What do you do when the vision you had for your business doesn’t match the reality? You suddenly realize that your active customers are not the ones you’ve been targeting or you find that your targeted market is pulling your business in a direction you had never planned to go? How hard should you push to maintain your original message, voice, and products and services, verses letting your customers decide what your business should look like?
The First Rule in Running a New Business: Expect Change
If you are new to running a small business then one of the lessons you’ll learn pretty quickly on is that your plans and goals for your company are likely to change along the way- sometimes several times over. Almost nothing is written in stone. It’s why I believe that business plans should really be written in pencil (or at least erasable ink). Sometimes these changes will hit you quite unexpectedly. While you are busy working so hard getting your business up and running, you may suddenly come to the realization that your business was busy taking on its own identity.
Typically this transformation takes on one of three forms:
- You’re seeing interest in the market, but when you look into it you realize your audience is not the one you intended.
- The target market is what you expect, but you are feeling a tug from customers towards a new or modified product or service offering.
- Your customers seem fixated on only one aspect of your business, and ironically it’s not the most valuable feature, product, or service that you offer.
If you’re experiencing any of the above, realize that it is pretty normal part of doing business, and there are many reasons for why this happens. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not doing a good job running your business or that you are even getting things wrong. But it does nevertheless present a kind of dilemma: what do you do with it? Should you fight it, ignore it, or go with the flow?
The Second Rule to Running a New Business: Success is Dependent on How You React to that Change
Before I go on, if you are holding in a place where you’ve already recognized the conflict between where you’ve been trying to steer your business versus where it’s actually been going, then give yourself a big pat on the back. It’s a very good sign because it shows that you are in touch with yourself, your market, and your business. Many small business owners get tripped up at this point and never get back on their feet.
Once you have isolated where the dissonance is coming from, you basically have two options to choose from (ignoring what’s happening is generally not the best way to go):
- You can go along with the change, understand why it happened, and then look for ways to build on it or amplify it. So, for example, if you notice that a certain unexpected segment of the market is currently attracted to your products and services, you can continue to draw these people in and even make your message and brand more aligned with their needs and desires.
- The other option is to stick with your initial goals and vision for your business, but identify the factor(s) that is causing the conflict and then make changes only in that area. So, following the same example above, it would mean figuring out how to change your message and your approach so that you would draw in interest among those in your original target audience.
The reality is that there is no one right answer to this dilemma. The best approach really depends on you as the business owner and what is most important. Are you more connected to your target market or to your unique voice and brand? Are you willing to make one aspect or set of features of your business’ offerings the main focus or is it more important that you look for ways to effectively communicate the full value of what you have to offer?
Either way, when there is dissonance like this, it means that something will need to be shifted. As long as you make the moves that will ultimately reflect both the needs and desires of you and your business as well as those of your customers, you will be on a good path to sustainable growth. These “detours” are just a part of the journey.