Systems change over time, and good companies evolve to fit the marketplace. But sometimes your business evolves into something that you never intended it to.
I’m always fascinated by stories of companies that started out one way, and ended up turning into something completely different and becoming blockbuster successes. Yet, for every great success story, there are countless stories of founders whose companies morph into something they’d never dreamed of—or wanted.
Watch Out for the Small Things
How does it happen? Often there are small changes, unnoticable at first. A little quirk here, a compromise there, and soon the company you started, and the vision you had, looks completely different.
The company might even be doing better financially after the shift, but as the founder—the one with the vision—it eats at you. It can make showing up every day really, really hard.
Starting a business is hard, but sometimes keeping the vision of your business is even harder.
... And the Big Distractions
Being a founder means that you crystalize the vision of your company from the very beginning; you share the vision and keep faithful to it. However, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day muck and lose sight of that vision.
We’ve all done it. What are the most common distractions that take us away from our vision?
- Pressure to make money. Sometimes we make little compromises to the core of our product for the sake of making ends meet. This could be creating a side project to meet a market need, taking on consulting to cover the bills, etc.
- Competition. The threat of competition often keeps us working to keep up as opposed to working for our goals and vision. It’s being reactive vs. being proactive.
- Changing market landscape. It turns out that the product you created is no longer viable in the current market. Or, you might have a better idea for a product.
- Public demand. This is far less common, but sometimes the public’s perception of your company can pressure you to change your product. This happened with my current project Gentlemint, where the Internet dubbed us the “Pinterest for Men” and put pressure on us to become just that.
As you chase the competition, public opinion and money, you can quickly find yourself an imposter running a business you never meant to start.
Stop the Madness, Reclaim Your Business
So how do we keep this from happening?
Remember that running a business is about making a series of choices. Usually these choices are difficult to make. Many businesses fail due to a bad decision. However, upon closer inspection, it usually isn't one, big, terrible decision that brought down the business, but a series of bad decisions made over time.
How can you avoid such a demise? Don’t compromise your vision, and keep the end in mind with every single decision you make every day. The trick to doing this is by addressing each decision you need to make with the question, “Which outcome gets us closer to our overall goal of X?”
What should I work on today? Who should I hire? Should I add on a product? Should I kill off a service? Answer each as it pertains to your business's end goal.
Sticking to your vision and keeping the end game in mind is a timeless principle. But if you’re like me, you need to be reminded of simple truths like these. The daily battles we face can keep us from seeing the forest for the trees. But being able to see past the trees and focus on the vision is what’s important.
Read more articles on leadership.