Ready, Steady, Go!
Abraham Maslow proposed that humans have a hierarchy of needs that build upon one another. When one set is fulfilled, people move to attain the next set. The base of the pyramid houses the basic physiological functions needed to live such as eating and breathing. From there it builds to safety, belonging, and esteem. You’ve reached your full potential when you reach the top of the pyramid: self-actualization.
The hierarchy of Business Goals
When building a business, you should concentrate on a different hierarchy: Survive. Sustain. Profit.
When your business is first starting out, survival is everything. Profit is a far off dream. The team does whatever it can just to exist. It’s not unusual for team members to work extreme amounts of overtime through nights and weekends. They push themselves to the limit. Every. Single. Day. When every day stops being a struggle to survive, take a moment to congratulate yourself and then get started toward the next level of success.
At the sustain stage, you must take a step back and evaluate. Start looking at the bigger picture. Your focus should expand into thinking and planning for the long-term. Your business is already up and running, now you just have to keep it going.
Moving up the pyramid causes a shift in goals and what is considered success. It is natural that some of the things you did during the survival stage will be left behind. For instance, all of the extra hours and overtime loses its necessity. Sure, time is money but don’t get ahead of yourself. Sustainability is the goal here. Continuing to overwork yourself and your employees may be temporarily profitable, but is definitely not sustainable. It is important to make decisions based on your current situation. Don’t focus on profit over sustainability or sustainability over survival.
At the top of the business pyramid of success is profit. Only once you can survive and sustain yourself can you really focus on profit. At this stage, your business decisions should support all three facets if you want it to succeed. You can afford to take more risks than at the lower levels, but do too much damage to the sustainability or survivability and you’ll be sure to fail.
Once you reach the tip of the pyramid and are working toward making your business profitable doesn’t mean you can’t regress. Take the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Set in the 1920’s, there is a run on George Bailey’s family-owned business the Building And Loan. At that moment, the business immediately drops from profit to survival. In order to keep the bank open and retain business, blank allows the patrons to withdraw whatever cash they need for the week. Depleting the cash reserve and supplementing with personal cash is neither sustainable nor profitable. It was however, what it took to survive the day.
It can be tough when you are just starting out in the business world- we know, we’ve been there too. It may seem like there is too much to do and too little time. Take it in small chunks and keep the business success pyramid in mind. Start with the basics. Survive. Sustain. Profit.