Critical Success Factors for Launching and Driving a Successful Business

To assist you in “kicks starting” your business, we’ve identified seven critical factors that successful businesses, both large and small, have embraced. They will not only help ensure your business’ survival but will also accelerate your competitive advantage.

Be realistic about your business objectives.

Passionate leaders command most start-ups. They have an aura of electricity and their enthusiasm is contagious. Unfortunately, many of these same leaders operate under the myth that the product will sell itself, and so they set unachievable goals. This is one of the most common miss-steps that end up crippling a business. Setting goals that are overly optimistic and vague, such as, “to be the company to grow to $1B faster than any other business,” lack substance and meaning. Others such as “to become the de facto standard for web-based self-service in 12 months” include a time horizon, but fail to indicate how, what, or with whom success will be achieved.

Every company needs a clear vision and a mission statement, but specifying ambitious goals without support will lead to agitation in the board room, frustration for the sales team, and a detrimental cash burn rate. Those companies that were the most successful shared a common trait of setting clear business goals that included credible and complete information for their staff to execute them. As the economic conditions changed, they were also quick to revise their short- and long-term business goals to match the industry. Finally, each company went to great lengths to enlist the involvement of their employees to ensure not only the development and articulation of the business objectives and measures, but their adoption throughout the organization.

Success Factor 1:

Identify stretch goals with reasonable milestones and timelines that can be matched with current investment and spending plans. Understand your unique value proposition.A value proposition starts with careful focus on a single target. The temptation to try to be all things to all people leads to the over extension of resources and the inability to execute. Next, a value proposition needs to clarify the specific problem you are solving and quickly explain the compelling reason why your solution is best.

Success Factor 2:

Based on customer and/or prospect feedback, frame a value proposition that identifies the target customer and what you do for them better than anybody else. Take a hard look at your competition, It is surprising to find that many start-ups and emerging companies are convinced they have no competition. Some entrepreneurs are focused so intently on their product that they fail to recognize evolving market trends or anticipate competitive advancements in markets that may overshadow their own value proposition. With product life cycles shortening, it is critical that companies accurately judge the competitive landscape in order to take full advantage of their market window.

Success Factor 3:

 Research the competitive landscape and categorize your competitors, noting their strengths and weaknesses. Then compare your company against this landscape. This exercise helps identify points of differentiation that can be communicated in sales and marketing programs. A marketing foundation is absolutely necessary for your success. It is common for entrepreneurs to incorrectly believe that marketing is not important at the early stage of a company’s development. Many view marketing as something to be done later when they are ready to build a brand.

Success Factor 4:

Invest early in marketing to clarify and articulate your value proposition, key messages, and defendable points of differentiation. Integrate this market strategy into your product development plans, and later, your sales organization. For best results, marketing and sales should work hand-in-glove.If you look within any large business; you will likely find a polite but adversarial relationship between marketing and sales. Turf battles and political agendas waste time and energy and ultimately lead to poor results. In contrast, we found that several successful start-ups short-circuited this by building an integrated sales and marketing team from the ground up, linked by common objectives.

Success Factor 5:

Regardless of organizational structure, build a sales and marketing team with common objectives, milestones, and measures .Plan for the future. in planning for the future, we were interested to find that successful companies tended to juggle these three management dimensions: managing their cash burn rate, looking for “learning” in every corner of the organization, and embracing creative hiring practices. Managing the cash burn rate: It’s easy to not spend money and manage a business from an income statement perspective. Unfortunately, no company ever saved its way to profitability. Successful companies, we found, were able and willing to make strategic investments when appropriate, both in terms of filling out the organization as well as executing sales and marketing programs.

 Success Factor 6:

 Be fiscally prudent, but willing to consider targeted investments to build a solid business infrastructure quickly. It’s all in the execution and learning. In the 1980s, planning was often viewed as strictly an academic exercise performed by folks in the “ivory tower.” Nowadays, it’s very common to find organizations that are measured solely on its ability to execute programs on a daily basis where there is no time to plan. Unfortunately, aggressive but untargeted execution is ineffective and wastes valuable resources. A challenge for all businesses is in their ability to balance these two extremes. A common practice we discovered within a few companies was the development of an architectural level plan with a three-to-five year time horizon. They also prepared detailed objectives covering a 24-month window. Another company established a list of the quarterly top eight business objectives reviewed their progress against this list monthly with its employees. It was common to see this list on every employee’s wall.

 Success Factor 7:

Speed and ruthless execution is everything. To maximize your ROI, identify and widely communicate business plans and objectives throughout the organization, and encourage widespread adoption and involvement at every level.

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