It is always interesting to watch a business grow, just like it is interesting to watch people grow. Babies and toddlers have different challenges then older kids do. When a child hits the teenage years there is a new set of challenges. College, first job, becoming a parent, etc all present different challenges. What a person needs help with at each stage is different.
The same is true for a business. Different sizes or stages of businesses have different challenges and different needs. A business owner has to make changes to the way they think and the systems they use if they want their business to continue to grow. They cannot continue to run a mid-sized business the same way they did a start up. Also, they cannot run a startup as they would a large company with lots of staff and systems in place.
Today lets look at businesses in three different stages. In each stage the business has a big need, a big challenge, a competitive advantage, and an opportunity. There is a correct way to play the game if they want to be successful. One of the tricky parts is making the transition from one stage to the other. What drove success at stage one will put a ceiling on the business or drive it out of business at stage two.
Today we are going to break businesses down into 3 basic categories of start-up/small, medium, and big.
Startup/Stage 1: (1-50 employees depending on the industry.)启动/第一阶段：（根据行业有1-50位员工的规模。）
I define Stage 1 businesses as somewhere between 1-50 employees, depending on the industry. A small business can be a very profitable business. One of the things defining a small business is the owner has direct control and touch on all aspects of the business. They are one of the staff. They are very hands on. If there is a problem they can step in and personally fix it.
When the business is starting up or small there is one thing and one thing only to focus on… customers. New customers and lots of them are needed.
The biggest need is marketing and sales. No matter how great the product or service, if no one knows about it then there will be no success. A great product and service is necessary, but what is even more important is finding new customers. Marketing and sales is absolutely the one most important thing needed to be done EVERY work day.
One of the problems new businesses often face is they work hard to get some customers, then they spend all their time servicing those customers, then they realize there are no new customers in their pipeline ready to purchase. So they go find new customers, then they spend all their time servicing those customers, then they realize there are no new customers in their pipeline ready to purchase. It is a vicious cycle that will either put them out of business or cause them to remain small. The marketing and sales cycle has to continue each day.
The challenges a stage 1 business faces is how to grow. They are often understaffed and on a low budget. The challenge is to find new business while servicing what they already have in order to satisfy their current customers while still finding new ones. If current customers are not satisfied then the business is in for a long uphill battle if they want to succeed.
The small business also has advantages and opportunities. They can be quick and fast. They can make adjustments easily and adapt to what the market is seeking after. They are able to provide amazing customer service.
I remember when I was in college and started one of my first businesses, an online store, my first customer wrote me and told me it was the best service he had ever had online. Of course, he did not know he was my first customer. I wrote him a personal email thanking him for his order, checked in to make sure he received it, etc. Later as the business grew I had a form letter because I no longer had time to write a personal one. When a business is small they can do amazing customer service. (The question in how can you maintain a high level of customer service as you grow, but that is something for another article.)
They also have some opportunities. The small business can look for parts of the market who are not served yet. They can find segments of the market too small for a large business to focus on and use these to grow their business. This is referred to as going after the low-hanging fruit. They are not weighed down by high expenses so they can service the market for a lower price.
In order to move to the next stage they have three things they need to focus on. Customers! Customers! Customers! More customers solves almost every problem. It also creates some problems, but those are good problems to have for a business. When these problems are created it is a sign they are moving on toward the next stage of becoming a medium sized business.
Need – marketing and sales
Challenge – growth, finding customers and giving good service with small staff
Advantages – quick, personal, good service
优势 – 快速，私人，良好的服务
Opportunity – fill a gap or void
机遇 – 填补空缺
Focus – new customers and satisfied customers
注重 – 新的顾客及满足顾客
Needed to move to next stage – more customers.
为了迈入下一阶段需要 – 更多的顾客
To find out more about the needs and challenges of medium sized businesses see Part 2.