I’ve created a major new product for my small business, and, after more than two years of hard work and investment, it’s almost ready to launch. I’m not quite ready to tell you what it is. But I can tell you that a few years ago, I took a good, hard look at my small business and realized I needed to do something. My industry was changing. Technology was changing. Customers were changing. If I wanted to survive—and I do—if I wanted to thrive—and I do—I had to do something.
We needed to change. And, I’m betting that in your small business, you may be feeling a need to change too. That can be scary. But for change to be successful, it’s helpful to first know what you need to keep. You have to be clear about what is at the heart—or core—of your business.
Over the years, my business had grown opportunistically. Like many entrepreneurs, I had started out with one kind of business, but in response to customer requests or attractive one-time situations, my business changed. Yes, I had been successful, but to enable my business to survive in the turbulent twenty-first century, I needed a plan, a business plan.
You can’t figure out where you’re going unless you know where you’re starting from.
** Greater focus: By identifying our core products and core customers, we realized we needed a stronger emphasis on what our customers depended on us for: products to help serious entrepreneurs launch and grow startups.
** New products: We realized our customers wanted and needed additional business tools. Our new product will help customers easily create and revise beautiful and professional business financial documents and plan new businesses.
** Specific target milestones: We gave ourselves tangible objectives so we could measure our progress. This would enable us to gauge how well our decisions worked.
If you’re considering growing your business, begin by defining the heart of your current enterprise. As you answer the question “What’s at the core of my business?” here’s what you need to examine:
** Core competency: At what do you excel? What do you do better than your competitors? You’re most likely going to build your business plan around your core competency. After all, you’re most likely to succeed at that which you do best.
** Core product/service: What’s your bestselling product or service? That’s where you get the lifeblood of any company—cash flow. Moreover, it’s what the majority of your customers associate you with and is likely to be the anchor for your business growth. Of course, if your core product or service is facing increasing competition or other significant changes that may negatively affect your future income, it’s time to consciously try to develop a new core business offering.
** Core profit center: While your core products or services may bring you the most cash, they may not necessarily bring you the most profit. Sometimes the one or two offerings with high profit margins carry the rest of the business. When planning the direction of your growth, make certain you include your most profitable areas.
** Core market(s): What kind of customer(s) do you truly depend on? Are you doing enough to serve them? Perhaps you need to beef up your offerings for that customer group. On the other hand, are you overly dependent on one or two customers or distribution channels? What happens to you if something happens with them?
** Core values: Every business is shaped by the values and ideals of its leadership. Do you have a commitment to quality, to social or environmental responsibility, to maintaining a certain type of workplace? Those core values must be considered as you map out your future.
** Core goals: What do you hope is in your future—and the future of your company? Are you clear about how much you want to grow your business? Do you just daydream about your long-term prospects or do you have a realistic exit plan?
I’m delighted to say that after two years, we’re almost ready to launch our new product. Stay tuned for some exciting new announcements. A lot will change. But we’ve been true to our core.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2018
This article originally ran in USA Today on February 28, 2018