Five years, it doesn't seem like a long time. Five years into something means you have gotten past the initial start. For fifth wedding anniversaries the traditional gift is wood because wood symbolized strength and stability. But for small businesses five years means that they are part of the 50% who survived. For a small business that is up and running after five years there is another that did not make it.
Next month will be our firms fifth anniversary. We are part of the 50% who survived. Has it been easy, H-E double hockey sticks NO! It has taken a lot of work and a lot of growth. Have our plans or business model been modified over the five years, yes. Have we survived due to my awesome leadership, no. What has helped us is that we are a virtual accounting/CFO office to other small businesses. Our firm helps others run their business so we do for ourselves what we do for our clients. It is rare since for small businesses running their business is a different mindset and a second job to the services they provide to clients. While there are many blogs and online articles as to what small business owners have learned each appears to have learned different things. What have we learned in the last five years?
1) Don't forget to fly the plane - running a business is like flying a plane. There is a lot going on, if you narrowly focus on one warning light or one switch, you will not see the other warning lights and switches and you forget that you still have to fly the plane. You have to learn to be able to zero in on problems and issues but not lose sight of the big picture.
2) Plans can't be written in stone - You can write up your business plan and work out all of the details, but they can't be written in stone. In this day and age where things can change so quickly you have to be flexible and able to adopt to changes in your environment and industry or take advantage of new tools.
3) You will be stretched and challenged - I have learned a lot in the last five years and have learned skills that I could not have imagined having five years ago. I am still introverted as most financial/accounting people are but have had to learn the art of the elevator speech, call to action, building and growing a brand.
4) It's a sprint not a race - It's a long journey, there isn't a finish line and there isn't a race to reach ten years, fifteen years or any of the other anniversaries.
5) I would do it all over again - knowing what I know now, I would still do this. The work, the time, the challenges pale in comparison to what I have learned, how I have grown and what we have built and created.
So after five years we can relax, right? No, based on data only 1/3 of all small businesses survive ten years out. We have to keep moving and keep doing the right things to keep going. Perhaps we will lucky enough to share what we have learned by our ten year anniversary.
Thanks for your interest and we hope to continue to have meaningful conversations.