The 4 F’s of business
- Posted by David Gregory
Expecting a string of expletives?
Well apologies if you were and this doesn’t mean that those words might never be said. In fact, I honestly admit to uttering such words (and some many times) along my journey through what I call The 4 F’s of Business.
So why the 4 F’s?
Firstly to get your attention and secondly to present a viewpoint and brief explanation of my 4 F’s of Business – Forming, Founding, Forging and Fruiting in the sincere hope that you will get a better understanding of some truly KEY elements for your own success.
Forming – the concept stage of business.
Forming is the birth of a business or business idea, it is the excitement of new prospects and the time where dreams first meet reality.
Most people experience all the emotions of excitement, anticipation and fear at this early stage. What if it works, what if it doesn’t? How will I manage, what should I do? How do I get started, who can help me? What if I ask for help and someone steals my idea?
The next step in the Forming process is often self-doubt – you know those little voices in our heads that questions who we are to be so brave or that tells us how stupid we are to think this might work and then brings up all our past stories of failure in an attempt to get us to quit.
Whilst frustrating, tiring and often emotionally exhausting, I believe the Forming process is critical for success. It is what I call the business crucible – the melting pot of ideas, ambitions and fears that will either both cement your passion and drive for success OR burn through your idea so fast and furious that you extinguish your goal before it even gets started.
Founding – the early development stage.
Founding is the time for research, questioning, resourcing and planning.
Founding is also the time for creating business structures, testing products and services plus refining and clarifying your ideas around branding and marketing communications.
Typically people in the Founding stage make their best decisions for the future when they engage mentors, discuss issues with potential competitors and make enquiries of professional associations relevant to their field rather than adopting the more common practice of discussing their ideas with family and friends.
Why do I say this? Simply because family and friends don’t want to hurt your feelings OR are looking to protect you from the harm they fear you may come to. Others in business (mentors, competitors, professional associations) on the other hand understand business and are more likely to both hold and provide you with an objective viewpoint rather than an emotional one.
Key to the Forming stage is to be brave and ask experienced and/or successful business people for some of their time and advice. Many successful people happily share time, concepts and sometimes their contacts with people who have the courage to ask and who demonstrate their commitment to a worthwhile idea.
Forging – the work stage
Forging is the working stage of a business. As those who have been or are on the journey know, this process can take months or years depending on the scale of business being created and/or objectives of the business owner.
Forging truly is a time where every aspect of your commitment, tenacity and concepts will be tried, tried and tried again. Forging can be a time of many heartaches and sacrifices, much frustration but over and above that, immense satisfaction.
There are no short cuts in the Forging process and the reality is that Forging takes the time it needs and demands the effort it requires.
Forging a business is not for the feint hearted or for those thinking they can treat a business like a job – i.e. clock in at 9 and out at 5 and then forget about work until the next day.
Forging requires a business owner to be disciplined in HOW they develop their business as well as diligent in their management of cash flow and sales to ensure financial stability. The Forging process is also about finding, training and keeping the right team whether they are staff, contractors or out-sourced services.
Forging is also about constantly monitoring the performance of every aspect of your business and constantly making the decisions (some hard) for creating improvements and ensuring your business remains relevant to the needs of your customers.
Fruiting – the exit stage
Fruiting is, in my experience, the most forgotten stage of business development and/or business planning. It relates to the end of the business cycle and is the time where your business has achieved its goals (ripened like fruit on a tree) and you are ready to move on.
If you’re like many small business owners, most of your attention, time and energy will have gone into Founding and Forging along with making your best attempts for balancing your time and energy between business and family.
The question you now have to ask is – have you planned (or have you even considered) how you are going to exit your business?
Let’s consider the 3 most common options (there are others)…
Sell the business – probably the best option but you have to be sure your business is at a point where it is attractive for someone to buy. To get your best price and quickest sale you will have to think from the buyer’s perspective and be able to demonstrate that the business has a strong customer base, good records to prove value, provides a reasonable lifestyle income for the new owner, has good cash flow that covers all the business’s expenses, has systems in place to make taking over and running the business relatively simple and most importantly, has opportunities for the new owner to make improvements and/or capitalise on opportunities you haven’t done anything about e.g. online sales.
Pass it on to family – not a bad option PROVIDED the family members want to take the business over and have the appropriate passion/skills to make it work. If this is your option of choice (and the preferred choice of a family member) you will have to create a succession strategy and be prepared to get out of the way of your heirs so they can make their own mark on the business in the same way they would had they bought it as a stranger.
Shut up shop and walk away – probably the least favoured option but sometimes necessary – particularly for those in service businesses where the business revolves around the owners’ direct involvement and reputation. Also necessary if you can’t find a buyer and have no one in the family willing to take it over. If this is likely to be your only option we suggest you make plans early about how you will provide for your ‘retirement years’ and start as early as you possibly can.
In wrapping up, I can only suggest you take some time to think about these 4 F’s (and yes, I will understand if you may want to use a few different ones at this point). Most importantly, make a start on planning for your own Fruiting time.
At the end of the day, you can do what most have done before you – i.e. nothing and wonder how to get out of a mess OR you can emulate the few and most successful who take the positive steps of working through the 4 F’s and who create a healthy harvest for when the Fruiting time comes.
Article by Anthony M Turner – Anthony is a business coach, mentor, author and speaker on business topics who has a passion for helping others achieve THEIR best.
Anthony has delivered over 1000 workshops, written 3 business related books and personally assisted several thousand small business owners get off their business hamster wheels and back into the dreams they held both for themselves and their families. He is also a Founding Director of The Small Business Institute.