[I wrote this article for the “Apparel Mag”, January 2011 edition]
It is that time of the year again. Almost the new year. You might be lucky enough to have a few weeks off by the beach, lake or bush in God’s own spending time with family and friends and hopefully avoiding the crowds! Whilst you try and switch off from “work” or “business”, switching off can be constantly challenging, especially in these more interesting times for us Apparel companies. I would suggest if you cannot fully switch off (let’s hope you can!) that you have a side think on the big picture around your business… Not the nuts and bolts but the really big questions that you usually sweep under the carpet, thinking you will get to them next month, but next month never happens! Ok lets have a think about what you can “consider” over your break.
Often a first step is reading a really fantastic business book. Each year there are thousands of business books released. Most of them are quickly forgotten. Finding a good read will really get you in the mood to think “strategically” on your business or role. The most classic small business book is perhaps “The E-myth”, by Michael Gerber. He has many disciples around the world (including myself) and is practical, not theoretical (yahoo I say!). Michael views “your business is a means rather than an end, a vehicle to enrich your life rather than one that drains the life you have”. So many business owners are being drained at the moment. Now is your time to seriously think about how you can stop this vicious circle, you cannot keep it up forever, so now is the time to make a change. Ok.
Some other classic books to read “on holiday” on strategy would be :
- In Search of Excellence (by Thomas J Peters and Robert H Waterman Jr). Really interesting in this book they found that in observing excellent companies and specifically the way they interact with customers, what they found most striking was the consistent presence of “obsession”. This typically occurred as a seemingly unjustifiable over-commitment to some form of quality, reliability or service.
- Good to Great (by Jim Collins). Half of business NZ has read this book no doubt. Three key facets of strategic thinking in this book are (a) what can you be the best in the world at, (b) what drives your economic engine, and (c) what are you deeply passionate about? Remember “good is the enemy of great”!
- Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance (by Louis V Gerstner Jnr). The ultimate turn around story via great strategy. IBM was practically bankrupt when Gerstner took over. 8 years later they were on top of the world. He made bold decisions and changed the strategy completely. It is not too late for your apparel business to change tack if you need to. Just consider it today, not tomorrow! This book is a great example of “execution” which is key to implementing your strategy.
Strategy is the sum of all a company does to compete in the marketplace. Decisions ranging from whether or not to offer free shipping to determine if Eketahuna is a good place for a store. Are you going to go aggressive or structured? There are infinite ways to put all the pieces together!
Key aspects of a strategic review of your business would be :
- Consider how to establish a unique competitive strategy. No matter how big or small you are in whatever form of apparel, there will be something you can be the ultimate in. Take the time to think about what that could be. Just make sure it will make you profit! Dell computers is a really good example of this.
- Consider how to translate strategy into results. This is so much easier said than done. Execution is critical and most of us fail at this and thus never reach our full potential. Air NZ would be a good example of succeeding here. The key to good execution is persistence and knowledge and focus upon (which is tough when you are running a business day to day!).
- Consider how to use innovation to your advantage. Zara who most of us have heard of (biggest clothing chain in the world) have used innovation as their source of competitive advantage. In NZ, consider those ‘one off’ apparel retail stores (might be you!) who have used their uniqueness to carve up a great position.
- What bugs you? Not small fry but important aspects of your business that you can never get an answer on or you know something is just not right? Once and for all (and no excuses) write them all down, assign accountabilities and deadlines for them and Bob’s your uncle. Well if you can you execute well!
- Study your competitors. Not just in NZ (we are in a global marketplace). The web is amazing. I doubt there are many new ideas these days, it just seems like we all mirror each other. I say learn from some of the your best competitors ideas and practices (assuming they have not been trademarked!). Try and future-ise your business as part of this too, so how will you be doing business in 5 years time? What do you need to change to be around in 5 years time…
- The classic 9 to 5 strategic approach… Like a swot analysis, knowing your vision and goals (so many apparel companies and retailers do not have this or cannot quote it to you!), feeding into a business plan. Having a business plan is not being strategic though. It is definitely a good business process to have (and make it alive!).
If you would like to do a strategic review done on your business I would love to assist you. Make contact! We would cover many aspects of your business! The impact could be business changing and life changing!
Please contact me if you need a hand or advice in any part of your business: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out www.businesschanging.com Happy trading for Christmas and New Years and here is to a fantastic 2011!