The summer holidays are quite often the only time of year when business owners have the freedom to think about their business without getting caught up in the day-to-day running of it. Following a reflection on the year that was, thoughts usually turn to how to grow and develop the business during the forthcoming year.
If you want the grow your business in 2018 here are five ways to do so faster…
Michael E. Gerber, esteemed author of the best-selling book E-Myth Revisited, nailed it when he said:
‘The assumption is that they understand the business because they understand – and maybe are experts at – the technical work of the business. They think they know the work, they are qualified to run the business.’
What he means is you may be a technical expert or genius practitioner, but you also need to know how to run a business. The good news is that running a business is a skill – and skills can be learned. All you need is some devotion and time working on the business. Stop being busy doing and get busy being the manager of your business.
“Your career is your business. It’s time for you to manage it as a CEO” (Dorit Sher)
Although this is a generalisation, almost all small businesses – and the majority of medium- sized businesses – don’t have a strategic plan, or any plan for that matter.
Some have a financial plan ‘because the bank needed one’. But this has long since been filed in the drawer and never been reviewed. People spend more time planning their next holiday than they spend planning their business.
Plans help you stay organised and help you co-ordinate your efforts. Not setting a goal or plan is like turning up at the airport without a ticket and not knowing your destination. You reach your destination – your goal – a lot faster if you have a plan.
But don’t get too hung up on the actual plan document – the process of planning is far more valuable than the plan itself. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said: ‘No battle was ever won according to a plan, but no battle was won without one… plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.’
If you had a dollar for every time you heard people say they are either too busy to have a holiday, or they couldn’t leave it to others to run the business while they were away, or it wouldn’t be a holiday as they would be tethered via technology to their emails and phone calls and disengaged from their families, you’d be able to go on holiday and still make money.
How do you overcome this – systemise your business. Systemising is the process of documenting everything you do in your business – from answering the phone and opening the mail, to pricing work, and after-care service. Without putting systems and processes in place, your business will become all-absorbing, with endless tasks to complete – like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Systems and processes allow others to share the load. These people then become what a studio recording is to Taylor Swift. A Taylor Swift song can be played by millions of people all at the same time. It sounds the same every time it is played and Taylor Swift collects a royalty every time the recording is played. Create a recording – a system – of your business, your talents, your way of doing something, and then, like a song, replicate it, market it, distribute it and manage the revenue. Put a system in place and you will have time to focus on growing your business faster.
Don’t you hate it when you’re engaged in a conversation and someone butts in talking about a completely different topic? Your consumers hate it when you interrupt them to sell your product or service too.
Marketing today, known as inbound or buyer-centric marketing, is about providing information, an improved customer experience and that builds trust by offering potential customers information they value. To do this you need create personas of who your potential customers are. You also need to determine where those customers are on their buying journey – awareness stage, consideration stage or decision stage. Once you have done that create marketing content to attract, convert, close and delight those customers. The marketing is very specific to each of your potential customer personas and at what stage they are on their buying journey. By being very specific you will reach that target customer instead of the old shotgun method of yesteryear where you put marketing content out there and hoped it reached and resonated with your target customer.
Most people in business are great at what they do but when you talk to them about financial figures they run for the hills. There are some basic numbers and ratios every business owner just needs to know. Don’t worry, you don’t need to become an accountant, but you do need a basic understanding of the financial drivers of your business.
The numbers, ratios and margins – financial drivers are important because they tell us whether your business is making an adequate return. An ‘adequate’ return is subjective – what is adequate to one person, one investor, one owner, one banker, or one industry may be different to what others consider adequate. Luckily financial ratios and margins are easy to learn and to understand. Invest a little time to understand the financial drivers of your business and then apply that knowledge – you will spend time then on what actually matters, and also in a timely manner.
About the author
Stephen Barnes is the principal of management consultancy Byronvale Advisors. He has over 20 years advising clients from new business start-ups to publicly listed companies and across a wide array of industries. He prides himself on quickly understanding the client’s business and issues, and synthesising problems to develop pragmatic solutions. He is also the author of ‘Run Your Business Better – Essential Information Every Business Owner Should Know and Use’. He previously wrote: Four pricing mistakes you need to avoid for Dynamic Business.