I’d better make it clear what I mean by small business design. It has little to do with website design or graphic design.
What I mean by small business design is carefully planning out:
- Who the business will serve.
- Why the business exists.
- What benefits the key stakeholders of the business will get – how customers will benefit, how employees will benefit, how suppliers will benefit (including finance providers) and how the owner will benefit.
- What the business will do.
- Where the business will operate.
And then building a business that turns the design into reality.
Perhaps less obviously business involves a similar group of negative answers:
- Who the business won’t serve.
- What pains and penalties you won’t allow the key stakeholders to suffer.
- What the business won’t do.
- Where the business won’t operate.
Business design is about focus and clarity and that’s particularly appropriate in a small business.
Nearly all small businesses have limited resources and like sunlight through a magnifying glass, great power comes from concentrating energy in one small area.
Quoted failure rates for small businesses are terrible and while I feel these are often exaggerated by business advisers and consultants to sell their services, the fact remains that many small businesses fail in one of two ways:
- A public failure when the business goes bankrupt and creditors and investors lose money.
- A private failure when the business is closed by the owner after an unprofitable struggle. Third parties don’t lose money but a business owner often loses his or her life’s savings, suffers a huge blow to their pride and is forced into a job they don’t want.
Why does this happen?
Often because the business is managed in a haphazard manner.
There’s no clear business design which focuses attention on the right things and avoids distractions that don’t fit.
Without a clear small business design, the owner is likely to jump from one nice sounding initiative to another, either at their own whim or that of marketers with a new shiny money-making button.
If you’re an email inbox victim and you find your agenda set by what you read first thing in the morning, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
It’s the difference between one housebuilder working to a clear set of architect plans and another who makes it up as he goes along, on a whim and influenced by what he saw each morning on his way to work.
The second is pretty scary if you’ve got a financial interest in that house. It may turn into a masterpiece but the odds are that it won’t and it will take much longer to finish since the builder keeps knocking down what he’s done and starting again.
It’s the same with a small business.
As the business owner, you have a huge financial stake in its success but if you don’t have a clear business design, you’ll keep undoing the progress that you made yesterday because you’ve changed your mind.
My advice is to get clear on the business design you want and what it takes to build it. Be intentional.
When should you start working on your small business design?
First choice, yesterday, second choice today.
Not tomorrow… because there’s a danger that tomorrow never comes and your business design is much too important to leave as one of those “nice to do when I can find the time” activities.
Business design is easiest when you’ve got a blank page to work with – when you’re thinking about starting a business and all the options are in front of you.
It’s harder – but still essential – when your business is up and running.
Yes change has to be managed and yes some people involved in the business may not like the change but many more will love it because their jobs are more secure and enjoyable if your business is well managed.
A business designed to fill the needs of a particular group of customers will be able to develop special expertise, skills, products and services which raise it out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
I asked at the start, “is small business design necessary?”
I believe it is critical if your business is going to be as successful as you want it to be.