Parents try to provide their children with a safe, nurturing environment. They offer advice and guidance as the kids develop and grow, and they help them learn to stretch their limits without taking dangerous risks. Parents do all of this with the hope that by the time children leave the nest they are mature enough to be successful on their own.
Like our children, our businesses also need nurturing, guidance, and risk management if they are to become healthy and successful. And, as with children, measuring progress—in this case, toward business maturity—isn’t always easy. Is maturity defined by size? Age? Profitability? The following are key elements to consider when evaluating business maturity.
1. Sense of purpose
A mature business lives by its mission statement, and it’s clear where the business is heading. One of the most difficult issues is aligning the mission and vision of the leaders of a business. Often the owner has a strong vision and purpose that is not understood and shared by all. This misalignment reduces overall effectiveness.
2. Sweet spot
Most companies don’t really know the profile of their ideal client or the type, size, duration, or location of their most profitable project. A mature business knows its sweet spot and knows what it does best, and it develops systems and processes around that.
3. Hungry but not desperate
I heard this from a friend in a different context, but it fits business very well. Hunger is a strong incentive, but desperation leads to hiring the wrong people and taking on the wrong jobs for the wrong clients. It’s risky and it corrupts the processes that create delighted clients.
4. Balanced perspective
In a mature business, leaders plan for the short, medium, and long term. They make sure today is on track, prepare for 30 to 90 days out, and invest planning time into next year and beyond.
5. Ability to predict
Accurate prediction is a blend of science and art. None of us has a crystal ball, but leaders of mature businesses are right more often than their counterparts at less-mature businesses because they take many factors into account, including data, history, trusted advisers, and market knowledge.
6. Consistent profit
In any business, profit is essential to the ability to create opportunities for all. But in many companies, profit is a surprise that’s discovered after the fact. In a mature business, profit is not at all mysterious; it is predictable and sustainable.
7. Positioned for growth
Many businesses suffer growing pains because they grow by accident. For example, they may hire additional salespeople without putting the right sales management structure in place. A mature business makes a smooth transition because it gets the people, the product, and the processes set before moving to the next level.