While every business has its ups and downs, and while not every decision leads to increased profitability, there are certain choices business owners make that ultimately become the backbone of their overall business growth and success.
Following are the five best decisions I personally made while growing my own company – those decisions that I believe have most influenced BottomLine’s success – in good times and in not so good times.
#1: The Decision to Outsource Rather than Hire. When I launched BottomLine I made the decision to move very cautiously in terms of building infrastructure. I decided to acquire the professional support I needed to grow my company (marketing, payroll, etc.), as well as the staff support necessary to serve my clients, on an outsourced, as needed basis. This decision has allowed me to move my company forward in a way that ensures needed capital won’t be tied up, and it’s also prevented me from taking on staff only to let them go at a future date. Outsourcing affords growing companies the kind of flexibility that’s essential not only during the early years, but also as a company matures. I believe that many companies make the decision to staff up far too early. I recommend examining what’s driving that decision and to not think of outsourcing as a “small company” solution, but as a viable way to run certain business functions indefinitely.
#2: The Decision to Create a Strong Brand Message and Stick to It. While I initially launched my company in a way that allowed me to go to market quickly, I also believed in the value of a strong, singular brand message. There came a point, still very early on, when I knew it was time for a serious branding effort. One of the best of decisions I made was to invest a significant amount of my own time in developing a brand that would endure. Specifically, I took the time to build a brand platform that was not only right for my company at that point in time, but that was also big enough to hold where we were going in the future. Our brand platform as expressed through our tagline, No One Summits Solo, has stood the test of time and, to this day, communicates BottomLine’s overarching brand promise – even though we’ve added services, expanded our target market, pursued new directions and even fine tuned our value proposition.
#3: The Decision to Experiment. Perhaps one of the wisest decisions I made, and continue to make, while growing BottomLine is the decision to take calculated risks. Specifically, to explore new strategies. While there’s value in the mantra “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” it’s also important to push boundaries and work toward increasing profitability. I’ve learned that the trick here is not to get too emotionally attached to your ideas. Try something, yes. But if it doesn’t yield the results you want, be willing to reconsider your decision. Being agile in this way has helped BottomLine discover more and more about its customers and make better and better choices. Even though your rate of “failure” when experimenting will never be zero, you will likely get increasingly better at making profitable calls.
#4: The Decision to Be Visible. If you look at the BottomLine website, you’ll see all the organizations we’ve received honors from and all the media opportunities we’ve been called on to participate in. What’s true for any company is that this kind of recognition does not happen if you stay behind your desk. Early on, I made the decision to stretch outside of my own comfort zone and develop the relationships and seize the opportunities that would lead to greater exposure for my company. It wasn’t easy. Becoming comfortable on camera, even putting out a monthly enewsletter, takes a certain about of courage for all of us. After all, if you stay invisible, no one can criticize you, right? What I’ve learned is that being visible is the only way extraordinary opportunities will be presented to you. Make the decision to become more visible yourself, and opportunity will follow you, too. P.S. I also made the decision to do the prep work necessary to shine in every opportunity that came my way. Don’t be afraid to hire a media coach, become a subject matter expert, make yourself more available generally – it will all be worth it when you do find yourself in the spotlight.
#5: The Decision to Pay it Forward. As a long time mentor in the business world and in the global community, I’ve always believed in paying it forward. Doing this within my business tops my list, by far, of best decisions made in growing my company. Since founding BottomLine I’ve served on numerous boards, helped build community programs related to my core business, referred countless other professionals to companies that have become their clients, participated in leadership groups, and I’m always available to talk through a challenge a peer is facing. There is no doubt my business has benefited from this decision, and that’s why it tops my list. But, to be honest, I feel I’ve personally benefited even more than my business has. Paying it forward is something I believe in strongly – and it’s something we all can and should do. The effort we put in always comes back to us. Not only as profit, but as something even more valuable than that.
Now that I’ve shared what I consider to be the five best decisions I made while growing my own company, I’m curious about you and your path:
What is the best decision you’ve made while growing your own company?
Which of my five decisions are you not doing now, or not doing fully, but think it would be smart to adopt or do more of yourself?