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There’s No Such Thing As A Winning Business

BY: Andrew / 0 COMMENTS / CATEGORIES: Business Planning

Only A Business That Understands Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory

I believe that there’s no such thing as a winning business. 

And before you shoot me down in flames, let me explain…

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on business success and my mind took me in a direction which, to be honest, surprised me.

In the end, I had to conclude that there’s no such thing as a winning business, there’s businesses that understand evolutionary theory and those who don’t.  Now this may seem odd to you, but when you think about it it’s true.

Not a year goes by when we see established brands go bust such as Toys R Us, Target, Borders and Blockbuster to name a few and this is not just limited to retail, for example Avaya is currently in bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11.

So Why Do These Companies Run Into Such Difficulties?

Business is no different to anything else in nature, where everything survives according to natural selection, which Charles Darwin put simply as the Survival of The Fittest.

Having an excellent product isn’t enough.  Where’s IBM compared to Apple?

Being first to market isn’t enough.  Just ask Friendster, who didn’t make any money, compared to Facebook, who smashed predictions and earned $10 billion in revenue this quarter!

Who will emerge as the Facebook, or the Amazon, or the Microsoft in your market?

Will it be you?

Maybe you can’t answer that question, but what I can tell you is that it will be the company that constantly senses its environment and has the flexibility and agility to adapt.

In my career I’ve worked in various organisations and one that I admire was Vodafone

They constantly change and evolve their business model because they realise that nothing stands still and to survive they too must change. 

This is what a business must do; it must pivot, it must change and it must adapt to its changing environment.

In nature, Florida’s green lizard realised that to find enough food, due to competition on the lower branches, they had to climb higher.  To better cling to the smooth branches, they had to evolve so that their toepads got bigger and their scales got stickier.  Their drive for survival forced them to rapidly adapt and change.

When my business partners and I launched a start-up called MaxTag (which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year), our sole-funder pulled out at the last minute, our previous employer threatened legal action if we breached the covenants in our employment contracts and we had to be located 30 miles away from our customer base.

Was this perfect?  No.  Did we curl up in bed and cry?  No, of course we didn’t. 

We simply pivoted the business, funded it ourselves, found a way forward and became the market leader with a turnover of £3m within five years.

Today technology, amongst other things, is forcing the business world to change at an ever-increasing pace and if your company can’t quickly adapt and evolve to:

·         better serve your customers,

·         be safe from the competition, or

·         adapt to the changing market conditions,

then it’ll be nature who will determine your fate…

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Business Failure – How To Avoid The Pitfalls

BY: Andrew / 0 COMMENTS / CATEGORIES: Business Planning


Why is there such a high rate of failure among small businesses?

Bloomberg states that 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start a business fails within the first 18 months – a failure rate of 80%!

Small businesses accounting for 99.3% of all private sector businesses in the UK and 99.7% in the US is a major factor, but more importantly is the problems faced by small business due to cashflow and poor financial management.

We are well aware of the economic downturn since the Financial Crisis in 2007/8 and are now being encouraged by the news that recovery is on the way.  Unfortunately for us, small businesses suffer these effects more than our larger counterparts.  As they usually have larger buffers in terms of cash, stocks etc. to save for a rainy day.

But It Can’t All Be Due To The Downturn

In a recent study by, they found that the reason why US small businesses fail was:

  • They were out competed (19% of all failures)
  • They didn’t have the right team (23%)
  • They ran out of cash (29%)
  • There was no market (42%)
  • They experienced cashflow problems (82%)

So How Can These Issues Be Addressed?

A critical discipline that must be adopted is having a sound credit management system.  Business can’t fail through a lack of profits but they can through a lack of cash. 

This is made far easier by having a computerised accounting system and instead of waiting until the debt is overdue to find out that there is a problem, implement a system whereby you invoice as soon as possible and remind, remind, remind until you are paid.

A computerised system can not only provide you with the minimum financial information you legally require, it can also provide useful management data that will make running your business far easier. 

It can help you forecast by providing trends, margins and plan, whilst giving you useful information to aid your decision making.  In a CIMA study 54% of businesses stated that their accountant failed to assist with the strategic development of the business, a management accounting system can.

We cannot leave it to factors outside our control to determine the future of our business; the main driver must be the owners/directors. 

If you identify a weakness, take immediate steps to resolve the situation before it’s too late.

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Do You Have A Doctor On Board?

BY: Andrew / 0 COMMENTS / CATEGORIES: Business Planning

According to the USA Today, 4 in 5 US businesses will not be around to celebrate their first-year anniversary.

As you can imagine, businesses go under for a variety of reasons; lost orders, poor forecasts, bad or no controls, no cash, litigation, the list is endless. Where there’s a business activity, there’s a potential reason for failure.

No business performs according to plan each and every day so why doesn’t the owner see the warning signs?

They usually do, but in the case of the businesses that I have been advising, they either ignore them, hoping that they would go away, or they simply see them far too late.

Addressing The Cause

And acting isn’t good enough if you don’t address the cause of the problem. Ploughing more of your own personal funds into the pot to sure-up the cashflow won’t help. You must reduce your outflows because the problem will return to haunt you in weeks or months to come!

Is cash the first of the alarm bells? I would argue that it isn’t.

Your staff should alert you where there’s a problem, for example credit control may alert you that a customer is not paying, or your accountant may notify you that profit margins have fallen.

Not Getting Paid

How can you remain cash positive if you are not receiving the money you are owned, or making enough profits in the first place?

OK, so you have a problem and several months later it’s still there, you take your head out of the sand and decide to do something about it.

You ask yourself “have I got the necessary skills or experience to resolve the issue?”

The clock is ticking, you can’t delay paying your suppliers, you’ve had final notices and more importantly pay-day for your staff is just around the corner, so what do you do?

I would suggest you turn to a professional, a specialist like a company doctor, who has the experience to help you turn the ship around before it runs aground.

There will be some of you out there thinking, I have managed this business for years; it has grown from nothing to where it is today, why do I need help?

Outside Help

The simple answer is that at certain stages of any business’s life it will need outside help, whether it is a loan to purchase new equipment, legal advice, who knows…

No-one will question what you have done, the past does not matter, what is important is that your business has a future.

Imagine on the football pitch, a player gets injured, he doesn’t treat himself, he calls on his medical team to ensure that his career and future is not jeopardised and that is what you may need to do.

There are many reasons why each of us decided to run our own businesses, don’t let pride get in the way of seeing it flourish and grow.

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