Shevonne is a guest blogger for Girl Bosses Australia and this blog first appeared on their website on 15 November, 2016.
In amongst the mass chaos that ensued the Donald Trump election, news that Sophia Amoruso’s Nasty Gal empire has gone into bankruptcy in the midst of her Business Chicks tour left many #girlbosses shell shocked. Many people have weighed in on the debate about it already; some showing compassion and empathy for what Sophia is going through and others penning prose about how she only has herself to blame. I’m sure over time we will hear more about how the Nasty Gal cards came tumbling down, however regardless of the ins and outs, it’s an important reminder for everyone that business is difficult at any stage – even when you’ve seemingly 'made it.'
There are many reasons why business is hard (and rewarding – let’s be honest) and when I heard this news, I paused to reflect on how to date there have not been enough business real conversations. People are entering the world of business without really understanding what it takes to be successful in business. This is why my business partner Jemimah Ashleigh and I started The Business Experiment and created the business real conversation. We decided it was about time someone spoke about what it really takes to be successful in business; the good, the bad, the ugly. We talk on our global podcast about all the things that no one wants to talk about and listeners contact us regularly to say things like, “I thought I was the only one!” or “thank god someone is finally talking about this!” Is it any wonder that 80% of businesses fail, or in the words of Paul McCarthy “80% of business owners burn out”?
Often people associate business being hard in the beginning – and it is. However, repeatedly over the history of time, seemingly successful companies have dissolved into the abyss. At this point Nasty Gal plans to restructure and seek further investment. What do these examples tell us? It’s important to recognise that as your business evolves, your challenges evolve. If you fail to keep ahead of the game, you may just find yourself in a tricky situation.
It reminds us to be mindful of all the moving parts in a business and how they can contribute to its overall sustainability. Whilst this is not an exhaustive list of every factor to consider, I've penned a top 5 as a good starting point:
- The supply and demand of today may not be that of tomorrow
Supply and demand is a very important thing – your business will tank without it. In fact, it won’t even get off the ground if there is no demand for your products or services. A fundamental step in creating a business is to ensure there is demand and then to build a movement. Simply meeting a demand now is no longer, in itself, a surety for keeping business alive. The world is moving at a faster pace than ever before and a key requirement for being successful in business is keeping ahead of the game as life evolves. I’m sure we all recall the demise of the Blackberry phone in the face of the iphone or Kodak in the face of the digital camera. Blackberry and Kodak, once profitable businesses, ultimately failed to keep ahead of the game. In fact, an employee of Kodak invented the digital camera and while they made money from the patent for a period of time, they ultimately failed to make the most of the technology before them and went bankrupt.
- Don’t just have a purpose, live your purpose
More and more people are questioning and care about where their products and services are coming from. Businesses have more responsibility than ever to ensure they are delivering on their promises. If your brand is built on the back of a movement to empower women and you are not empowering women in your everyday operations, Houston we have a problem. It’s more than writing some values and a mission statement. Your purpose must be the fabric of your very existence. From your culture, to your production, to the way you treat your customers, your suppliers and employees. As your business grows and becomes more profitable, the need to maintain living your purpose does not diminish. In fact, it becomes more important.
- Build a culture that empowers others to live your purpose and your brand
Leading on from living your purpose, as your business grows and you employ staff, it’s important to build an internal culture that reflects your purpose and values. Do not underestimate the power and cost associated with high turnover and what the market is saying about working for your brand.
Just like online reviews from customers is growing, so too are online reviews about employers. The age of transparency is upon us more than ever before and quicker than one can toast a piece of bread, people can surf websites like Glassdoor.com and read anonymous reviews from current and past employees.
Sure, the reviews are anecdotal and there is always more than one side to consider. However, when you have 100 reviews, all saying similar things, where there is smoke, there may be fire. Glassdoor.com receives about 30 million unique visitors each month, which indicates that the world is paying attention. Forbes has suggested that businesses are starting to utilise these platforms as a way to get a sense of their cultural undercurrents and keep policies relevant.
How do you build a culture? It’s important to have policies, values, missions and clear parameters on “the way we do things around here.” Exactly what’s required to build culture in your business will depend on the business. The key is to ensure your culture is implemented in practice. A good place to start is ensuring your managers have built strong relationships with your employees, that employees have the tools, processes and resources they need to do their jobs, feel valued and are clear on their purpose.
- Enable your thinking to evolve along with your business
Think about your strengths and your shortcomings. What kind of development do you need in order to ensure your business has the talent and capability it needs to pioneer? If it’s not something you are willing or able to develop, outsource it to someone who has that capability. We’ve all heard the stories about employees who were technically brilliant, however had terrible people skills and were promoted into management positions without any or with minimal training.
Learning continues throughout business and throughout life. You will face new challenges as your business grows. The biggest mistake any #girlboss can make, is becoming “comfortable” with your success. Think about the types of resources you might need to continue to develop. For example, coaching, mentoring, training etc. Invest in what gives you the most value and contributes to your overall aim.
- Understand success and failure go hand in hand
There’s a quote that I love by Maya Angelou which has become a bit of life hack: “Do your best until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Success and failure are less black and white and more a series of triumphs and tribulations. The road, in some parts, may be rocky. Ensure your suspension is up to scratch and do the best you can, with the resources available to you, to navigate the rough terrain. There will be times you make mistakes and blow a tyre. It’s less about the mistake you make and more about how you fix it.
Success is learning through failure. Many of us have failed and reinvented ourselves. All the best #girlbosses do. Embrace it, respect it and learn from it. Remember, destination 'made it' is a myth – we all must continue working hard to reap the rewards of business.
Shevonne Joyce is the Founder of Yellow Palomino and the Co-Founder of The Business Experiment. She works with womenpreneurs to assist them with achieving in business and life. She also co-hosts a weekly podcast about the real of starting a business for the first time and has listeners in 16 countries. Shevonne can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org , on Facebook or Instagram.