Strike While the Iron Is Hot - The Khuram Dhanani Blog
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Khuram Dhanani

Strike While the Iron Is Hot

First, the bad news. Most startups fail. Most entrepreneurs fail. Most ideas fail. Success is rare. There are many variables, and many conditions have to align precisely.

Occasionally, with enough hustle, persistence, time, failed attempts, and determination, the pieces fall into place and things start to click. When this happens, you must strike quickly while the opportunity is on your side. These moments are scarce, but when they are presented it means the iron is blazing hot and Fortune is smiling. It’s your duty as an entrepreneur to strike as hard and quickly as possible. This means going all-in, giving 100% effort, and spending every waking moment focusing on your business to take advantage of this Golden Opportunity. Ask yourself:

  • How do I scale? 
  • How do I grow faster? 
  • How do I hire more people? 
  • What am I missing? 
  • What am I leaving behind? 
  • How can I raise capital?
  • How do I increase revenue?

Keep striking. Harder. And harder. Ride the wave all the way to the top. There might not be another one with this range for a long, long time. You’ve been slaving away for years, enduring failure after failure, inching forward toward success and suddenly everything has finally come together. This is your shot! Grab on and don’t let go!

How Rare Is Success?

Successful ventures are extremely rare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roughly 20% of small businesses fail in the first year, 30% in the second year, and 50% after the fifth. By the tenth year, 70% of small businesses have failed and disappeared. 

Since only about 30% survive 10 years or more, your odds as an entrepreneur are not in your favor. The good news is that 30% do survive, and you can be one of the 30% when you dedicate yourself and rely on your ability to work hard and make intelligent, data-driven decisions.

Signs of Success

The best sign that you have found a path to success is increasing sales. Sales growth is a result of properly executing product development, marketing, and all the other essential areas of your business with precision in a market with high demand for your product.

Managing and developing a small business is challenging and confusing. Many entrepreneurs remain just successful enough not to go out of business; they can pay their bills and keep the doors open, but never generate enough income to thrive. The path ahead is often unclear when you’re in the early stages. A constant discussion is whether to invest more time and keep the business open in the hope of future success, or close it down and try something else that might be more successful.

As an entrepreneur, how do you recognize that moment of truth and know whether or not your business really has the potential to become massively successful?

To help you make this decision, here are a few signs that indicate your business is on the right track and has the potential to grow beyond the survival stage.

1. Customers Find You Organically or Through Referrals

In the early stages of your business, customers usually arrive as a direct result of marketing efforts. When they start appearing through referrals or by actively seeking your product or brand, it’s a good sign that you’ve got something special.

If you’re running an e-commerce business, you can determine if people are coming to your website directly, from non-paid social media channels, or via bloggers you’ve never contacted who are sending referral traffic.

In the beginning, you’ll have to work hard to earn each customer, but as you grow, you should begin to reach a stage in your business where customers come to you with much less effort.

By looking into the specifics of how you’re getting these customers, you can find new marketing channels to exploit.

Are bloggers sending you lots of traffic? Maybe more would be interested in mentioning your company if you started an affiliate program. Not only could you expand sales, but you’d be able to measure the sales they bring.

Are customers sharing your product on social media? Perhaps paid ads on these platforms would be a good idea.

Maybe people are finding your website through search engines. Knowing the keywords they’re using can help you find new opportunities to exploit as you expand your website’s reach.

Whatever the means, identifying the new ways people are finding your business can help you develop new ways to attract even more customers through these channels.

2. You Bounce Back From Growing Pains

Every business goes through tough times, but successful ones usually experience growing pains they can push through.

A good example is a content marketing agency that’s taken on so many clients so quickly that they need to hire and train new writers immediately. If a first-time entrepreneur is managing a business, he or she will probably make lots of mistakes before the company expands past this awkward stage of growth.

Growing pains usually destroy businesses that have poor management teams. Savvy entrepreneurs who start seeing uncontrollable growth will save their company by seeking advice from advisors who have experienced similar conditions. Entrepreneurs who fail usually don’t take advantage of the growth and fail to make data-driven decisions, or are unable to learn from their mistakes and lose business to their competitors.

Entrepreneurs who make mistakes during the growth stages can survive the experience. Most entrepreneurs need to experiment a bit before they find solutions that work, and when they do, this is a sign that the business is destined for success. Growing pains are a good problem to have because demand for your business is growing.

If you experience growing pains, hire slow and fire fast. Take your time when choosing who to hire, and once you hire them, make sure your new employees are adequately trained. If they are not a good fit, release them quickly and move on. When hiring your first 10 employees, it’s vital that you hire people who meet or exceed your expectations of work ethic and work quality, and who exemplify the qualities of your company’s culture.

3. Bloggers and Customers Are Talking About You Online

Let’s suppose you find that your product is mentioned frequently in blog posts, that people are reviewing your products positively online, or there are comments about your product popping up on forum sites like Quora or Reddit. In this case, you’ve got a sign that you’re onto something.

Not only does this mean you’re likely to draw referral traffic from more sources as people tell their friends, but a community is building around what you sell. People are talking to each other about why your product is so great.

If this is the case, take advantage by reading as much as you can from the people who are mentioning your product. This will help you better understand the pain points you’re helping your customers solve and may also identify new business categories you can establish. In addition, if you have any bad reviews, try to understand why the review was negative and see if you can fix these problems to improve the experience for your customers.

4. Journalists, Podcast Hosts, and Other Influencers Want to Interview You

In all stages of your business, PR outreach should be a core element of your marketing strategy. Journalists, podcasters, and bloggers in your industry can help you reach your audience in large numbers because they may already have an established network with thousands of people.

When these people reach out to you as an expert to discuss the problems they are writing about, you now have more evidence that their audience is experiencing the problems your business resolves. In addition, because journalists, bloggers, and podcasters want to address topics with strong appeal, it means there’s a sizable audience for your product.

You can take advantage of this by increasing your PR strategy. Leverage the attention to generate even more interviews. Also, pay close attention to how the journalists, bloggers, and podcasters craft their stories about you, and how widely it’s consumed. This will give you more insight into the pain points of your potential customers.

5. You Achieve Positive Cash Flow

Paying for something is negative cash flow while being paid for something is positive cash flow. If the cumulative result of all the payments in and out of your business is positive, you have achieved positive cash flow. This indicates that your company is adding to its cash reserves, has funds to expand, pay dividends to shareholders, or settle debt obligations.

Positive cash flow is the holy grail of business success. It means a company can operate entirely on the cash it generates, including paying salaries to its founders. Once this happens, you can choose to invest your profits back into your business while simultaneously improving your margins and increasing your profitability.

You Must Be All-In

If any of these opportunities become evident, it’s imperative you immediately go all-in with your business. You’ll want to fully exploit these opportunities because they are available right now, and also because opportunities are not forever. Someone else is also likely to be gifted with these opportunities, and if they are faster than you they can steal your growth.

Whenever you’re growing a business, you have to assume that another clever entrepreneur is also working 24/7 in the same niche as you, and the reality is this is probably true. If you’re not all-in and someone else is, they will likely when the race. When you’re presented with a business opportunity that has potential, take the leap of faith. Don’t hesitate and let the moment slip away; you’ll have regrets later if you let a lack of focus or wavering commitment cost you a valuable opportunity.

Khuram Dhanani
Khuram Dhanani
Khuram Dhanani
kd@softstonecapital.com