[I wrote this article for “M2 Magazine”, December 2010 edition]
How often do you take time out to think about where your life or your business is at? You might personally do a new years resolution and within a couple of weeks have forgotten about it. Various University studies show less than 20% of people actually achieve their new years resolution. Many businesses are like this too, the business plan sits in the bottom drawer gathering dust… Why do few succeed when we think we have all the answers and rate ourselves, right up there, as a fantastic performer?
Over the coming months we will look at different aspects of how to make a successful business. Some might be “so obvious”, other aspects might be “oh that is a good point, I should have thought more about that before!”. If you don’t own your own business (about 10% of Kiwis do, so there is a big 90% out there who are working for somebody!), have you considered how the “bits” that make up a successful business can be equally applied to your own career (ok make that your life!).
So where to start? There are many “Harvard Business School” proven methods for a business to be successful… Some of what you hear in this column in the coming months might even be something that Harvard would recommend? Some will be different though! Based on talking with many like business people, sportsmen and coaches plus with many years real life experience at some interesting and successful businesses, I think there are 7 main areas that a business (and you as an individual) need to focus on, master and conquer to be successful…
PLAN TO SUCCEED AND HAVE A LIVING PLAN : Pretty obvious that one! Do you take time out to smell the roses? How many plans are set but then there is no follow up and accountability for realising the plan? You need to refer to your plan at least once a month, and preferably weekly! Be open to advice from others too.
CASH IS KING : Ouch it hurts when you cannot pay your bills… Most businesses (and most of us personally!) do not plan out how the next several months cash-flow is looking… Ok it might show bad news but hey, wouldn’t you rather know now so you can do whatever you can about it rather than just curl up and die when you are hit in the face with tough times?
MEASURE YOUR PROGRESS : It is amazing how many businesses have little idea of where they are sitting today and what will happen tomorrow… They have a bit of an idea of how they went yesterday thanks to monthly accounts, but that is like trying to drive your car forward whilst only looking in the rear vision mirror – a challenge! There is more info in your business (or your life!) you can learn from, you just need to take the time to look for it.
WALK THE TALK : I wonder what % of people are hypocrites? Isn’t there nothing worse than your boss not doing what they want you to do. Or your partner. Or you, yourself! Enough said… Another related tip is “management by walking around” – be it your own business, or you as a team leader, get away from your desk and talk, observe, learn, put improvements in place…
ACCOUNTABILITY : Perhaps there is no bigger thing in life and business! Do you blame others or your environment? It is up to you, full stop. Stop looking for excuses… The only way you can be accountable is to real time, measure yourself, your team, your business. Do you have transparent KPIs in place (key performance indicators). When you or team know what they are accountable for, watch job satisfaction fly! Think hard, are there any grey areas? Two people cannot be accountable for something, it has to be one!
CUSTOMER SERVICE AND DIFFERENTIATION : We all know without customers, we do not earn money! How few companies are truly customer-centric. I would love to hear any stories you have of good or not so good service. Did you know that most companies do not ask their customers what they could improve on. They are too scared – that is just plain stupid. Do you actually put on the other hat regularly and look at your business or your own job performance from how a customer (external or internal) might see it? If you do not, I suggest you do… Why should a customer choose you over anybody else – do you really know??
BE A GOOD WORKPLACE : It is proven “scientifically” that if you create a great place to work you will have better productivity, happier staff, better customer service, all ultimately leading to more sales and higher profitability. Same for you as a manager, totally applies to how you run your team. Is your work culture written down? Is it “motivating”? Is it followed? Are you passionate and enthusiastic about something?
I look forward to expanding on my main 7 points for business success in the coming months…