Smart business vs. small business

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We typically classify businesses under two main categories: small business and big business. These are not very helpful distinctions in my opinion because, truth is, it matters very little if you are big or small. What matters is profitability. I submit that the two categories to describe businesses should only ever be “profitable” and “not profitable.” If you are doing things right your company will be profitable. If you’re doing things wrong, well… you won’t be doing them wrong for very long.

Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Yet we’ve all heard the stat that over 70% of businesses go out of business within their first 5 years. Why? While I believe the principle is simple enough, I think we often underestimate the complexity and sophistication of the organizations that the marketplace chooses to patronize. There are many moving parts to any organization. And it is a difficult task to align these factors in a meaningful way. I think the real reason many business ventures struggle is due in large part to lack of knowledge. Although I’ve forgotten who said it, I’ve always remembered the saying “Business is an intellectual sport.”

For the last 15 years we’ve had many business owners walk through our doors saying something like “I need a brochure.” These days they say “I need a website.” And despite our love for designing brochures and building websites, we’ve often had to explain that a website was in fact the last thing they needed. Which is not to say they didn’t need one at all. It just happened to be the last thing in a long list of other things requiring attention first — things called positioning, differentiation, unique value propositions, strategic plan, product innovation, marketing plan, identity, message, story and content. These are the ingredients of powerful brands.

True brand development is hard. It requires research and knowledge. It requires thought. It requires empathy and courage. It requires discipline. It requires both IQ and EQ. To be profitable takes guts, a lot of heart and smarts. Does your business need a website? Well these days it most certainly does. But don’t make the mistake of thinking about any given marketing tactic (including SEO by the way) as a silver bullet. Your website should be developed as a culmination of a lot of great thinking and courageous decision making, not instead of it.

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