The Business Edge Blog

December 6, 2012

#1 Critical Ingredient for Sustainable Growth

growing plantSustainable Growth

There is an almost magical component to sustainable business growth, but it’s not obvious, and most business owners are not spending the time on it to reap the greatest rewards.  The key word is “sustainable” – you can have growth without this component, but it won’t be easy.

When you think of business growth…what comes to mind?

Great marketing?   Really effective sales?  New products?  Super flashy advertising?  Signing a huge new client?

All of these contribute to business growth, but there’s a more fundamental attribute found in sustainable, successful businesses. It can make the difference when it comes to taking your business beyond the brute force stage (where you’re putting in a lot more than you’re getting out).

That secret ingredient is Systems!

What are Systems? Simply put, effective Systems are a combination of written processes, tools, automation and applications that allow you, the business owner, to get things done the right way without actually doing it yourself.  A successful business is made up of a whole series of systems that work together in a seamless way, generally without any direct input or oversight from the owner.

Want to get a quick read on how well you’re doing when it comes to Systems in your business?  Here’s a short quiz you can use to judge your progress in Systems.  Score yourself from 1 to 10 on each statement…10 if you are in alignment with the statement, 1 if you aren’t even close.

#1 – As the owner of the business, I fully understand that my primary role is to ensure that the business is run by systems (step-by-step processes and procedures).  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#2 – All of the functions necessary to successfully run my company have been clearly identified and documented in a company operations manual.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#3 – We regularly consider outsourcing options to reduce expenses and increase efficiencies.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#4 – We regularly review our systems to ensure they are as efficient and effective as practical in delivering the desired outcome.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#5 – I’m confident that my employees would know what to do if the leadership team or I were not present for an extended period of time.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

What’s your score?

How did you do?  This quick quiz certainly isn’t comprehensive, but it will give you a pretty good idea of where you and your business stand from a Systems perspective.  There are several key ideas represented here:

  • Do you view your primary role – where you spend the most time (as the business owner) as purposely building your business…and the systems that run your business?
  • Are you documenting everything down to a level that a new employee could jump right in?
  • Are you and your team consistently looking for ways to improve?

So how did you score?  If you scored above 40…then you’re in pretty good shape…keep up the good work!

If you scored between 30 and 40, then there are some things to work on, but at least you’re headed in the right direction.

If scored between 20 and 30, you at least understand it’s important, but you have some work to do.

If you scored less than 20, then it’s a good bet that you feel that you don’t have time to read this post and you are working really, really hard all the time…and your business is at risk!

When you’re ready to unleash some magic and start building systems into your business, the best bet is to carve out some time – schedule it – and identify the big components of your business (where your business comes from, how you close business, how you fulfill your sales, and how you collect business income from sales).  Once you’ve got this defined, in writing, then you can start digging into the details of each over time.

Make sure you get your employees involved…they probably know the details in a lot of areas better than you do and they’re going to have to live with whatever system or process is developed – so include them in the solution.

Get an outside perspective – consider hiring a business coach or joining some kind of advisory board like The Boardroom to help you focus and get some insight that might be hard to come by on your own.

What is your experience with developing business Systems?  I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comment section below.

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August 2, 2010

How to Make a Profit – Part 2

It may sound silly, but many business owners forget that they are in business to make a profit.  That means making money! 

 In Part 1 of this two part series, I talked about what a Profit Plan is and why the time spent developing one is worthwhile.  If you want to re-read Part 1, click here…..

Once your Profit Plan is pulled together, the real fun starts.  As I said in Part 1, it’s critical to get others in your organization involved so they can help with the execution of the plan.

One of the most important areas for you to focus is the top line (projected sales).  What is everyone in your business doing to bring customers in?  A couple of ideas on how to keep yourself and your organization focused on driving sales into your business:

  1. Have a Clear (Written) Goal for the Number of New Customers:  You have a Profit Plan that shows the total sales in terms of dollars you’d like your organization to bring in.  Now let’s break it down into the number of customers required to reach that number.  If you are targeting $100,000 in new business this year, where will it come from?  From one customer, from 1,000 customers, or some other number?
  2. Break Marketing Activities Into Monthly & Weekly Buckets:  Marketing drives sales.  All you can manage is what you and your people do – activities.  You can not control who and when someone will actually buy your products and services.  Once you have the number of new customers identified to meet your sales goal, the BIG question is, “What marketing activities will put you in front of those prospective customers so you can reach your goal”?  Marketing activities fall into three categories:  i) Short-Term – referrals, cold calls, direct mail.  ii) Long-Term (networking, writing, strategic alliances, and iii) Passive – print advertising, web sites, promotional products.  Once you’ve identified the strategies that work best for your business, the next step is to put a weekly schedule into place to drive those activities.
  3. Meet Regularly to Track Progress:  With so much time and effort going into developing the Profit Plan, I’m amazed at how many people will put the plan in their desk drawer and not look at it again to measure their progress against the plan.  I recommend you and your marketing/sales team meet on a weekly basis to track the execution of the marketing plan.   Is everyone doing what they agreed to do?  Are things working as planned or do changes need to be made?  While it’s easy to justify skipping the meetings when you “get busy”, I strongly advise my clients to continue with the meetings to keep the momentum going.
  4. Adjust the Plan Sooner Than Later:  Things almost never go as planned.  The biggest benefit of having a Profit Plan is to ensure that all the right discussions are happening within your organization and that all your key team members know what needs to be done.  Once you and your team get used to having the Plan, you’ll find yourself constantly tweaking the execution of the plan by what happens throughout the year.  If you get a fabulous response to a promotion that you had planned to only run occasionally, why wouldn’t you want to increase the number of times you plan on running it?

 

This discussion provides a framework for how to drive the top line of your Profit Plan.  Understanding that a plan needs to be constantly tweaked and challenged during execution is key to making a profit in your business.

Assignment:  Establish your top line goal for projected sales.  How many new customers will it take to reach the new sales volume?  Define weekly and monthly marketing activities you’ll do to attract those new customers:  Short-term, Long-term, Passive and Active.

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