“No man ever steps in the same river twice.” (Heraclitus)
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus may not have been an entrepreneur, but some of his teachings sure do capture the world of startups.
One of my former business partners liked to say that being an entrepreneur reminded him of being a shark. If you don’t keep swimming forward, you will die.
Businesses Must Move Forward
The entrepreneur’s world is like the river described by Heraclitus. Change is inevitable. And change is a constant. Entrepreneurs must never forget that the same changes and disruptions that helped create an opportunity for them at their launch will continue long after they open their doors. If they are not ready to adapt, the change that created the opportunity could eventually lead to their business’s demise. Change in the competitive and macro environments are continuous like the flowing river, creating the need for pivots to the business model throughout the life of most businesses.
Even being a first mover in a new market does not guarantee that you’ll control that market. New competitors will see the opportunity you discovered and come in to take market share from you. You will need to sharpen your business model to ensure you continue to meet the needs of your market and offer the value they seek.
Customers’ needs and preferences evolve and change. You must keep up with these changes and be ready for new expectations. We certainly saw significant changes in customer expectations after COVID.
Demographic changes also create the need for pivots in business models. For example, and one that is near and dear to my heart, Boomers are creating a boom in the construction of 55+ communities. For example, Pulte Homes identified the potential in this market more than a decade ago and now is building communities for aging boomers nationwide.
Entrepreneurs Must Move Forward
Business models are not the only aspect of entrepreneurship that demand change. Entrepreneurs themselves also cannot stand still.
The job description of the entrepreneur constantly evolves and expands to meet the needs of their growing business. Entrepreneurs need to learn and grow as leaders of their businesses.
Entrepreneurs and their teams are prone to boredom and burnout as the business becomes established and professionalized. Even a busy entrepreneur can become bored. Many of us who are drawn to entrepreneurship are drawn to the excitement of the startup. This includes the founders and their founding team members. Once the business is up and running and the founders now have to manage an established company, many entrepreneurs report feeling bored, stagnant, or stuck.
For other entrepreneurs, where the business ends up is inconsistent with their vision. Early on, we often do everything and anything that the market wants from us, sort of an “anything for a buck” strategy. Building a strong market presence eventually requires pruning the offering to the market and focusing on a more specific target customer.
For example, Susan and Jen faced this inflection point in their business, J’s BBQ. Susan describes it like this:
“We’ve always known this part (the brick and mortar) of our brand is not something we planned on doing long-term. We want a better balance for our family, while the brand continues to grow. Reconfiguring our balance is where we’re at right now.
“Our demand has once again exceeded our kitchen’s capacity, and our family’s needs continue to persist. In order to put our next plan into place, we need to shift gears. If you become stagnant or trapped as an entrepreneur, if your current business plan reaches a plateau…you’ve lost the momentum and everyone feels it.” (“Jen, Susan, and Jadon,” Entrepreneurial Voices).
Entrepreneurship is a journey of change and evolution.
“Nothing endures but change.” (Heraclitus)