Small business strategy question: What is it about your business or industry that keeps you awake at night?

In a previous blog post, I listed 100 small business strategy questions that an entrepreneur can answer to help them grow their business successfully. Question #100 was: “What is it about your business or industry that keeps you awake at night?

Before I talk about the answers you might have, I want to first say this: If NOTHING about your business or industry keeps you awake at night then you should be very, very worried. I say this because the moment we become complacent, we become vulnerable. Just because nothing keeps you awake at night doesn’t mean there are no threats. It means you’re not seeing them. Unexpected threats are the worst ones. So, if nothing keeps you awake at night, take a very careful look at your business, your industry, and short- and long-term trends of your target market to see where you should be worried. I promise you that something is lurking on the horizon that will threaten to derail or even destroy your business.

Now that I have that warning out of the way, let’s talk about what might keep you awake at night.

WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?

Hopefully you are worried about something in your business or industry. I say this because it probably means that you are paying attention to it. Now it’s time to be intentional about thinking about it and dealing with it.

Here are some tips to do that:

  1. Look at the issue from different angles. The “PEST” acronym is useful here – consider the political, economic, social, and technological changes that are impacted by the thing that keeps you up at night.
  2. Articulate the issue. The more clearly you articulate the issue, the better. It doesn’t matter how big the issue seems to you. Spend the time to figure it out. By writing it down, you’ll develop some clarity about it. It might end up being bigger or smaller than what you thought.
  3. If you haven’t done so, write down the causes, the short-term impact, and the long-term impact. For example, in my business, there is a trend toward getting marketing content written by offshore who might appear more cost effective. The causes might include a pressure for profitability in increasingly tightened budgets, as well a misunderstanding of the role of different types of content and whether all content or only specific pieces of content can be offshored.
  4. Consider the implications to you, to your competitors, and to your customers – remember that there are often positive and negative implications so try to consider them all.
  5. Use a tool like the Blue Ocean Strategy to help you find new ways to compete in what will eventually become a new reality in your business. Even if this new reality is a year or two or five down the road, spend some time thinking about how you can shift to be more competitive in that new reality.
  6. Start laying the foundation of your solution today – even if the actual trend won’t hit for a while yet. When it does, you’ll be ready.

When something keeps you up at night, that’s a good thing. It’s your brain telling you to keep an eye on your rear-view mirror because something is coming up behind you that could seriously impact your business. And now, you can do something about it!

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