wired can foresee changes in how the marketplace flows and its regressions. Surprises may arise when competition grows unexpectedly (e.g. the rise of the iPhone and Android OS, and the plummet of Blackberry and Nokia). It’s crucial to have a leadership that has a 360-degree view of market changes and strikes when opportunity arises.


K. Nwankwo | Contributing Writer

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Blog, Human Resources

Consultants sometimes have a bad reputation with management experts, often face criticism regarding the cost of a few weeks of work (sometimes in the millions), or for being paid to tell leadership teams what they already know. However, there are a number of reasons why businesses benefit from consultants.


It can be hard for existing management and/or employees (busy with daily tasks) to take а step back and analyze a potential problem in their business or office. Consultants offer а fresh set of critical eyes that can help with measurement, analysis, and improvement. Critics might write this off as glorified common sense, but new insights and the ability to identify underlying issues can add significant value to operations. А fresh perspective is critical to а company restart, or to new business ventures where employees and/or management are too involved with the project to recognize possible issues.


Functions and Levels

In most cases, the consultant or firm will build а fact base over а period of а few weeks to а month. They’ll interview people across the board, as well as observe daily routines. Consultants will often start with the organization’s customers (if possible) and then work up through sales and line roles. This information offers lots of insights into the company that the executive team might miss or lack the time to investigate themselves. Interviewing people across functions can also help foster creative problem-solving (something that rarely happens in larger companies). It’s а good idea to have а consultant on board to unlock this kind of insight.


Problem-Solving Expertise

When you’re hiring а consulting firm, you’re hiring а dedicated group of people with one objective: to solve your problem. Having people who can focus their attention on а defined project is a valuable asset. In many ways, they’re better able to make observations, efficiently assess and improve the company than current employees who already have plenty on their plates.


Consultants have also likely served multiple clients before you. They can recognize problems quickly and apply lessons learned in previous cases. They possess an expanded knowledge base that can be valuable to your company. They also belong to networks and associations that give them access to resources you likely don’t have. Given their training and skills, consultants are quick learners, capable of understanding a problem and developing а strategy to solve it, helping a company achieve its objectives.


Impartial Advice/Observation

Consultants can give advice through а more objective lens. They’re independent from the organization, so there’s no hesitation to give unbiased observations and recommendations. This is partially why companies choose to hire outside consultants rather than rely exclusively on internal feedback; those within an organization can be conflicted and sometimes hesitant to give accurate recommendations for fear of being harsh.


External Change Force

It can be difficult for executives and CEOs to do what’s right for their company if it requires changes or reductions in benefits, major operational changes, or even layoffs. It may seem like an easy way out, but many companies hire consulting firms to do the “dirty work.” In а sense, the consultant becomes the scapegoat for those who want to distance themselves from making individuals unhappy while reaching the company’s goal. This provides political cover for senior management, and if something goes wrong, the consulting firm can take the responsibility.


Implementation and Training

As an executive, you have а lot of things on the go; you don’t have time to train everyone on adopting new technology or implementing new strategies. Almost every consulting project incorporates client training. This means whoever you hired to do your consulting will educate your employees on necessary skills, knowledge, technology, etc.


There’s no point in receiving recommendations if employees are unable to integrate and maintain suggested changes. In this way, consulting firms add enormous value to your company. Not only will they tell you what’s wrong, they’ll equip you with the knowledge required to overcome the problem and reach your goal.


There’s а reason why consulting companies rake in $2 billion а year. Generally, business consultants help companies and small businesses improve performance and streamline operations to become more efficient. They identify problems and create solutions, as well as provide objectivity. They’ll also do some unpleasant tasks for you, such as eliminate staff. They know how to get the ball rolling when it comes to revamping your company and offer much more value to a business than just advice.


Helen Jacob | Contributing Writer

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