The first taste of success is exhilarating. All the hard work is finally paying off. Your vision, meticulously planned out and deftly executed, is coming to fruition. A product you created from nothing is being used and liked by your customers. However, while the uncertainty, sleepless nights, and countless rejections are mostly behind you, it is not the time to become too confident in your plans.

It happens way too often that after achieving market validation and acceptance, many companies get comfortable with their current trajectory and spend the majority of their time merely operating their business. Unfortunately, in doing so they neglect to consider and refine long-term goals which might have significantly changed since the company was founded. Such an approach is short-sighted. Not only can the company miss substantial growth opportunities, but more critically it can lose its competitive edge either because the customer needs have changed and thus are no longer addressed, or because the competition has launched a better product or service offering or an aggressive marketing campaign to capture its market share.

Despite the success of your plan to date, it is imperative to be vigilant of trends and events which may require your plans to evolve, and to remain keenly focused on the plan itself to identify areas of improvement. Below are some of the key areas where change, whether sudden or gradual, may hugely impact the company’s long-term prospects.

Demand: Know your customer. The customers’ needs and wants are always changing - as new technologies emerge, tastes evolve, their businesses undergo transformation in response to internal or external drivers, or the regulatory environment changes. By monitoring any demand fluctuations caused by micro-economic factors, you can adjust your product or service offering accordingly and thus stay relevant.

Competition: As Sun Tsu famously said in the “Art of War”, “if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.” Put yourself in your competitors’ shoes - what can they do to weaken your competitive edge, steal your market share, or even disrupt the industry? Would it hurt you if your competitors changed their market positioning, invested into developing new products, expanded into new territories, modified a pricing strategy, or launched a hostile acquisition bid? Staying vigilant by monitoring what your competitors are doing, and figuring out what they should be doing, can help you anticipate any adverse moves and either preempt them or put a mitigation strategy in place in case they do come to pass.

Long-Term Goals: When you started your company you had a long-term goal in mind. It’s important to evaluate whether you still have the same goal, or whether it has changed, or should change, given the current state of the industry, internal needs and dynamics, demand shift, and economic climate. If the goals have changed, you should evaluate how to adjust your near-term strategy to ensure you are still on the path to achieve them within a desired timeframe. This analysis will help you to identify, evaluate and take advantage of any new opportunities that come along, and forego those that don’t fit with your long-term vision.

To learn more about how to model an early-stage-venture and identify key business metrics to monitor, check out Course # 2.

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