Businesses evolve too!

 In Thought Leadership

I was catching-up with a friend yesterday when he asked what we are up to at work.

We’re re-evaluating our mission,” I explained.

He laughed.

I swear you told me that two years ago Lorne.  Surely, you’ve decided by now?!”.

Let me reassure you that I didn’t start lecturing him there and then!  But it acted as a reminder of something so important to business owners that I thought I’d write this instead.

Evolution in businessButterflies and business missions evolve

Evolution is, of course, seen as a fundamental part of the natural world.  Charles Darwin explained it, and we take it for granted that nothing is constant.  Butterflies evolved from moths.  Humans evolved from apes.  And each species changes and grows during its own lifetime. Every butterfly was once a chrysalis.  Every frog is a tadpole.  Every adult is a baby.

Products evolve too. Typewriters became keyboards. Phones became cameras.  Watches became phones.  

And, of course, businesses evolve as well.  They change direction.  They change size.  They change focus.  They may retain values and their all-encompassing vision, but their entire mission can change for positive reasons.  Netflix sent DVDs in the mail.  Apple sold desktop computers.  Nike only made trainers.

I have written previously about the crucial importance of your business being true to your values. And having a clear vision.  But it’s not enough to agree with that vision and etch it into tablets of stone.   It needs to reflect your business as things evolve.

Phases of business evolution

Typically, if your business is growing, it will meet different challenges and change as a result.  Here’s how:

Phase 1 – New venture. You work on the side pursuing an idea of your own.  There aren’t enough hours in the day to give it the attention it demands.  So, you quit the day job.  You might start outsourcing to contractors.  You worry about generating new leads.

Phase 2 – New team.  Things continue to expand.  You are turning-over thousands of dollars each month.  You take on a partner or an assistant.  Suddenly you are providing for others and your biggest pressure is to sell more.

Phase 3 – On the up.  You are now running a team of up to ten people.  You are turning over hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.  Of 16 million start-ups in the US less than one-in-eight get this far.  You now need to focus on marketing and consistent levels of service.

Phase 4 – 7 figure income.  You dreamed of this.  Your business is taking-off.  But your infrastructure needs to adapt.  You need different teams to run different functions.  Each needs a leader.  You may now be branching into new products and services, each of which will have an impact on your goals.

Phase 5 – Ongoing growth.  It was a while ago that you could count your employees on your fingers!  You are now turning over millions and you are managing managers.  Your pivotal role is about leadership and embedding a culture bigger than you or any individual or product.

Evolution of your business mission

Now let’s take a look at the impact of that evolution on your mission.  Three years ago you might have aimed to sell 200 lawnmowers per month.  Your mission was to be the number one lawnmower provider in Michigan.  Now things are different.  You don’t only sell 500 lawnmowers each month but you also sell seeds and fertilizers. You have evolved from a lawnmower specialist into lawn consultants. You have stores in California and Seattle.  Your business is flying but your strategy and mission need a reboot.  That’s a sign of success, not failure.

So, I wasn’t embarrassed to tell my friend that we are re-evaluating our mission.  Again!  Quite the opposite.  We’ve grown and we’re evolving.  Our team is growing and developing.  My role is changing.  And that’s as it should be.  The bigger the business, the more you need an all-encompassing set of values and objectives to keep the ship on course.  And I’m very proud to be focusing on those as the year draws to a close. 

Lorne Asks:  

  1. Do you have a clear long-term vision?  
  2. Is it backed-up by a measurable and up-to-date mission?
  3. Are you living your values as a business?

We believe these questions (and their answers) are fundamental to your growth as a business.  Defining and living them is something that acts as a catalyst for our clients’ businesses to evolve.

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