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From babies to boomers: how a small business becomes a big business

Article provided by Fedgroup

A few exceptions aside, all big businesses started out as small businesses. Although not everyone takes the Mark Shuttleworth route from mom’s garage to outer space, some of the biggest businesses in the country came from the humblest of beginnings

However, for every inspiring success story, there are hundreds of businesses that take the Titanic route: a huge idea driven by an excited crew – only to flounder on its maiden voyage.

But all successful start-ups share some characteristics. They all come from a good idea, hatched at the right time, and the burning desire to succeed. If you have the desire, you can drive the idea. It is easy to look at obstacles at this point, but more important is to be extremely clear about what the goal is.

Even with a clear goal, the first few years are guaranteed to be rough. Most new businesses find themselves in a catch-22 situation. It is hard to claim credibility without any clients, but it is also hard to convince clients to join you without an established track record.

Often, new business owners have to be satisfied with offering a product or service to clients for next to nothing, with the understanding that they purchase it in full later on if they are satisfied after a period.

One aspect of a company that changes dramatically during its growth is its management structure. In fact, forget all about management structures when you start out.

You are everything and everyone. You open the doors. You answer the phones. You cannot be a pessimist. If you hit a wall, just don’t stop. It is like a marathon, you have to have an unlimited belief in yourself and just keep going.

There are no hours. There are no boundaries. You work over weekends. When you are in the shower, you think about your work. It is a total commitment, and probably quite a selfish commitment to your family, which is why it really helps to be young when you start a business. There is no time for golf or other creature comforts.

With this type of commitment, burnout in the first couple of years is a real danger. But at the other side of the tunnel awaits not only the satisfaction of financial freedom, but of great personal accomplishment.

Once the business is established and the bills start to take care of themselves, it is time to set your sights on the next challenge – becoming a big business. This move can potentially be just as perilous as starting out, as the characteristics of an entrepreneur often differ vastly from that of a big businessman.

Everything is a migration. It is like going through the grades in school. When you are in grade one, you do not know whether you will be able to deal with matric. You do not know if you can even get there.

Some people cannot make the transition. They love control and cannot let go or delegate. This person will always be the business, and that is why some businesses will always be small businesses. They become lifestyle businesses and these business owners are happy with the fact that they have control.

The truth is that most small business that become big do so because this was the lofty vision of the entrepreneur all along, proving that your vision often attracts your outcome. But as the business grows, the entrepreneur has to make peace with relinquishing a measure of control.

When you decide to go public, for instance, you have to migrate from being close-knit and secretive to opening up your accounting books to the entire public. Whatever you do will be exposed. It is tough and many business owners battle to make that transition.

With a vision, there is always a bigger picture letting go of control in one area allows the business to break new ground in another, thereby retaining the entrepreneurial spirit that had been central to business success from the outset.

So, even if you become the boss of a big business, there is nothing preventing you from running it with the heart of a small business. If you do that, there is a good chance that you will avoid the red tape that weighs down so many large businesses. This does not mean that good corporate governance flies out the window, it just means that the small business values of drive, entrepreneurship and energy remain central to all operations.

One of the main differences between small and big businesses is that a big businessperson must be able to identify the right people, employ them, give them total ownership of what they are doing, and then to trust them to get the job done.

Creating exciting opportunities for employees turns them into a team of entrepreneurs, all working towards a common goal. One new challenge a business owner will face in this growing role is to ensure that there always is one. When there are always, new exciting challenges to tackle, employees will continue to enjoy coming to work.

With this vision, the company ensures that everyone’s differing input contributes to finding new ways of approaching old problems. In this environment, the growth of the business becomes exciting, because new lessons are constantly being learnt as the business continues along its growth trajectory.

Fedgroup is a proud Partner of the NSBC.