How Entrepreneurs Can Create Company Longevity During Turbulent Times

How Entrepreneurs Can Create Company Longevity During Turbulent Times

More people than ever are starting small businesses, but the statistics don’t favor their longevity. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more, while roughly 20% of new businesses fail within the first two years of opening. These statistics have been relatively consistent since the 1990s.

Companies must adapt to changing times, especially given the events of recent years. With climate change, political bickering on the rise, and a recession looming, uncertainty seems to be our new norm. Frank Knight’s book “Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit” explains that uncertainty is necessary for companies to make a profit.

If business leaders could anticipate risks and strategize accordingly, competitors could do the same. Uncertainty is advantageous because it allows companies to identify opportunities during disruptive times and use them to gain an advantage. I started Zen Media in the midst of the 2008 recession. Despite economic instability, my team quickly rose from start-up to award-winning PR agency.

Instead of becoming defensive in the face of turbulence, companies must be decisive. Like sailors preparing their boats to navigate safely through choppy waters and changing weather systems, businesses must push through and wait out the storm. In these turbulent times, entrepreneurs can learn from preexisting businesses with a history of going far. Having a plan of action for your business can help you stay in the game for years to come.

Focus on what is in your control

Spending time thinking about “what ifs” will not get your business off the ground. Things you can’t control sometimes throw your plans out of whack, making it hard to decide where to put your attention, but your next move may determine the direction of your business.

By recognizing the variables under your control, you can change your trajectory to deal with the unpredictable. Mark Dohnalek, President and CEO of Pivot International, clarifies how choosing where to spend your time can drive growth. “People with a proven track record of making good decisions can help you hone your ability to see the big picture and where things are really going. That’s one of the safest bets for not losing the forest for the trees and continuing to make grow your business well in the future.” This perspective helped carry Dohnalek’s company successfully into its 50th year, forging sincere relationships of trust. What you choose for your company will prepare you to ride the wave of change or crash against it. Focusing on what you can make an impact on will put you in a better position to make a bigger difference.

Value your stakeholders: internal and external

In times of significant change, companies only survive with the right leadership and clear direction. Business continuity is best demonstrated by wholeheartedly providing the experiences all stakeholders are accustomed to, from employees to shareholders to customers; even in the face of external pressure. Decade-old companies like Pivot and Calian, an enterprise IT solutions provider, have overcome multiple challenges by focusing on what’s best for their audiences.

In its 40-year history, Calian has been dedicated to elevating customer and employee relationships beyond just transactional. They focus on anticipating customer needs and bringing solutions to the table, something that can only be achieved by a skilled and knowledgeable workforce whose educational and career development opportunities are supported by the organization. This predictive and responsive philosophy makes customers feel confident that their partners understand their business and needs. Ensuring that both external and internal stakeholders feel valued is critical to maintaining a successful business, regardless of external distractions.

Make your product pivotable

Even after our return to “business as usual”, market adaptations have made it difficult for new businesses to enter with a solid foundation. Consumer behaviors have also changed, requiring new and existing businesses to modify their strategies.

The trial-and-error nature of business underscores the potential for evolution in different industries. Every business needs to think about how they can adapt their product to fit consumers’ lifestyles simply and conveniently. Regpack did this when it realized that one of the pain points for billing and payment customers was the one-size-fits-all mentality.

As a newer company with 11 years in business, Regpack took a different approach to volatile times. His intentional slow-build strategy ensures that his product can handle all of his customers’ unique needs. No matter which way the world goes, people will always need ways to make and collect payments online, making Regpack’s software a pivotable, permanent service. So how can you make your products more perennial and pivotable?

Today’s turbulent climate can discourage aspiring entrepreneurs from following their dreams, and that’s a real shame. During these times of pressure, motivated leaders must force innovation on the world. After all, innovation in the marketplace can bring economic and cultural change. And you never know which ideas might stick around and produce impressive results. Just look at Zen Media: we grew 400% during the 2008 recession.

The success stories of companies and startups that have survived various states of business uncertainty show that it is possible to survive and thrive with the right strategies and resources. As Winston Churchill said: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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