“We cannot predict the future. But we can create it.” – Jim Collins

Every Fortune 500 firm today started in some shape or form as a small business – an idea in the mind of an entrepreneur. It’s no wonder that small businesses are the lifeblood of US commerce yet many do not survive, especially past the crucial first five years. Through my 30 years of experience working with many small to global corporations, I have realized that the “first 5” are the “make or break” for any organization starting out.

Based on my professional involvement in assisting and consulting small businesses on how to grow and thrive, I have outlined five things every business owner should consider in getting past the crucial “first 5”:

1.    Stay True to Your Mission & Vision

One of the most difficult decisions you may encounter in trying to grow your business quickly is being true to your original intent and vision. If your focus shifts to your competition’s changing products or services, this could lead to a slow, dangerous move away from what made your business special in the first place. A vision and mission statement enables organizations to change processes, tactics, etc. in response to a changing marketplace, without ever changing who they are at the core. It enables them to know what should not change.

2.    Know & Relentlessly Focus on Key Needs of Your Customer

There is strong empirical evidence linking high growth companies to high customer
satisfaction scores. No mystery there, yet many companies do not have a relentless focus on their customers nor a willingness to make decisions based on the value created for
 them. Many organizations are too internally focused. A focus on the key and ever- changing needs of your customer needs to be ingrained in your company’s culture and a part of what you do every day.

3.    Understand How to Create & Grow Financial Value

Warren Buffet has said, “If you buy things you do not need, soon you will have to sell things you need.” Be sure to focus investments in your business based on what creates value for your customers. Spend more on your sales force, marketing and R&D if that will best serve your customers and provide the greatest value in return. Allocate capital for new products, services or customer solutions to best service and attract new customers. Your customers are your source of profits and the foundation of future growth.

4.    Keep Your Team Aligned via Continuous Feedback & Communication

As you focus on your company’s vision and mission, and customer needs, you must keep your team aligned and focused as well, especially in the midst of changes or chaos. You must take deliberate steps to inform your team. Think about what you want to communicate and the best channels to get your message across – verbal, written, etc. Be sure to contact influential stakeholders personally and make yourself available to confirm any statements or answer any questions. Maintain a continuous feedback loop and make it a part of your everyday culture.

5.    Make Adjustments as Necessary & Keep Moving Forward

As an entrepreneur, your business will continue to encounter challenges well after you have launched your business. Sometimes, your business will need to go “sideways” before it can move forward. Successful entrepreneurs understand success is not usually linear but you must continue to adjust and re-adjust your business in order to drive forward and make progress towards your goals. If you have to, seek a mentor when you have hit a roadblock or “turn in the road” in order to know what to do next.

Remember, most major firms started out small and at a minimum handled the five points I mentioned successfully.

Don’t hold back. Be Great!

Author Terry Trayvick is the CEO and Founder of Level Five LLC. Level Five is committed to bringing clients the best approaches to business management across all disciplines – from strategy to execution – for the expressed purpose of driving breakthrough results. The company’s mission is to partner with clients to supplement their industry experience and knowledge with world class management systems to help deliver the results deserved. Simply stated, the company brings world class management to world class ideas