Being in small business for the long haul is the ultimate dream. Yet, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 60% of small operations fail within their first three years. Clearly, finding the secret to longevity can be a huge challenge.
So what does it take to stay the course for more than 20 years, still be relevant in 30 years and kick into a higher gear in 60 years?
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Learn to love change
Being afraid to pivot your business model or change your business practices is the biggest roadblock to any company striving for longevity, says Norton.
“Adapting to change can be challenging – many businesses have done what they do for a long time,” she says.
“It’s vital to ensure you can adapt or pivot your business model to meet a changing landscape; be that customers, environment or technology.”
Listen to your customers
The bottom line, says Margan, is that you are delivering a product for your customers, so listening to how their needs change is imperative.
“Who are my customers and what do they want from me is something you have to keep on top of because it can keep changing,” he says.
But he advises against reacting to every new trend as they may be short-lived.
“Market trends are hard to follow when it comes to wine and you can be constantly chasing the latest ‘fad’ which will hurt you because it can be such a long turn around from having an idea to getting it to the market,” he said.
Communicate your story
Margan says a continuous, strong brand image has been one of the main keys for the success of Margan Wines, which offers a cellar door, online store as well as an on-site restaurant and functions space.
“We have always been strong in connecting the ‘why’ to what we do,” he says. “Why would anyone want to buy our wine and come to our restaurant is the question that needs to be answered.
“We have a strong and compelling story that resonates with people with everything we do being ‘Estate Grown and Estate Made’. The story taps into provenance and integrity and these are important values in today’s wine and food markets.”
Keep an eye on shifts in tech
Each industry will be affected by changes in technology very differently, but Norton said rather than ignoring shifts, business owners need to embrace them as something quite positive.
“With AI, AR, VR and robotics, there’s a lot of talk about people becoming redundant, but I think we need to flip this perception and embrace this escalation in technology and understand better the jobs it might create,” she says.
“Along with this is understanding how different industries will adapt to new environments and technologies. Businesses will benefit from understanding this and seeing what else they can offer as a by-product. How can they upskill their workforce to meet new demands?”
Make sure you plan ahead
Margan says his business operates on five-year plans to tick off their business goals and stay profitable. They also make sure they are ahead of the game when it comes to their specific skillset.
“We set ourselves goals in every area to achieve in that plan,” he says.
“The disciplines of running a business are important because they make you keep your eye on the ball. Always look for ways to increase revenue and cuts costs in every area without compromising the quality of your product or service.
“And don’t underestimate experience and knowledge. You need to know what you are doing or you will come unstuck.”
Stand hard and fast
Playing it smart is one thing, but Norton says business owners need to learn to be resilient and have incredible fortitude to make their operation a long-term and successful venture.
“If you are the owner you need to be hardwired to be part of a multi-chapter experience,” she says.
“So much will happen and change over a 20 to 50-year period and if an owner is committed and invested in driving their business forward for that length of time, not only must they understand an ever-changing environment and workforce, they must have an amazing amount of resilience and passion.”
AGL is dedicated to supporting Australian small businesses. We have a number of packages that can be tailored to your business’ specific needs. Visit us at agl.com.au/business to find out more.