Recently, I was sitting in an establishment that had been in
operation for more than 100 years. This got me thinking, "What is a
business doing so well that they experience that kind of
As business owners, we are so focused on a day-to-day basis
thinking about all the tasks we have to complete. We rarely have
time to reflect on what we are doing well or what other successful
businesses are doing to prosper and succeed in the long run. How do
you know if your business is going to be profitable and stand the
test of time? What systems and procedures do you have in place to
support your business, grow your team and adjust with the
ever-changing demands of the business landscape?
It is a big job to narrow down all of the secrets to longevity and
an even bigger job to sort them by industry type, but I think there
are a few commonalties worth mentioning. I have listed three key
characteristics I have observed in place in organizations that have
been doing business successfully for many years.
Architecture: This does not mean the aesthetics of your facility
(although we do know this is important, too). Consider the
foundation and the structure of the organization itself. Was the
organization built on strong values and guiding principles? Are
they represented by management and leadership? Are the values
illustrated in a mission statement and their importance emphasized
to all team members? Beyond that, are those principles reflected in
the policies and procedures that provide the daily structure? As I
studied this 108-year-old building, I admired the straightness of
the brick and the perfect line of the roof, a testament to its
Identity: One of the most common mistakes businesses starting out
make is trying to be all things to all people. This is particularly
common in smaller communities where you don't have the walk-in
market to build a niche clientele. I am not suggesting becoming a
specialty store or seeking out a niche market. Instead, decide who
you are as an organization, who you will most profitably serve, be
the best you can be at it and be unapologetic about it. This
doesn't mean you want to be inflexible; adjust to new information
accordingly but focus your energy on your ideal customer and serve
them well. It will pay off.
Consistency: It is great that you have determined a profitable
market, offered a viable product or service and have delivered an
exceptional customer experience. Now it's time to ensure that
pattern is repeated. If you observe businesses that have
experienced long-term success, you will see they are those you can
count on to deliver value and service every time. The beauty of
consistency is that once you have a solid foundation and structure
in place, and focus on your core competency, the consistent
delivery of value and outstanding service follows suit somewhat
There are many things we can learn from our fellow business owners.
However, experience shows me that business architecture, identity
and consistency combined have helped many successful businesses
thrive even during the toughest times.
Johnston-Gingrich has been a business owner in the Lewis-Clark
Valley for more than 15 years. She works as an independent trainer
and consultant and is an adjunct faculty member with Lewis-Clark
State College's Business division. She may be contacted at email@example.com.
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