Being in business is a journey. We grow, we stumble, we learn. If we are lucky, every day brings a chance to develop skills and attitudes, strategies and tactics.
At Upland, we distinguish four stages along the journey where change is greatest, and so, of course, are the risks: startup, growth, exit and succession. It’s in these transition phases that we all need the most support and advice. It’s in these times that we may feel as though it’s all a bit out of control.
Here’s a thought for you: at Upland we’re here to walk this journey with you. Our strategy is to offer help at each stage.
A startup business may be the next Atlassian, or it may be your family’s daily bread. Either way, it’s a time of vulnerability, rapid learning and false starts. There is a strong startup ecosystem in the regions, partly because so much of the innovation in business has always come from the regions. At the same time, the habit of self-reliance can be too strong for our own good.
A typical weakness at startup stage is a lack of clear strategy. You’ll need help to get your thinking clear, since by definition this is all new.
Growth means planned, substantial growth. The best measure is not sales or profit, but owner equity – the throwaway line on the balance sheet. Growing that requires getting a lot of things right, at the same time.
You’ll need good peer support – people who get where you are. You’re on your way also to needing more formalised support, such as an advisory board, and, in time, a governance board.
Exit is selling that owner equity. The owners of many small businesses today are not going to find a buyer, or at best they are going to be sadly disappointed. A profitable exit is a multi-year project of working on, not just in, the business.
Succession is like exit, except it’s about transition of a family business to the next generation. This has its own perils and complications. If there’s one truth in that TV show, it is that the combination of a family system and a business system makes for a very, very complex beast!
Challenging, isn’t it? It’s no accident that the four dynamic phases are when business owners have most need of wise independent advice.