Maintaining success beyond the start-up
There’s a strange sort of relish with which commentators report the likelihood of new business start-ups failing. It’s almost as though they want to say, “See, it’s a tough old game. You haven’t got what it takes”. These same commentators go quiet when businesses do manage to navigate the challenges of the first few years. They rarely mention businesses celebrating the milestones of 5 years, 7 years or a decade in business.
Initial failure rates are, of course, quite alarming. 26% of start-ups cease trading within two years. Only 43% make it to their 5th birthday, but age is no guarantee of survival. Indeed, beyond the supposedly most dangerous years, there’s a risk of complacency setting in. Established businesses can assume they’re safe and fail to adapt to changing markets or trends. Retail giant Woolworths traded for 99 years on the UK’s high streets before it was forced to call in the administrators. Kodak didn’t take digital photography seriously. It didn’t adapt to the emerging technology within our phones.
No complacency: the formula for a decade of success
LegalforLandlords is celebrating its 10th year in business this summer, but there isn’t an ounce of complacency within the operation. MD Sim Sekhon has established a business that has come through the supposedly most risky initial years, but which still retains that start-up spirit of determination, and according to Sim, there’s no way that’s going to change. He believes that not enough people recognise that surviving businesses survive because they never take their eyes off the ball.
We asked Sim to elaborate. He said, “A fairly savvy start-up entrepreneur knows the risks they’ll face initially. They understand the basics of cash flow and the problem of overtrading. They’ll have sought support, have initial deals, consultants and financing to help them. It’s when they have to stand on their own two feet that the real work begins.”
The real work in question is the longer-term stuff. It’s creating teams and developing the individuals within them. It’s about ensuring that the managerial skills reach throughout the operation and that everyone has high levels of motivation. It’s understanding the competition or knowing how to avoid complacency if competition is thin on the ground. Long-term success depends upon a finely balanced blend of great leadership and strategic thinking. It requires courage, teamwork, a love of innovation and a clear set of goals. It also depends upon acknowledging that a business can be and should be part of its wider community with priorities that extend beyond the notion of profit.
One year in business is worth noting. Five years is a major achievement. Ten years is, according to Sim Sekhon, simply where the next chapter for LegalforLandlords begins.