May 22, 2007

News & Opinion: Be the Elephant: Build a Bigger, Better Business

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 2:40 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

This excerpt is taken from the Preface of Be the Elephant: Build a Bigger, Better Business by Steve Kaplan.
Kalplan combines dynamic advice, real-life experience, and a friendly, no-nonsense writing style to take the mystery and fear out of achieving significant business growth. He gets readers to understand the exact nature of their business by showing how to define objectives, identify risks, and get the operation on solid footing.


It's Great to Be Gray 

Who Are You? 
  • You're the owner of an e-commerce business. You've made it over the second-year hump and are poised to break out, but you're unsure about which strategy is best to grow your business. You don't have a ton of money, so you need to make the right growth decision the first time. One misstep will kill your momentum.
  • You run a three-person gourmet cookie company with a few corporate customers that take up most of your time. With such a small customer and employee base, you're understandably nervous. You know that you need to grow, but how to start the process without upending your existing business? Implementing a growth strategy might upset your large customers, prompting them to move along to that next cookie. And you do not want to be left with crumbs.
  • You're a sales professional, selling mortgages. You're doing pretty well and have great relationships with many of your clients. You know that if you had more things to sell them, it would be a cakewalk, but you're not sure how to develop new offerings, especially ones they will prepay for.
  • You're the senior partner in a CPA firm. You've always been motivated by a desire to become the best CPA you can be. You want your work to matter, to be recognized for its quality and superiority. You're great at your job, but you've neglected the business end of your business, and your client base is shrinking. Now you see the need to grow, but the resources available to you don't offer an obvious path to growth.
  • You own a $50 million consulting business. You've been cruising along, selling the same service for years. A few years back, you tried expanding your services into new markets, but the extra duties and responsibilities took your employees' attention away from your core clientele and the effort failed, almost costing you your business. You're doing okay now, but you don't want to work like a dog forever.
  • You're a partner in a marketing firm that's been doing steady business for a few years. You're not growing, but that's all right, because you don't want the worries of a larger business. Besides, you wouldn't know what to do to get bigger. You're okay with the status quo for now. Yet you can't help being a little worried, because you've seen many other businesses like yours cruise along at treetop level for years and then crash and burn. All it took was a brief financial stumble, and the owners were unable to adapt or compensate.

Not-Growing Pains 

If you can identify with any of these people, this book's for you. You realize that your business is living pretty close to the edge. You don't have much flexibility or reserve. Yes, you may be spared the giant problems of giant companies, but the anxieties and stresses of eking out profits and growth in your business, at its current size, are hardly a blessing. You're worried about Incredible Shrinking Business Syndrome. You also fret that you'll never make the big bucks you've dreamed of. But just thinking about growing gives you the jitters. Rock and a hard place.

Somewhere in the back of your mind, you remember what older, wiser capitalists have told you: In business, there's no standing still. Avoiding growth goes against the laws of nature; you're either growing or dying, yet finding a niche and managing to operate there happily ever after is riddled with risk. A recession, a new technology, even a miscalculation or a sudden illness can lead to a quick demise.

Okay, so “slow and steady