How to Keep Your Competitive Edge

Business, markets, and customer demand are constantly changing.

To stay in business and maintain a competitive edge, it’s critical to adapt to these changes, no matter where you are on your entrepreneurial journey.  

Recently, I posted a poll in the “Nurse Practitioners in Business” Facebook Group, asking, “How long have you been in business?”

But before I share the results, a big “Thank You” for your participation and input!

And now, here are the numbers…

Just starting                 24%

Less than 1 year           16%

1-3 years                       31%

3-5 years                       7%

5-10 years                    13%

Over 10years                9%

Based on your feedback, most of you have been in practice for one to three years, or you’re just starting.

Congratulations; pat yourself on the back!

Because no matter where you are in the process, starting a private practice is a significant achievement!

Whether you’re working through the startup phase or made it through, your business will eventually enter its growth phase.

You see, business, like everything else in life, moves in cycles. There is a startup, a growth, and a maturity phase, followed by a decline and/or renewal phase. And as your business moves through each phase, it’s essential to maintain your competitive edge.

The length of each phase depends on many variables, including industry, business model, strategy, market conditions, competition, and regulations affecting the business, to name a few.

An Example…

Take Apple, Inc. as an example…

Startup Phase: 1970s to mid-1980s. The company was founded in 1976, with the Apple I as the first product. Soon after, the Apple II was released and found significant acceptance and success.

Growth Phase: Late 1980s to 2000s. Apple released the Macintosh and, eventually, the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

Maturity Phase: around 2010 to present. While the company still enjoys growth, it does so on a smaller scale than in the previous phase.

The iPhone lineup is expanding. They’ve added wearable tech like the Apple watch and offer services like Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Store. Apple is diversifying and investing in new technologies to initiate a new growth phase.

Is it silly to look at a company like Apple as an example?

Some may think so. However, it’s far easier to identify distinct business cycles in a big company than in a small business.

But make no mistake, business cycles apply to every business, regardless of size.

And therefore, it’s likely that the startup phase of your practice will be different from its growth phase.

You can think of it like this…

Your First Plant…

Starting and running a business is like growing a plant.

At first, you’re doing your best to help the seeds germinate and strong roots to develop so that the plant will start to grow… that’s your startup phase.

Once you have roots and the leaves start growing, you shift your focus to creating conditions that help the plant grow bigger and stronger so it can withstand expected adverse conditions, bugs, extreme weather, invasive species… that’s your growth phase.

In a nutshell, the startup phase is about establishing your business and proving it has a place in the market, while the growth phase is about taking that established business and expanding its reach, impact, and ROI (return on investment).

The big takeaway here is to be aware that the goals and focus of the business shift with each business cycle.

And to maintain a competitive edge, each phase requires different strategies, mindsets, and resources.

The Growth Phase:

As your business enters its growth phase, your objectives are shifting.

When you started your business, you focused on establishing the business, but now you concentrate on ensuring sustained profitability and some degree of managed growth.

As your business moves through the growth phase, you’ll notice your focus changes in several areas of your business, including:

  • Financial: Now that your revenue is more predictable, financial challenges shift from survival to increasing profitability.
  • Operations: Processes become more defined and streamlined. Repeatable systems are developed and put in place.
  • Technology: You may invest in new technology to improve productivity, offer additional services, and enhance the patient’s experience.  
  • Patient Base: Your patient base is growing. Your focus shifts from finding new patients to how to retain current ones.
  • Team: You may start to hire employees and expand your current team.
  • Diversification: You may explore expanding and adding additional services or products to your current offering.
  • Risk Management: Consider conducting regular internal audits to ensure compliance and identify potential vulnerabilities or violations in your practice. Be proactive!  
  • Contingency Planning: Create backup plans for different scenarios… including financial downturns, disaster preparedness, technological and operational disruptions, and other unforeseenevents.  
  • Strategic Planning: Review and re-evaluate; regularly revisit your business plan to evaluate its relevancy. Update and revise it as needed. Have a clear vision of where you want your practice to be in the next three, five, or even ten years. Also, think about how you would like to exit your business.
  • Marketing: You may increase your existing marketing efforts. Explore new marketing channels, update your website, start a newsletter, publish content relevant to your patients, and give public talks, all to increase the number of patients coming to your practice.
  • Branding: As your practice grows, consider developing or strengthening your brand identity to set yourself apart from competitors in your area. Create a unique and strong USP, a byline, and use it in all your marketing materials.

The startup phase, the first few months to years, is foundational for most businesses. Through building a solid foundation and reputation, businesses can thrive and provide valuable products and services to their communities.

But once businesses enter their growth phase, business owners must shift their focus to ensure sustained growth and profitability and maintain their competitive edge.

To remain competitive, increase profitability, and stay in business for the long term, business owners must broaden their attention to include:

  • More Strategic Planning
  • Increasing Operational Efficiency
  • Greater Customer Retention
  • Improved Financial Management
  • Increased Marketing and Branding
  • Focused Risk Management
  • Broad Contingency Planning
  • Better Team Building

Growing your business is an ongoing process, and the market environment is ever-changing. Each phase of your business requires you to consider different strategies, mindsets, and resources.

Be proactive and stay adaptable in your business. As much as possible, pay close attention to internal operations and external market dynamics to ensure continued growth and profitability and maintain your competitive edge.

Please let us know what you think… where are you along your business journey? Leave us a comment below…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}