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Why Your House and Your Business Need A Solid Foundation

foundation.jpgMany of the days I work with clients seem to have themes around them. Yesterday was no exception.

The clients I advised yesterday were dealing with the same issues. While each of their businesses had some success, none had the foundation stabilize and sustain their growth.

Having a solid foundation is as important to your business as it is to your home. Can you build a house without a foundation? Sure you can. You can erect the walls, place the roof and move in – and even live comfortably for a short time. But at some point, the bad weather you face could knock your house down. And at the very least sun, wind, rain and snow will erode the earth under your walls, making them ever weaker.

Your business is the same way in that it’s only as strong as the foundation you build it on. Building a strong foundation to run your business on will give you the stability to grow long-term while sustaining shifts in the weather. A weak foundation, on the other hand, leaves you vulnerable in ways that can disrupt and even collapse your business.

Most small business owners seldom think about the foundation of their business. They focus on vision, branding, and target audience. They write their tag line, craft their marketing message and go out to find customers. And early on they’re often successful finding people to buy what they have to sell.

Then, one of two things happen: Either sales continue to increase and they grow very fast, or sales decrease slowing their growth to a crawl. In either situation it’s the strength of their foundation that will get them through.

So what is this foundation all about? With a house, a foundation is the concrete footers, steel rebar and cinder blocks which securely ties our house to the ground. A well fitted foundation makes our house much, much stronger than the house built directly on the earth.

Well, a business foundation is similar. But rather than using concrete and steel we use systems and procedures. For instance, how you manage invoicing and accounting is part of your foundation. As is how you manage your other daily, weekly and monthly business tasks.

Moreover, it’s also how you structure you’re business day – how you get things done. How your prioritize the limited time you have to run, market and do your business. And one of the biggest foundational pieces is how you do your business. How do you structure, for instance, client appointments and communication. How do you respond to phone calls and emails. And how do you manage your deliverables. All of this creates the foundation to your business.

So in essence, you can say that the foundation of your business is all the structure you build into your business that allows you to do your business effectively – and for a profit. So if your business isn’t generating the revenue you’d like, or if it is but you can’t keep up with the pace, you need to look at the foundation and see where it may be weak.

And if you find a weak foundation, no problem. Just get help identifying what’s weak and strengthen it. No need to stop doing business or start over. Just start where you are and make the necessary adjustments. Or as Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

So what’s working in your business structure? What’s not? And what do you know needs to be sured up in your foundation?

(note: image from mmmmmbreed on Flickr)

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  1. Very well written post Dawud. The Henry D Thoreau quote is a gem.

  2. Dawud,
    Amazing to find this post. I publish a monthly e-newsletter called DesignDetails to clients and prospects. Last month the core topic was ‘foundations.’ The ‘foundations’ I spoke of had to do with the foundation that businesses have with their web communications, be it websites, blogs, etc. Using the argument that basing these important business tools on anything other than a solid, well thought out foundation can and will cause headaches down the road. Not to mention the added cost of re-engineering what is already built.
    Thanks for taking the idea of foundations to another level.

  3. I agree with your post! If a business has a good foundation, whatever challenges come, you will still overcome.

  4. Home Recording,
    Thanks. I’m a long-time Thoreau lover.

    Absolutely. I’m always intrigued by businesses that gain success and then loose it because they don’t put the proper pieces in place to sustain it. Why do you think this happens?

    Well, at least you may overcome. Some challenges may shut a business down. But at least a strong foundation gives you a fighting chance.

  5. Building a good foundation for you business also gives you the ability to recover or start over much more easily, if you DO happen to encounter one of those challenges that exceeds your ability to keep the current one going.

    PS – Thanks for the link 🙂

  6. Hi Dawud,
    To answer your question:
    “I’m always intrigued by businesses that gain success and then loose it because they don’t put the proper pieces in place to sustain it. Why do you think this happens?”

    I think it may result due to a few things.

