Starting a company can feel overwhelming. There are so many variables about succeeding in your industry, many of which you can’t discover without lots of trial and error mixed with practical application. Even businesses that start out successfully can find they’ve made a misstep in one way or another a few years down the line.
No organization can ever completely avoid making mistakes. It’s an inevitable component of doing business. But the real question is: How you can identify misalignments as a relatively young company and then course-correct to ensure you don’t continually repeat a mistake?
Below are some ways you can identify misalignment within your organization if it’s under 10 years old. By reviewing these, you may be able to correct or avoid these issues, which can strengthen your overall business moving forward.
Lack of interest from customers
When you start your business, you have an ideal customer in mind. That customer may be a specific age, gender, or other defined category. This profile is going to determine so much about how your business operates. It’s going to impact your digital presence. Your social media and blog content will be written as if speaking to your ideal customer persona. Your website, online store, and physical store may also be tailored to a specific demographic.
What happens if you find out your product or service isn’t relevant to that audience? Or what if you discover some of your existing customers are moving to a competitor?
If your customer base is beginning to dwindle, it’s not too late for a reassessment. It just means you may need to examine one of three things:
- Your product or service, to understand what benefits it provides
- Your marketing approach, to adequately communicate your value proposition
- Your audience research, to ensure you understand your audience’s needs
It’s difficult to realize you may have miscalculated your customers but what’s more important is being able to recognize it and shift gears as necessary. You can do this by viewing the data on who is buying from you. From there, you can then cultivate your business’s voice (demonstrated in your marketing materials and any other publicly available information on your company you choose to share) to better fit your true audience. You can apply engaging strategies to speak to the people you really should be speaking to.
Your company culture has shifted
Your company culture is a combination of your mission and values. It’s also made up of how you provide solutions for your clients. It permeates into your workplace environment. It determines what type of clients you do business with, how you get work done, and the kinds of candidates you pursue. Defining your culture is a vital component of figuring out what kind of company you want to be. The majority of companies do this before they launch. Once they have a defined idea and research to go along with it, they’re ready to dictate what their culture looks like.
That’s not a bad thing, but sometimes your culture can change. For example, what if you’re a company that in the past, put a premium on in-person collaboration and brainstorming? You may have expected all of your employees to work from a specific, centralized office site to encourage dialogue and interpersonal interaction. With the onset of COVID-19 and the rise in popularity of remote work, this isn’t feasible for every company anymore. Most organizations have had to adopt a more remote-friendly posture. For a company stressing the importance of being in the office, this could cause a culture shock and force them to adapt. That means a company that once stressed in-person communication now has to master virtual tools and other innovative ways of sharing ideas.
If your industry (or in the case of the example above, the world) sees a seismic shift outside your control, you may have to adjust your culture accordingly. Doing so will help you recruit the right people and provide better solutions. Changing can be difficult but holding onto a misaligned culture could prove even worse in the long run.
Adjusting the company to account for inefficiencies after initial years of growth
Perhaps your company experienced tremendous early growth after launching. It’s not uncommon – you may find yourself as the newest, hottest solution in your industry and use that to gain a competitive edge. But after some initial success, you may find yourself coming back down to Earth after a few years. This also isn’t uncommon, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that you’ll have to adjust.
What may happen as a result of this is that you may discover inefficiencies before you make any adjustments. Let’s say you’ve got a fixed budget with a forecast based on the results (and ensuing profits) you experienced in your earlier, more successful years. If you fail to fix your budget when profits get a bit leaner, you may have some inefficient spending on your books.
This can rear its head in many places: the number of resources you use, the vendor contracts you patronize, or even the number of staff members you support. If your profits dip, you may need to improve your margins. That can involve some tightening in some key areas within your budget. Make sure that if you notice a drop in business, you monitor your spending to ensure it doesn’t lead to bigger problems.
Revisiting the company’s vision
When company’s start, sometimes they’re so eager to add new business that they add projects outside their scope, capabilities, and competencies. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but you then run the risk of overextending your team or trying to do work you’re not qualified for.
Everything you do – the clients you take on, the tasks you perform, the company culture – should reinforce your underlying purpose and vision. Anything not contributing to that is white noise. Resist the urge to travel too far outside your area of expertise if you’re not ready to do so.
When you identify your company’s purpose and execute work that falls within that lane, you can align your goals with your core capabilities. This will produce market growth and profit.
Outdated internal and external technology
When it comes to the technology you use, developments can often occur lightning fast. From an internal perspective, this means that all of your departments may not be using the newest technology for databases to manage the supply chain, your inventory, sales, procurement, and other areas.
From an external perspective, this may relate to your company’s digital presence, which represents all your marketing materials and content available online. Your various channels can include (but aren’t necessarily limited to):
- Your website
- Blog content
- Social media channels
You may find that after a few years, you aren’t getting the same return on investment you once were with your digital materials. If this is the case, it may be a sign that your digital presence is misaligned. You may need to review your materials to understand why it’s not resonating with your audience. Are you still directing your messaging toward the right demographics? Are you staying up to date on the latest digital marketing trends and best practices? Are you refreshing your website and social media channels with up to date, relevant content? Have you embraced eCommerce as more and more sales are moving away from the physical space?
Digital engagement is a necessity in this age. If you find your digital content failing to work with your audience, it may be time to assess your strategy. Some metrics to watch out for can include less engagement on social media posts, your audience failing to share your materials, and a lack of views on blog posts. It could be that your content needs improvement or that your paid and organic social media campaigns aren’t reaching the right audience.
Your digital presence can always benefit from innovation, whether that’s in the tools you use or the tactics you employ. Always keep an eye on your key performance indicators to ensure your content and approach is heading in the right direction.
How young organizations can identify misalignments
If your business is under 10 years old, the best way to look out for potential misalignments is to look at your metrics. Whether it’s profits, sales, digital engagements, or some other key metric you’ve defined, watch for decreases or dips. When this happens, it’s a sign that something isn’t operating correctly. Ultimately, when you develop a roadmap or a strategic plan for your organization, that will include ways to measure your success. Whenever you start to veer off the course you’ve charted for your business, it’s time to look at how you can improve your performance in that area.
One benefit of being a relatively younger organization is that catching these kinds of issues early can help you address them and rebound stronger as an organization. Maintain an overall company-wide approach that places a premium on adaptability and flexibility. That should include a regular review of your key performance indicators as well as reasons why you’re not hitting them. When you can critically look at your results with honest reflection within your first decade of existence, you give yourself a better chance at correcting your mistakes and setting yourself up for long-term success.