Tolstoy wrote, in the opening to Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” While this is an invaluable insight about successful family life, it’s also equally true as an observation about winning companies. Such companies tend to share certain characteristics. From successful start-ups to mature businesses with $100 million in annual revenues, the fundamentals of business development are identical.

There are five of them:

Clearly Defined Concept

An idea for a new business, or for the expansion of an existing one, is like a commuter bus. It comes and goes. A concept is something that has been forensically explored for validity and sustainability – typically through a combination of competitive and cost analysis, and robust financial forecasting. Confusing a good idea with a tested concept is a fast road to disaster.

Rigorous Financial Forecasting

Getting the numbers right is fundamental to business building. An opportunity is not an opportunity until it has been subjected to – often brutal – levels of financial scrutiny. Such scrutiny applies with equal force to start-up costs and mid to long-term financial forecasting. The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. In business building, financial logic trumps emotion – almost always.

Comprehensive Approach To Costs

Whether you are contemplating a start-up or an expansion of an existing business, accurately estimating initial costs is crucial. Most of these costs will be incurred before the start-up or business expansion is running and has yet to generate a revenue stream necessary to offset them. Inevitably, business development costs are part of an integrated financial forecasting plan.

Robust Marketing Strategy

We live in a world of digital (online) marketing, a discipline that is far less costly to manage, faster to execute, and more accurate to track than traditional media. A successful digital marketing campaign, driven by an imaginative social media strategy, can be executed by a core team subcontracting key marketing functions (creative development, for example) to competent third parties.

A Team Trained To Execute

You can’t build a business building without impeccable execution. Winning leaders know that a strong culture of teamwork is their most crucial competitive advantage. Results-oriented leaders recognize that team building depends on discipline, knowledge, warmth, and inspiration.