Having worked in a variety of commercial mid management and CEO/GM roles over the last 30+ years in the UK, NZ and America, I wish to share some thoughts and tips on the key success factors for business owners who seek to grow their business.
This initial article will be very much an overview, to be followed in later articles with more in-depth commentary on for the various success factors mentioned – all of which I regard as relevant across many sectors for smaller and larger companies; and also relevant to varying products and services.
OK, let’s look at the ‘power of 7’, and deliberately try to keep it simple:
- Plan for growth and success.
- Understand and work your market.
- Innovate … for the right product or service …for today and tomorrow.
- Walk the talk & keep your finger on the pulse.
- Have the “best team in town”
- Embrace change.
- Network & don’t reinvent the wheel
“Plan for Growth and Success”
A well put together and written Business Plan is an essential tool for growing your business. In short, a good Business Plan will provide:
- a structured path for company growth and development;
- focus on priority areas to address;
- a vehicle to rally and help align the team;
- a vehicle for ‘buy in’ between company owners and the senior management team that is charged to work with the wider team and deliver the plan;
- a point of reference to regularly measure company performance;
- visibility and confidence for potential investors, bankers, etc
The document should be concise, easy to read, and put together after opportunity for wider team buy-in. Typically it should be valid for each company financial year, and rolled over annually in parallel to a structured budgeting processes and strategic review as to where your company is placed relative to longer term goals and objectives. Periodic reviews, for example at Senior Management/Board Meetings will also be key to help assess where you stand on the journey; and any need for re-direction and fine-tuning.
For more insights on how to develop your Business Plan, please have a read of my earlier article “Business Planning – Unplugged!”
Understand and work your market
A key subset of the Business Plan will be your Sales and Marketing Plan to provide:
- Comfort that you and your team are abreast of the key drivers, players, growth trends, customer needs, competition, opportunities, threats etc for your chosen target market sector/segment(s)
- Focus and priorities on who you are targeting as customers – underpinned with appropriate account/customer relationship management; realistic sales targets; and feedback on market intelligence
- Routes/Channels to market(s), whether direct or indirect, together with comment on how best to manage/motivate any distribution partners
- Strategies and activity for gaining and maintaining competitive advantage
- Marketing strategies and tools for ‘getting the key messages out there ‘ to targeted customers and influencers; addressing customer needs and ‘pain thresholds’; and paving the way for sales – whether through alliances, word of mouth, on-line media, PR, newsletters, brochures etc
- Periodic review – for example at weekly sales & marketing team meetings and at monthly senior management meetings.
Do you have a Sales & Marketing Plan … is it working … do you need one?
Innovate … for the right product or service …for today and tomorrow!
OK, the sales and marketing team are hard at work, but how do you gain and maintain a competitive edge, other than by cutting margin?
How about developing your “Technology Plan” (again as a subset of the Business Plan), by working with both your sales team and your operational/technical/engineering team?
To be truly ‘market driven’, your sales team need to be tasked with:
- representing what your target market(s) currently need by way of product development/refinement to maximise short-term sales; and
- feeding back and representing longer term customer needs
In response, your operational arm should be tasked with tabling product development solutions for the shorter term; and innovative new product development (NPD) ideas for the longer term which will provide opportunity for you to leapfrog your competition and gain real market share.
Of course, you will need a thorough process to assess the viability/commerciality, but a Technology/R&D Plan is essential if you are to take a market lead.
Why not get your sales & operational people talking today, and provide a regular forum and agenda for discussion?
Walk the talk & keep your finger on the pulse
Clearly a high level of performance across all levels of the business is essential for company growth and should be embedded within your company culture.
Robust, clear and measureable Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) consistent with your planning should be carefully considered and introduced with buy-in across all divisions/departments, and ideally built into individual employment contracts.
And let’s not lose sight of the importance of reviewing, fine- tuning and introducing new systems, processes and procedures – as appropriate and without overkill to support performance, and to provide a safety net.
What are your thoughts and understanding on a “performance based culture”?
Have “the best team in town”
Planning, innovative products and services, and KPI’s are all very fine! However, they are largely redundant without a team that can deliver with the right skills; that are sitting in the right chairs; that are motivated; and recognize the power of working together.
May sound easy, but we all know that managing our key asset can be a minefield!
So yes, dare I suggest the need for another Plan (!) – A “People Plan” at a collective and individual level that seeks to address:
- the competencies and skills needed to grow your business
- company culture
- how to attract the right people to fill any gaps
- how to manage/motivate management and staff to stay and to continually “add value” as you take your company to new levels
- how to align and grow the team consistent with your company goals, aspirations, and performance requirements
On a rating out of 10, where does your team sit? Is this better than say a year ago?
One thing is for sure: tomorrow will be different from today at both a macro and micro level.
But how are you placed without the benefit of a crystal ball?
“She’ll be right” won’t cut it!!!
Hence the need for robust, honest, fair and regular review across the different areas of your business; and an environment that provides for willingness, flexibility, and timely responsiveness to changed conditions that may affect the health of your business.
Change can be mighty frightening for a number of people, and many may be on your payroll. Think about it.
Communication is key. Are your management and staff kept abreast of changing conditions and the need for change?
Discussion and solutions should be encouraged and appropriately facilitated, on the basis that “no idea is a bad idea” as we strive to keep ahead.
Attitude is king: throughout my career I have sought to employ people with the necessary commercial and technical skills for the job at hand AND with a serious “can do … and prepared to think outside of the box” attitude.
Network and don’t reinvent the wheel
As a country with limited resource and distant from many world markets, surely targeted networking is an essential strategy to gain and share information; expedite the learning curve; and avoid pit holes on the journey?
Over the years there have been a number of initiatives introduced by the likes of TRADENZ, various Chambers of Commerce, NZTE and their regional partners – whether they be Joint Action Groups, Hard Business Networks, Clusters, or Business after Fives, etc. A number of business owners have participated with varying return, and a number have completely shied away for a varying reasons.
But I urge you to consider the extent and nature of your own business network; whether it has the potential to add value; how it may be extended; and the ways that you can comfortably access and leverage your network.
Or should we continue to cross our arms, close our chests and not be open to helping and receiving help from others who do not directly compete with us? And, when we strive for success on the international stage, there are good examples of companies who compete at home, yet actively help each other in export markets. Hopefully more food for thought!