Every business has its high points and low points. While it’s sometimes hard to predict when they will happen, there is no doubt that any entrepreneur will experience positive milestones, like signing your first customer along with setbacks like losing a trusted employee.
In my experience, the more you plan ahead, learn about the successes and failures of other business leaders while simultaneously creating an agile, easily adaptable company, the more likely you are to pass new milestones seamlessly.
Here are four seemingly scary business milestones that you can all but count on and my advice on how to gracefully respond to them:
1. Tackling procurement for the first time.
Whether it’s physical parts needed to create the products you sell or services that allow your company to run effectively, finding and choosing the right suppliers can be tedious and complicated. There are many factors to consider with procurement, including reliability, product adaptability, and expected payment methods and cycles. It’s worth taking the extra time to do it right the first time and find suppliers that you can work with long term.
To do so, make sure to ask all the questions necessary and get all agreements in writing as soon as possible to ensure accountability for both parties. Also, find out what is important to your supplier (i.e being paid on time and long-term buying commitment) and make that a priority. More often than not, they will appreciate your concern and will be happy to invest in their relationship with your company. This relationship building will help make signing your first supplier agreement an exciting time rather than a nervous one.
2. Dealing with cash-flow issues for the first time.
When you start a business and only have a few income sources and expenses, it’s easy to keep track of everything. As you grow, however, there will be a point when the cash flow gets complicated and is often overlooked in favor of focusing on sales, business development and other tasks.
When faced for the first time with a money flow issue, whether it’s a supplier not getting paid on time or clients constantly changing payment plan contracts, look for ways to simplify your processes. Ask yourself, What can be made more efficient? Or What is being done manually that can be done digitally? These questions will help you find ways to untangle your processes so you can focus on your daily business responsibilities and feel comfortable that your finances are flowing smoothly.
3. Experiencing the first major business failure.
This can be a personal failure that impacts the company, like ruining a relationship with an investor or a company-wide setback like having to carry out a heavy round of layoffs. Either way, it won’t feel good and company morale may suffer.
The best way to handle this situation and move past the setback quickly is with transparency and communication about how the company will overcome the problem. Your staff will have questions and will need to feel safe asking them. Some companies hold impromptu meetings while others send out company-wide emails. The key is to focus on the positive and move forward while addressing the immediate concerns of the staff.
4. Taking the first step into global expansion.
Expanding a market is a huge milestone for any company, but it is also very challenging. Different legislation, customs, business practices, currency and workplace expectations are all important factors that a company must consider.
The best way to tackle global expansion is to start as early as possible. Begin by researching the market you want to expand into so that you are fully prepared and have realistic expectations. It can be tempting to jump in before your company is ready, but your first impression in a market is extremely important. Thorough research and careful planning are the keys to making global expansion a positive company milestone.
No matter what industry you’re in or what role you play, scary business milestones are part of the road for everyone. To be successful in overcoming them you must plan ahead when possible, stay agile when necessary, and always face them head on.