What’s the solid foundation for your business?

photo by pshutterbug

Are you building your business on a shaky foundation?  When times are good, you can grow revenues and profits, even without a solid core for your business…however when times are tough (like the last couple of years), an unstable business is one that’s not going to last.

What makes for a solid and stable business?  Clearly you have to have a viable business model – the days of being able to ‘make it up in volume’ are long gone.  Can you make legitimate profit from what you’re doing or selling?

You have to have the right people in the right places – especially in a small business, there’s little room for error and any one person can have a huge impact (good or bad) on the outcome of your business.

Finally – a big part of your long term stability comes from your core values, your operating principles, the unique stamp that drives why and how you do business.

What does that mean?  Let’s look at an example:

It’s the time of year for sharing your 2010 plans, which we’re doing now in the Peer Group Advisory Boards that I run.  Nothing crystallizes a plan like presenting it in front of a group of your peers who know you well enough to challenge you on details and ideas that you might not really want to explore.

Anyway, we had a great planning presentation today from Courtnay Bradley at Square One Interiors.  Courtnay is still in the early growth phase of her business, but she’s starting to get some great traction – and there are several reasons why.  Although she’s been in the commercial furniture industry for quite a while, this business is her opportunity to create something that’s important to her – take what she’s learned from past opportunities and focus on how she and her target market really want to do business.

The outcome of all that thinking (although it’s still a work in progress) is the recognition of several core principles that define how she does business.

1.  Relationships

First and foremost, Courtnay is a people person – in my opinion, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more likable and trustworthy.  So it’s not a surprise that she is consciously building the importance of relationships into her business processes.  In a recent blog post, she explains how It’s not Business, it’s Personal.

2.  Environmentally Conscious

A lot of people are jumping on the ‘Green’ bandwagon because it’s the trendy thing to do, but a quick conversation with Courtnay makes it clear that how strongly she feels about waste…and more importantly, all of the great opportunities out there for recycling used furniture and getting it to people that will really value and benefit from it.  That kind of passion and expertise makes for a potent combination that’s very attractive to the right kinds of customers.

3.  Customer First

She’s still working on the details on the best ways to build systems and processes around her customer first mentality.  Right now she’s in a position to be involved in all customer interactions, but there is soon going to come a time when that’s not possible and she knows that the essence of her customer service approach (which comes naturally to her) must be a foundation principle for anyone that works at Square One.

Find your foundation

There are a lot of businesses out there, but a major thing that will separate the winners from the losers are those building on a remarkable foundation.  You don’t have and you shouldn’t just do what someone else is doing…you need to find those core principles that are important and unique to you.  It’s not easy, but if you can find that foundation for your business and build everything else on those core values – you are going to have the opportunity for something great!

Conversely, if you’re building your business just to make money, you’re working with a house of cards that can easily blow over.

So what’s your foundation?  What do you believe that makes you stand out from your industry?  What makes you…well you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – share your comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach