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Reverse engineering your business

business working

Change is never easy. Changing the structure of a business takes time, effort and introspective thinking to get it right. The last few months, we have been reverse engineering our business, website and services to evolve and the process has been interesting, but challenging.

I use the term reverse engineering because, much like its traditional meaning applied to objects, we have been taking apart Forming Circles, tweaking our vision, services and structure to enhance how we function as an entity – while putting it all back together again.

In an entrepreneurial sense, Dave Lavinsky made the term reverse engineering popular in his book – Start at the End: How Companies Can Grow Bigger and Faster by Reversing Their Business Plan. In the book, he talks about how smart entrepreneurs start by defining the goals they want to achieve and work backwards to take the necessary steps for success.

We went through this process for a few reasons:

  • The market and space we operate in has evolved
  • We wanted a more agile business plan that gives us space to adapt to changes
  • We have grown
  • We wanted to set the stage for the next phase of growth

Reverse engineering a business plan often gets confused with patchwork solutions such as changing a website or adding in new services. In reality, it is more than that. It is a complete overhaul of how the business functions, what you stand for and what you are aiming to achieve. Our biggest challenge has been to take a step back from the day-to-day running of the business to focus on the big picture.

Based on what we went through, here’s my checklist for other entrepreneurs who feel it is time to re-evaluate their business plan and take steps to evolve it:

  1. Put vision ahead of balance sheets: Once you are operational for a few years, it is easy to get caught up with the numbers and the activities that make a difference to the bottom-line. But to change your business plan, you need a strong sense of where you are going, to figure out how you’ll get there.Your vision becomes your beacon when times get tough and a roadmap for your staff and networks. It also allows investors to understand what you want your business to achieve –leave behind a legacy, grow to a global entity or make a successful exit in a few years time. It defines what you do and how you do it.
  1. Multi-term agility: It is no longer enough to just have short-term goals and a long-term vision. We need to have both for different periods of time to keep up with a rapidly changing economy. Maintaining one, two and five year goals and vision allows you to adapt to market changes and redefine values based on industry and customer requirements.
  1. Bringing staff on board: It is so very easy not to communicate the vision and strategy for change with your staff. Not doing so can be very detrimental. The easiest way to determine if your staff understands where you are headed is to ask them. If you get a unified answer that matches your vision, you are on the right track.At the precipice of any major business or branding changes, big organisations always communicate their strategy to internal audiences first. The start of a new financial year is a great time to reflect on the company’s performance, challenges and plan for the years ahead.
  1. Be realistic with deadlines: Initially we got caught up in the excitement of evolving our business and tried to rush the process to get it done sooner.We were pushing ourselves to fit into a deadline and putting undue stress on ourselves until we paused, and made a decision to focus on getting every little aspect of change right. Doing so gave us better perspective on the changes we were making and its relevance to our audiences.

    Be realistic about deadlines and if not required, don’t push yourself or your staff.

  2. Give back to the community: Whether for tax exemptions, to build employee morale or just to do something good, build a culture of giving back to the community.

    It doesn’t have to be something big, even small gestures such as pro bono work, mentorship to youth or helping in a soup kitchen once a fortnight goes a long way. It helps build a sense of purpose for staff and will open your eyes to the social relevance of our individual actions.

In conclusion, I wanted to share one of Richard Branson’s favourite quotes by renowned architect and inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

About the Author:

Renata Cooper, CEO of Forming Circles and angel investor, is committed to empowering people and ideas. Through Forming Circles, Renata has invested in over 100 local and national businesses, individuals and organisations since its inception in 2011.