Everyday you face something that can seriously impact the success of your business and you probably give it little thought.
Everyday you face something that can seriously impact the success of your business and you probably give it little thought.
There are only 7 steps you need to follow to successfully grow your business. “Is that all?” Yep. But these are pretty big steps that require a lot of thought and attention.
If you follow these steps you will know where you want to take your business, the route to take and how to stay on course. These steps make up 1 vital element a successful business needs. To successfully implement all 7 there are 2 other, equally vital elements you need.
If you read my last couple of posts, you know that you have far less time than you originally thought and that in fact more than half of your productive year has already gone.
It’s vital therefore, that every productive hour is focused on driving your business forward to wherever it is you want it to be.
So, the next question is… where do you want your business to be?
The purpose of a developing a good strategy is that it clearly shows where you are aiming to be and sets out the steps you need to take to get there. By setting out this destination and the path to it, it’s then down to you to stay on that path. To do that, you have to make (often hard) choices. You have to choose your ideal market niche(s), who to target in that niche and what you can deliver in order to give you the return you need to hit milestones along the path to this destination.
Your strategy compels you to define exactly what you will do and for whom you will do it. As well as choosing what you will do, you also need to make the often-harder choice of what you won’t do. In order to go after a particular niche, what trade-offs must you make? Which prospects do you ignore?
A good strategy helps you focus….
End of January already… Yes, it’s frightening how fast it goes but is it also exciting? Did you start the year with the intention of making this year so much better than the last? Is that still your intention? Continue reading →
If you’re not on course, or worse don’t know, then re-check that you have the right mechanisms in place to give you the information you need, when you need it.
Veering off course can happen quickly and if January hasn’t started as planned and considering how quickly it’s come and gone, where exactly are you and where could you end up in a few short weeks.
Imagine your goals are on the other side of a stream or small river in a specific spot on the bank. Getting to the other side isn’t a problem because the river is full of flat, secure stepping stones which are close together so you can take small, safe steps.
You need to pick your path, as the stones are everywhere, and in a straight line you could get across in about 40 steps. Remember, your goals occupy only one spot on the river bank, so you need to get to the other side at exactly the right spot.
What’s your tactic? Well, you might look up to check after each step you take or you might take a few steps then look up and correct your course if necessary. Either way, you’re unlikely to take many steps without stopping to check.
Now, imagine, you are blindfolded and can lift the blindfold and check your position only after you have stepped over say half-a-dozen stones. It is likely that you will be off course somewhat but at least you can correct that course each time you look.
Now imagine that someone else, who cannot see the other side, is telling you where to step. It is highly likely that this time, when you check, you will be even further off course. So, you inform the person of where you are so that corrections can be made and then take instructions once more.
Eventually you’ll get to the other side but will you be at the right spot and how much longer has it taken when blindfolded or taking instructions from another? If your goals are annual and each stone represents say, a week, you must get to the other side in under 52 steps…would you even have made it?
Clearly the most efficient and effective method is to not be blindfolded and to look up and check your progress every step or two. If each stone represents a week in your business then clearly you need up-to-date progress information, probably in the form of summary reports and short focused team meetings.
To stay on course, you need to check your heading regularly and receive the information you need to be able to correct your course if necessary.
If that decision is based on the information being provided by others in your company then make sure you have a robust system that collects and delivers that information up the chain, to you at the helm.
What mechanisms do you use for staying on course?
Last week I visited the Electronica trade fair in Munich. The overriding message when I asked how the year had gone and their expectations for 2013 was pretty sour. “We did ok, we came out flat.” Was one message I heard a number of times.
For 2013 the general message was that they had no real idea how next year is going to pan out, that there is no sign that business will be any better and could be even worse. (Of course there were exceptions, but this was the general feeling.)
All businesses have cycles and the electronics industry in particular experiences major peaks and troughs which people have got used to over the years. This downturn may be particularly bad, but we know why that is.
The thing that struck me was that, even though we are in unusual times there was little hint of these companies doing anything but “business-as-usual”. There was little evidence of doing anything differently, of any creativity and innovation but instead of carrying on business as they’ve always done it and hope things will get better.
What I wasn’t sure of was whether people were carrying on “business-as-usual” (even though business is far from usual) because this was just another down part of the industry’s many cycles, during which they batten down the hatches and hope recovery will come soon, or because they don’t know how to do anything else.
In August last year I wrote a post called Hope is no longer an option in these unchartered waters. In it I said that leaders need to carry out a thorough assessment of their company, markets and risks and think about how they can make sure their business not only survives but comes out stronger.
Easy for me to say but not easy to do, so I also listed 7 areas that business leaders should look at to help get them started. Here they are again…
1. Company – Are you on course to hit your goals? Are there weaknesses in your company that you really must address before they hurt your business? Are there strengths that you can exploit further? Are your processes aligned and working effectively? Do you have the best business models which help you capture as much customer value as possible? An annual self-assessment is a vital part of setting the right goals and plans. Regardless of where you are in your fiscal year, in these extraordinary times, don’t wait, do one now.
2. People – your people are your best assets…look after them. Make sure they’re motivated and achieving their targets. If they’re not then take responsibility for that, find out what’s wrong and help them. You don’t want to lose them and so make sure they have the training, tools, direction and support they need to return the business you need. Do they know and embrace your vision and do you empower and involve them when deciding how to implement your plan? Make sure they know how they contribute to the success of the company and how much you value them.
3. Relationships – Your relationships are crucial, are you looking after them as much as you could be? What would be the effect on your business if they closed? Are you delivering what your customers need? Could you be doing more? Are they struggling in any areas where you could help or introduce another organisation who could help? Aim beyond demand creation. What of your other stakeholders? If you will struggle without them then speak to them, check to see how they’re doing and what help you might be able to give each other. Form stronger strategic partnerships that will help you both survive and grow.
