Success can be measured in many ways. Money, power, property, family, the company you keep, your career, and maybe your golf score... well, not my golf score. Success in a small or midsize business, however, is not always as clearly defined. With quickly changing markets and rapid advancements in technology, it can feel like you’re trying to hit a moving target. So how do you raise the probability of succeeding, keep the wheels on the tracks and continue to grow market share and revenue?
It all comes down to mindset, specifically, an Enterprise Mindset.
There are characteristics that encourage business culture and ones that encourage organizational flexibility. An Enterprise Mindset encourages organizational flexibility while keeping your target in sight. Another way to look at it is to remember the oft-quoted saying “If you want to be rich, do what the rich do”. So let’s walk through what large enterprises do to be successful.
Contrary to what you might think, process is not a list of impending doom forcing you to do things or taking away your initiative or flexibility. Process is a framework for reaching a goal consistently, following the same steps, and being able to handle any outliers in a consistent manner.
Think of process as the bumpers on a bowling lane. In a growing or changing market without bumpers you are more likely to toss the ball in the gutter completely missing your intended target, in this case the pins. With the bumpers, you significantly raise the probability of hitting the pins. As you get more familiar with the market hit rate and accuracy go up and you eventually start throwing strikes. The process should be enough to keep you headed toward your goal but not too much that you can’t adjust to changes in the market or your own company. Remember that a process represents what you do every day to be successful, manage change, and to grow!
OK, I know what you are thinking, your average Fortune 500 enterprise organizations are NOT simple! On the surface it seems that way--lots of moving parts, multiple business units engaged in multiple markets and enough technology to support a small country. However, if you look a bit closer you will see that we can fragment these organizations into manageable chunks in both the business and technology areas. By fragmenting markets and technology into small, manageable units these organizations dominate their respective markets and can remain flexible to change.
In your business simple means different things. On the business side it means focusing on your core market, the thing that you do the best, the product or service that are passionate about, the reason you stated the business in the first place. Why? Because that is the simple most efficient path to success.
On the technology side it means adopting the technology to support the business, no more, no less. There is a tendency to have more technology than is needed based on sales, transaction volume, perceived market needs, or the physical size of your organization. There is a sense of accomplishment when you sink money into technology. If feels great knowing you may have done something to grow your business., but most likely not. Whether you use Excel and MS Project, Quickbooks in the Cloud, or you have your own on-premise or hosted set of business and operational system in place, it is important that the technology is aligned to your business goals and it fits within the processes that you have adopted. Remember this old adage, KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid. A complex solution is expensive, difficult to maintain and can run your small business into the ground.
Being scalable is the component that relies on process and simplicity it allows your business to act on change. Not react to change but evolving your environment to act on change. This is an important distinction because as a small business you may not have the luxury of do-overs.
Case in Point: Microsoft. It is well known that they rarely hit the nail on the head right out of the box when it comes to market or product endeavors. However, they always right that ship and iterate to the point where they dominate the respective area. Microsoft has the cash and business capital to sustain do-overs and continue to grow the business. Small businesses do not.
You may need to scale because of an increase in sales, transaction volume, or market potential. For the operational side of the business scalability may mean that you adopt a lean or agile sales methodology to scale your business vertically, possibly by product or channel, and horizontally, possibly across markets, regions, or internationally.
For the technology side of your small business chances are you are using cloud-based applications and infrastructure. If so, scalability is managed by your provider. If things are going really well, you may have to pay for the next level of service, but that’s a good problem to have. If you have on-premise systems, or you are co-locating your systems in a local data center, then you are responsible for managing the scalability of those systems. This can be done vertically by adding more resources to the server such as RAM, Hard Drive space, or even CPUs. This can also be done horizontally by adding additional servers to manage the load based on where the bottle-neck is.
What to Remember
Adopting light weight processes, keeping your organization and systems simple, and being scalable are the Enterprise Mindset that enterprise organizations utilize to be successful and grow their business, sometimes with dramatic results. This mindset is also available to your small or mid-size business whether that be a one-person online retailer or a one hundred million dollar company.
Operating your business in an ad-hoc manner will work for a short time. At some point you will hit a plateau and if you want to continue to grow the business you started, you will need to adopt an Enterprise Mindset.
An Enterprise Mindset gives you the ability to focus on your passion, operate your business without dead weight, and stay nimble to take advantage of change and opportunity thus moving you, and your business, toward success.