    1. Inexperience
    They just plain don’t know what to plan for or expect combined with either a sense of overwhelm, or a lack of interest in researching new or known ways of doing things.
    I think this falls into “things you don’t know that you don’t know” category.

    2. Stubbornness
    Thinking that they do know what it takes and that they have what they need to sustain their current model. They tend to shun advice or counsel of others.

    3. Resource Poor
    They may know that they need something, but do not have either the ability to find it (not knowing what to ask), know anyone who can be a physical presence and help, or have the financial resources to accomplish what they need.

    4. Information Overload
    I think we all experience this. When you do find information to address your need typically its too much. How do you evaluate it? What is good and tested? Which is speculative and unsure? If you don’t know, how do you figure it out. Meanwhile, you have a business to run. 🙂

    Do you have any to add?

  7. love the house vs business relation. solid foundation is indeed paramount. do you have any specific examples of businesses which managed to identify their weakness and strengthen it?

  8. A business with good foundation lasts long! You should implement best business strategies and you don’t be afraid to take the risk!

  9. Good advise – especially about communication procdeures. I’ve lost count of the times now that we’ve picked up business simply becauase we were the only company who either picked up the phone or responded to email quickly.

  10. Great post. I have been running my business for about 8 months now and before that I was in school and working for someone else. I see now how and why procedures/policy’s are made. It keeps you organized and like you said builds a foundation to start from. If your home is strong you can always go back. If this makes any sense.

  11. I think businesses that first succeed mail also fail not because they don’t put in place the structure to support it, but because they forget how vital that structure is to their success… it’s like the IT or telecom department in a large business: you forget them and their importance until something breaks.

  12. What you call foundations reminds me of the systems and procedures discussed in the book called E-myth…

    Have you read that book?

  13. Skip Anderson says:

    You mention that many companies focus on “vision” and “branding” and “target audience” at the expense of building a foundation.

    I agree. I also think that many companies don’t even spend sufficient time on those issues. They are instead chasing immediate revenue, thinking that “vision” and “branding” and determining a “target audience” is somehow a secondary requirement, they instead chase immediate sales revenue.

    Now, as a business owner, I know revenue is the lifeblood of the organization, so I’m not naive. But in chasing immediate revenue all the time, companies ignore the opportunity to develop the foundation that you refer to.

    I agree that this “foundation” goes well beyond vision and branding and determining a target market, but I think we are living in an age of short-term thinking in the business world, and a healthy dose of long-term planning (“foundation building,” if you will) would help build revenue exponentially, resulting in a better far better revenue position in the long run.

  14. Anonymous Surfer says:

    Just to add to some of your great points, but automation has been a big key to my success. If a task can be automated, then do it. It will free up your time to focus on the more important issues that are affecting your particular endeavor.

  15. Electric guitars says:

    Well, you have a point. I know somebody with over 40 years in business that says he never gets to the next level until the current one is fully secured. Good strategy, I’d say!

  16. Wooden Drink Coasters says:

    Dawud Miracle has carried out the fact issue. I am completely agree with you.

    Thanks for the nice piece

  17. Yeah right. Good strategy is very important in doing business, that would determine one’s earning big or small.

  18. Forumistan says:

    The Henry D Thoreau quote is a gem. You’re right.

  19. Very Very nice post………

  20. Computer Repair says:

    I’ve been helping a friend start and run a company for two years. Hes stubborn and won’t listen when I say he needs a business plan and he needs to stick with whats on paper. I mean this guy almost dumped his successful business to sell goji juice. Give me a break. Write down what you want and how your going to get it and why you think it will work then stick to it and STAY FOCUSED.

  21. I agree with Jason completely. Many organizations have crashed just because they did not bother to have a strong foundation.

  22. Forumistan says:

    Henry David Thoreau’s quote is great…

  23. Real Estate Foundation says:

    Reminds of the scripture where Jesus says “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

  24. Nice post! Foundation is key

  25. Flat roofs says:

    That was a great analogy you used to describe the importance of building a foundation for a small business. It’s much like a building where you have to start from the ground up. That’s a great way to look at it.

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