By Amanda Weathersby, Partner, The Profitable Idea LLC
A pair of Osprey live above my house in a large nest made of sticks nestled into branches of a sweetgum tree. As I’m writing this, they are talking loudly about reinforcing the nest, being hungry, or about frightening off predatory birds (including other Osprey) who want to take over their ideal spot. Reminds me of more than a few business meetings. That got me thinking.
Ospreys, unlike most small businesses, typically live for about 10 years. Their life cycle is a struggle. Every year, they migrate about 4,200 miles to South America in the winter, then back again to their birthplace in the US or Canada from March through November. One of them has to protect their biggest asset, the nest, while the other has to hunt enough fish to feed both parents and any chicks. One study says that diving Osprey catch a fish 8 out of 10 times they try for one. That’s important because each adult Osprey eats several large fish per day.
Small business owners struggle, too. They have to build a business out of thin air. That takes imagination, money, acquiring new skills, wearing many hats, endless time, lots of energy, and the ability to solve problem after problem, after problem. Stamina is important – like flying 4,200 miles twice a year.
Once the business is built, owners need to protect their asset. A new restaurant opens, and a leaky pipe creates water damage to the freshly painted wall. The computer that survived the startup won’t make it through to break even. The first employee quits. Time to reinforce the nest, which costs money that wasn’t in the budget.
Many businesses start without any forecast of how many prospects they will need to make each sale and the revenue required to sustain their business. Fortunately, like the Osprey’s success with catching fish, there are studies showing how many prospects it takes. And it’s more than you think. On average, not even 1 prospect out of 10 buys from the small business. And remember, you have to feed the business, plus the business owner, employees, and don’t forget the families!
Osprey almost went extinct, but DDT, the pesticide causing their birth rates and likelihood of survival to plummet, was outlawed in the US and Canada in 1972. Since then, they have made a remarkable comeback!
Recessions and pandemics cause small businesses to perish at high rates. But like the Osprey, they can make a comeback, with the right tools and support to understand out how to build their businesses with the best chances of sustainability.
Amanda Weathersby, and Cynthia Flanders are Co-Leaders for the Profitable Idea LLC, which is now online!
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