I want my business to grow. What should I do first?

There’s a lot of advice out there for entrepreneurs and small business owners – “make sure you have a strategic plan”; “write a business plan”; “you need a sales & marketing strategy”; “you have to execute”; “you need a great team”; and on and on.  As with most advice there is usually a kernel of truth (and in many cases more than that) in what is written.  The problem, in my opinion, is that too often the writers make their specific subject – “plan”, “team”, “brand”, “execute”, etc. – seem as though it is the most important aspect of building your business.

In fact, there are many pieces to building a successful business, and you can’t focus on just one part being more important than another. Each aspect of your business needs the right amount of attention at the right time.  Let me illustrate – if you are starting a business, on one hand you may get the advice to not do any branding until you have done your strategic planning. On the other hand someone may say, go out and grab the domain names as soon as you have an idea. Now I don’t know about you, but in my book buying domain names is branding – albeit inexpensive branding that is easily changed.

I think the right way to approach this is to spend enough (time, money, etc.) on each aspect of your business as is appropriate for the business’ stage of development.  For example, I believe all businesses should invest in strategic planning – you need to have a destination in mind, and you need to understand the broad initiatives that are going to get you there (otherwise how will you know if you are making progress towards the goal?). When you are starting out – trying to flesh out how to turn an idea into a business – your strategic planning will be at a very high level, with the purpose of identifying if the idea can be turned into a viable business. Later, as you look to expand your business – say from $1 to $3m in revenue, you may do an in-depth strategic planning exercise.

The point is that you probably don’t want to expend your resources on an in-depth strategic planning process when you are trying to see if an idea is a feasible business; while, conversely, you probably should be doing more than lightweight, high-level, strategic planning when you are looking to significantly expand the size of your business.

So, do the ‘right’ amount in each business area, in the ‘right’ sequence, and your business has a greater chance to grow as efficiently and effectively as possible.

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