4. Markets – Are you delivering what the key players in your target markets need now and are likely to need in the future? Are you aware of what your competitors are offering? You may not need to deliver something better but you need to know if what they offer meets customer needs better than your solutions. Technology advances at an ever faster pace. Are you abreast of these changes? Can you exploit them? There are a number of external influences that can impact your market segments. Don’t be caught out by them; prepare for them and use them to your advantage if you can.
5. Strategy – If you don’t have strategic planning system for setting and implementing the goals that will strengthen your company and steer it towards your vision then establish one. If you don’t have a strategy plan that details these goals and the objectives and means for achieving them then develop one. If you do have such a plan and the supporting processes then check they’re working and adapt if necessary. This strategy plan isn’t your business plan but lies at the heart of it. It isn’t your marketing strategy but includes it. This is the plan of the goals you have set and how you aim to achieve them. You cannot stay in control and keep your business on course without one.
6. Leadership – Lead from the front, inspire, listen, make sure your people and partners know your vision and embrace it. Show drive and determination, show the confidence you have in your people, products and services to win and grow. Know your weaknesses and address them either yourself or with others. Focus. Know what you need to do and keep on course, don’t be deflected. Guide your people, listen to their concerns and help them. Empower them to be leaders in their own area of responsibility.
7. Think – If you don’t allocate time for you and your people to think about your company, about your customers and about your markets you will simply keep doing the same thing year-in, year-out and at best survive. Especially in this current economic climate, that’s not good enough. Creative thinking is needed now more than ever. Whether it’s the products and services that your customers and prospects need, your business models to capture more value effectively, your marketing strategies to attract more opportunities, the deals you make, the relationships you build, the targets you set or any number of aspects of your business you should look at, take time to think.
Creative thinking is often seen as a luxury which is sacrificed in favour of managing day-to-day pressures. It is NOT; it is vital to the success of a business and possibly, to its survival.
This isn’t a sales message; if you don’t need help that’s great but if you’re not sure how to set and implement the right strategy or if you feel you need help with any of the things I outlined above, then do get help. You are experts in your products and services but no-one can be an expert in everything.
Email me to arrange a chat and see if I can help make sure your business not only survives but thrives.
If you’re not the head of the regional office or company then show initiative, show that you’re thinking about the company, that you’re trying to help and forward this post to your MD or CEO.
image courtesy of newelectronics.co.uk
Earlier in the year I wrote a post called 10 top tips for getting the most out of your trade show. Trade shows can be hugely expensive, especially those like Electronica which is being held in Munich next week.
Electronica is the “world’s leading trade fair for electronic components, systems and applications” and it is truly massive. It comes around every two years and many hundreds of companies will have spent many thousands of pounds to have a presence there.
Many will be there because their competitors will be, many because it’s a great opportunity for CEOs and Directors from other regions of the world to meet with their key European clients and partners and it’s an opportunity for smaller firms to build awareness and hopefully their client base.
For some it’s because it fits in with their strategy. These companies will have a new announcement to make, will be launching a new product or service and will be using Electronica as a spring board.
If you’re going to spend a significant part of your marketing budget on exhibiting, give yourself the best chance of standing out, of engaging with new prospects, of strengthening relationships with current customers and of getting the best ROI you can by having something new to shout about.
If your company exhibits then make sure these events are an integral part of your marketing strategy and aligned with your overall business strategy.
I come from his world and will be visiting next week to start building awareness about a new launch coming soon. And of course I look forward to catching up with old colleagues, partners and clients.
Will you be exhibiting or visiting? If so, why?
In my last post I talked about the strategic planning cycle and its importance as a framework or system for creating and achieving your annual strategy plan.
There is actually a pre-plan stage that, if you’re approaching the start of your fourth quarter, you should think about now.
As you may know the first phase of the strategic planning cycle begins in the fourth quarter of your business cycle. Basically, you want to start your new business year with your new annual strategy in place, hence you begin working on the plan in Q4.
Creating this plan involves the first two strategic planning phases; the Think and Plan phases, out of which should be a new strategy plan with a set of goals broken down into objectives and tactics.
So, what’s the pre-plan stage? Well, the new plan is going to need time and effort to create and this also needs to be planned.
If you are going to bring together a team of people to help you then they need to be prepped and their time arranged. If you’re going to create this plan on your own then you still need to set aside the not inconsiderable time you’ll need to create this plan.
Whether on your own or as part of a team, this effort to create your new plan will impact the day-to-day running of the business.
Help yourself and your team and work with them to minimise this impact.
With this pre-planning stage in place and everyone ready to begin in Q4, the new strategy plan should be created on time, before the end of the year, and with minimum impact to the running of the business and to day-to-day responsibilities.
And with the appropriate time and attitude towards the exercise given, the quality of the plan will also be higher as will the return for your business.
Those of you who know my work know that I talk a lot about the strategic planning cycle that all successful businesses follow. It appears that the Government is also following the four phases of this cycle and have just entered the third Deliver phase.
I do hope that alongside this phase they also implement the fourth review phase.
To develop and execute the right strategy year-on-year it’s crucial that the four phases of the annual cycle work together in the right way.
I outline this cycle in one of the training videos you get if you download my free report Why Most Businesses Fail.
If your business cycle runs according to the calendar year then you should soon be entering the new Think phase as you begin the last quarter of 2012.
If you want to continue to grow your business year-on-year you must understand how this cycle works and how the four phases interact with each other.