A clear strategy is vital to your success – even more so in uncertain times. You need a clear understanding of what you want to achieve – your end game – and then map out how you’ll get there.
In tough times this can sometimes feel like an unnecessary luxury – “I can’t afford to strategise… I need to DO STUFF!” – but that’s precisely when a robust strategy is critical. It ensures you stay focused on your key success drivers, and reduces unnecessary knee-jerk effort. Assigning KPIs to these key drivers ensures they are always measured, monitored and managed.
When things get tight, we can fall back into bad habits. To stay true to yourself, you need to articulate who you are and what you stand for.
A clear purpose (or mission statement) helps you attract ideal customers and team members, and directs and drives your existing team. It should underpin all key activities.
Your core values articulate what you stand for; they reinforce the behaviours and actions that are expected of team members, so you can work together more effectively to realise your end game.
Just as Warren Buffet famously “gets greedy” when others are fearful, you can find opportunities by maintaining marketing activities when things get tight. Cutting back on efforts to woo, convert and upsell customers precisely when you need them most doesn’t make a lot of sense. But it’s the easy, short-sighted option.
At times you may lack the cash flow to do it all, but get creative and you’ll find not all marketing efforts are created equal (or cost the same). From my experience, existing customer referrals are the best source of sure-fire leads; so focus on cultivating existing customer referrals. Asking for them is a good start.
When cash flow is tight, the temptation is to bring in new business, but this can be hit and miss and costly. Go back to basics and work with those who already know, like and trust you, and harness the untapped potential of your existing clients (through upselling and cross-selling).
Think operations, not revenue
Your financials are an outcome, not a driver. Focus on the key pillars of your business, and your financials will take care of themselves.
There’s plenty of ways you can go about this, but getting expert help to ensure you’re doing the right things, heeding warning signs and helping take corrective action can be a good first step. And utilise cloud accounting software and apps such as Xero or Shoeboxed to help provide financial data that will enable your business adviser to develop a plan to help you survive and thrive.
I term ‘Execution’ as delivering on your brand promise. If you can meet or exceed your customer expectations, they’re more likely to keep coming back even when their budget tightens.
Execution is intrinsically linked to two of the most critical factors of success: getting the right people following clearly defined processes (and armed with the right training, technology and tools, and fostered by a supportive culture that promotes excellence and cohesiveness).
Evolve… Or dissolve
Tough times test even the best businesses. But if you keep innovating, questioning, and challenging the status quo – that is, instil a culture of continuous improvement – you’ll build a robust business that will survive and thrive.
Technology has transformed how we live, work and interact. Uber and AirBnB show that no industry is immune to disruption. Harness technology to find improvements in how you service and interact with customers (and potentially reduce costs).
Look at your business through your customer’s eyes, so you can find bottlenecks and points of irritation which are opportunities to improve the customer experience. And just maybe you’ll find a way to be the next disrupter, and transform your industry. And quite possibly, the world.