We live in an ever increasingly uncertain world. You can’t listen to the news without hearing about war-torn regions and conflicts, about the continuing global economic difficulties many countries face and about national challenges, such as the state of the NHS.
As individuals there is nothing we can do to influence these difficult and in some cases downright scary situations. But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing we can do at all.
We can reduce the uncertainty of those things that we can directly influence.
Now, this is a huge subject and way beyond the scope of this post so, seeing as I teach business owners how to build their business based on certainty and control, you shouldn’t be surprised that I’m going to focus this post on how to reduce uncertainty in your own business.
So, here are 10 Tips for increasing certainty whilst all around chaos reigns.
1. Remember your Purpose and Vision
Your business exists for a reason. You and your company are striving to achieve something and to get somewhere. Is this something/somewhere clear to you, to your people, your customers, your partners and other stakeholders?
No matter how much your business grows and evolves, your core Purpose statement will sit at its heart and be that constant you need to anchor and guide you.
A powerful Vision statement can inspire you and your people and bring you together. It will describe that ultimate destination that each year you aim to get your business closer to.
This isn’t wishy-washy stuff. These statements really can do so much including give you clarity, focus and help build your confidence and keep you going through the tough times.
2. Have a Plan
Do you have a clear, coherent strategy that will get you from where you are now to where you want to be? Do you have a top-level strategy map that is going to guide you to getting your business to the next level? Do you have a detailed strategy plan under this map that connects all you do from your purpose to your goals to your tactics?
If you don’t then you’re winging it and your business is vulnerable. If you haven’t set a route that will get your business to a targeted destination and handle any obstacles along the way then your business is essentially rudderless and you can only hope that the currents will take you to a better place and not towards the rocks.
3. Systemise Your Business
Are you struggling in your business everyday – reacting to the demands of others and solving problems? Do you get to the end of the day, tired and wondering where it went and what you actually achieved?
If you are in your business, spinning many plates then you cannot be the leader it needs set the right path and keep on it. It’s just not possible.
Successful businesses are those that work like an efficient system and, although it takes time to get a business to that stage, every step towards doing it helps. Every time you have one less plate to spin your business is stronger and you more confident and certain.
Instead of saying more on this, I’ve written 7 compelling reasons why systemizing your business should be a top priority.
4. Ask “What if?”
When the Euro was being devised, apparently the question was asked with regards to what would happen if a country’s economy suffered and they defaulted on their debts. And apparently, the idea was too horrifying and so the answer was that this would never happen. Well, guess what…
Look at all areas of your business and ask “What if?” Identify the things that could go wrong and decide how real the threat is. Now, although you can’t do anything about being struck by a meteor, you can mitigate for say, your Japanese supplier having its factory in an earthquake zone by making sure you have a 2nd source supplier.
Look at the potential internal risks; what if a key person leaves or a vital machine in the production line breaks down? Look at the potential external risks; what if a new product development misses its launch window or inspectors visit your care home? Ask “What if?” and be prepared.
Carry out a thorough risk analysis and make sure you have mitigating plans in place to reduce or eliminate these risks all together.
Focus on your strategy plan and don’t veer off course or change what you’re doing because you’ve been shown ‘a better way’ to grow your business.
If an exciting new opportunity presents itself then if necessary bring it into your plan (and drop something from the plan if you have to) but don’t simply go after it with little regard for the goals and objectives that you are already on course to meet.
Focus on getting your business running smoothly without you in it and on the strategy you have set.
There is a reason why those businesses that create and implement clear, ambitious strategies succeed – they focus all their efforts on it. They know what they need to do and why and they stay focused on doing it. There is little wasted effort and shiny, distracting objects are ignored
6. Make your Direct Competitors Irrelevant
When was the last time you asked your top customers what their needs were and how well you met them? What’s important to them and how well you meet their requirements?
Having this conversation with them will also help build your relationships because you’re showing how much you care and your determination to make a positive difference to their business.
You’ll find out where you may be under performing but you’ll also discover areas where you may be over-providing and wasting resource and energy in an area that is less important to them. Build this overall picture and you could work more effectively, deliver exactly what they need and make your competitors irrelevant.
7. Inspire and bring out the best in your people
Your people are the most important part of your business. Look after them, inspire them and bring out the best in them. Make sure your purpose, vision and mission are well understood and embraced. Make sure they know the strategy plan and how it is going to get the company (and them) to where it needs to be. Show them the big picture.
Listen to their concerns, give them a voice. When setting your new strategy plan get their input on how they think the objectives should be achieved. After all, they’re the people who will be responsible for implementing the means to meet these goals and objectives.
Make sure they know how important their role is to the overall business and how they contribute to its success.
7a – And If You Run Your Own One-person Business…
8. Be disciplined
Time is precious and irreplaceable. – don’t waste it. You actually have far less working time than you think…scarily less.
Plan what you need to achieve this year, this quarter, this month, this week, this day.
Block out the time in your diary or calendar to do things that you need to do and don’t let others or your email inbox encroach on this time.
Depending on the size of your business, set an hour or two a week to check that you’re achieving what you planned for the week. Make sure you have the following week mapped out. Set aside half-a-day each month to review progress made, check that all is well and you’re on course and what your aims are for the following month.
Plan all of this and your regular tasks in your calendar for the rest of the year and don’t stray from these times unless you really have no choice.
And don’t open your emails until you have completed the most important task of the day.
Don’t let others control your time.
Creative thinking is crucial. Innovation comes about because of it. Give yourself (and your people if you have them) time and space to think.
The difference people like Steve Jobs have made to people’s lives wouldn’t have happened without understanding the real value of creative thinking.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Steve Jobs – a speech to new students at Stanford University in 2005.
10. Admit you don’t know everything
According to a Dunn & Bradstreet report, 70% of those businesses that fail do so because the owner didn’t recognise their weaknesses or seek help.
Great leaders recognise that they don’t know everything and seek the advice and opinion of those who do. Hopefully, you’ve surrounded yourself with people who have complementary skills and knowledge whose input you should seek.
If the knowledge isn’t in your company then seek it from outside. Many start-ups fail simply because, even though they’re experts in their particular field, they don’t know how to commercialise their solution, establish a market presence and grow a business.
Don’t damage your company because your fragile ego prevents you from asking for help.
This, by no means exhaustive, list will go a long way to making your business strong. And a strong business will succeed – regardless of the turmoil that surrounds it.
Many thousands of businesses, and even household names, have disappeared during this economic crisis. But if that was the real cause of their downfall and their demise was through no fault of their own then all businesses would have struggled and likely failed. But they didn’t.
The strong ones even thrived because they…
- Had the right strategy
- Had a business that ran efficiently and effectively;
- Had strong leaders;
- Were creative and innovative;
- Delivered beyond expectation.
Because we’re surrounded by doom and gloom doesn’t mean we have to be pulled into it. Some people will use the economy as an excuse for their business failing and others for not starting the business they dream of at all.
The people that try, and maybe fail and then try again, and do the right things, are the ones who will stand out from the crowd and make their business so strong that, like Superman, forces that can harm an ordinary business will bounce right off it.
Make your business as strong as it can be and reduce as much uncertainty as possible in this analogue world we live in and your business will have every chance of succeeding.
How strong is your business? Most businesses are not strong enough – is yours? Download my new report to find out.