Over 400,000 entrepreneurs start businesses each year, according to the Small Business Administration, most with the hopes of becoming a millionaire overnight, creating the next Apple, Twitter, Facebook or maybe they are just starting a business, so they can be their own boss, control their own destiny. Either way, 400,000 is a lot of new companies to be created each year, with that many being created one would think that almost everyone in the United States, should be a business owner, but as we know that is not the case. As big as that number is, there are over 470,000 businesses closing their doors each year. So, the bigger question is, not why are so many being started, but why are so many closing?
It depends on who you talk to, some say the closings are a result of lack of cash, unique market position, the right employees, among others. I agree that all of those reasons are symptoms that contribute to a business failing, but I have a different perspective on why, first I am sure the number of businesses closing are closing for different reasons, some are closing because of retirement, some because of sickness or accidental death, but the majority of businesses that close, are closing because they did not properly plan their business map. What is a business map? I have heard of a business plan, I never heard of a business map. I am here to tell you that a business map has all the elements of a business plan, except it is much more detailed in how and when you will get to your destination. The key difference between a business plan and a business map is that you consider the what ifs.
What ifs? You ask, well let me explain what I mean. As a pilot, I have my private pilot’s license, I never just get into a plane and takeoff without knowing where I am going, so before each flight I determine my end destination, and then I sit down with my maps and plan the route I am going to take. Some of you may be thinking, if you are flying you just go up in the air and go directly to place you want to be. Unfortunately, just like in business, it isn’t that simple. In creating my flight plan I need to figure out how I am going to navigate from my takeoff point to my landing point, my maps help me do that. Some of the what ifs I have to consider when flying is, mountains too tall for the type aircraft I am flying, congested airspace (such as New York and Los Angeles for example) that I should avoid, this information is readily available on the map. I study the map and determine the best path for me to travel. Even though the map has a lot of information on it, the map does not have all the information I need to determine the safest and best path for me to follow, that information is not always readily available. So, I go through my what ifs, one is, what if there are thunderstorms in the area, there are many places to obtain this information, but is weather always accurate, could a storm suddenly pop-up without warning. It sure can. With that being a possibility, I need to plan for that, in created the flight plan I look at if a storm pops up along my route what am I going to do, am I going to divert to another airport? Am I going to go around the storm? I have different options, but which one is the best? Well I need to plan for both scenarios, I need to pick an alternate airport to land at and I also need to plan that I have enough fuel to be able to go around a storm if possible. What if I have mechanical trouble? Same scenario as the weather, it depends on what kind of trouble I have. A pilot that plans this way has a much better chance to have a successful flight than the pilot who just jumps in the plane and goes.
Here is the one key factor I did not mention with flying a plane, I do not plan or fly alone, there are times I am in the plane by myself, but I am never alone. During each one of my flights, while I am planning as well as while I am in the air I speak with representatives from the FAA, they help me navigate through all the possible problems I may or do incur, they coach me through it. First, I would get a pre-flight briefing (planning) about the weather, temporary flight restrictions or other things that could hinder a successful flight. During this process I give them all the information that I have planned, where I am going, what time I am leaving, what time I expect to get there, my type of aircraft, how many people are with me, they even ask me for alternate airports I have in mind just in case something happens. After discussing all these factors, the air traffic controller will make a recommendation to me as whether it is safe to take the trip or not. Now it is only a recommendation, but they are giving me guidance that is often needed from an outside source that may see something you do not see. Once I determine the flight is a go, I then takeoff, and once I am in the air I speak with an air traffic controller, they will follow me on radar and will give me updated information about my trip, warn me about other aircraft in my flight path, weather changes etc. If a problem does arise, I work with them to solve the problem, I may think that turning south to an airport may be the best place to land, but he may know of a better place for me to go and he will make his recommendation, again I make the final decision on what I am going to do, but their guidance gives me the information I need to either shorten my flight or continue on in the safest manner possible. Providing me with a better chance of successfully completing my journey. Here is the best part, that person I spoke to before I took off, I have to call them to let them know I landed ok, otherwise, they start looking for me, first with a phone call to my cellphone, if they don’t reach me then they start search procedures. Pretty cool right? With all that help it is no wonder air travel is one of the safest ways to travel.
Starting and growing a business can and should be the same way, if you plan properly and get the right help, you will multiple your chances of success significantly.
A good business advisor (coach) will give you the guidance, planning and adjustments you need to create a company that not only is successful but creates a balanced life, so you can enjoy every day, without the burden of the oh noes. What if I don’t have the resources(money) to hire a coach? Tony Robbins has said, “when you don’t have the resources, become resourceful”, that simply means figure out how to get what you need even though you do not have cash to do it. There are a lot of organizations and workshops out there that help small businesses grow and survive and they are free. Check with your local small business association or local library. They should be able to point you in the right direction.
If you already are in business, you should be evaluating your business on a continuous basis to know where you are going and when you will get there. Because if you do not know where you are going you will be running in circles and eventually you will run out of fuel. A coach can also give you the advice you need to properly plan and make the right adjustments you need to ensure survival of your organization.
If you do engage a coach or if you want to try by yourself to create a business map, here are some of the things you need to do to help you determine where you are going are;
1. Revisit the vision statement.
Your business vision statement is the starting point for any business development planning, it is your WHY, why you are in business, why you do what you do, once you understand your why, everything else becomes easy.
2. Evaluate your business.
If you are an existing business, examine your current operation, be honest about what you are doing, are you operating in alignment with your WHY, this is so important, because if you are not, you will have unhappy customers, employees and even yourself. So be honest and determine if you need to change.
3. Set your priorities.
Determine where you need to go first, then second, then third and so on and create the flight plan that will ensure a successful flight.
4. Engage outside opinions, find your navigator.
If you are stuck and not sure how to proceed, reach out for help, do not try and make the determination on your own. Sometimes just having a quick discussion with someone can open up other possibilities you may have never thought of before.
5. Create that flight plan
This is the stage of your business development map where you take all of the information provided and create that plan that takes into consideration all the what ifs. Shape your ideas into an action plan.
6. Put your flight plan into action.
Once you have created the flight plan, put it into action, don’t wait until you think it is a good time. Do it now, take action.
7. Constantly evaluate your progress.
Just as when I am flying you need to be constantly evaluating your progress. In business we do with observations of your employees, conversations with your customers and reports. Knowing what reports and what they mean is what a good coach is going to help you with. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, the best athletes in the world have a coach helping them improve their game.
Make It Happen
There’s only one thing left to do – get resourceful and make sure you have those outside eyes helping you navigate the best path for you and your business. Hopefully, this article has given you the insight you needed to point you in the right direction and put your business into flight.