Every business has to have a number of elements in order to succeed. The business needs to be clear about why it exists and have defined goals. It must have a foundational understanding of how it delivers value to its customers and it must know as much about those customers as possible. It needs to have a marketing plan and an operational plan that enable it to reach its goals. Lastly, it needs to have a system in place to measure progress and allow for adjustment during execution.
The reality of most small businesses is that they start with an owner that is gifted in a few areas. They can do fantastic work, perhaps they can network and capture a few jobs, maybe they have invented a product or service, etc. Typically, they haven’t had an education in business. Most entrepreneurs don’t start a business to operate a business. Reasons vary, but typically owners have an idea or dream and the business is a vehicle to get them there.
At some point, some business acumen is needed. It might be financial, understanding marketing, hiring, planning, etc. When an unprepared entrepreneur hits one of these obstacles, the business can become unstable and the owner typically reacts by working even harder to move it forward.
Working hard is a valuable trait in an entrepreneur, but it’s always important to ask if there is a smarter way. There is only so much time available to accomplish all that must be done or resources available to hire somebody to assume some of the responsibilities. Therefore, it’s critical to have a system in place that helps structure the business and runs with monitoring instead of constant intervention.
Spend time up front, or take time now if you’ve been in business for a while, to clearly articulate why your business exists. What value does it bring to the table? Establish what the business “believes in” and its key characteristics. Know what your goals are both as a business owner and for the business itself.
With that information in hand, make sure that you have a viable business model. Know in depth the value that your bring, the jobs you help your customers accomplish, the problems you solve, etc. How do you interact with your customers? Who exactly are your customers? What is your cost and revenue structure? Firmly clarifying your business model lets you operate with purpose and ensure your effort and resources are aligned with your goals.
Have a clear and comprehensive plan to execute your business model to reach your goals while still remaining true to your company and personal values. Create a marketing plan that targets your specific customers with messages that reflect the value your offerings bring to them. Budget according to your marketing plan; don’t waste resources on speculative efforts. Know what you need and how much to spend to get it. Have an operations plan put together that structures how you are going to execute to deliver the offerings sold via your marketing plans.
Once you have this in place, ensure that you have a means of tracking your performance. Develop measures that will enable you to measure your success and progress towards your goals. This will help you understand when you need to make a change and also help you develop your forecasting skills.
Ensure that all of these elements are created in order and each will build upon the last. Now, you can reference your documents and they become powerful tools in your business. Your efforts are focused, your budgeting is done in accordance with your priorities and you know where you stand. These time proven and tested methods will help you increase your success, raise your confidence, and give you time that you would otherwise lose to your business.