Strategy…how are you getting from here to there this year? What will be the battles in-between and how will you fight and win them?

I read ‘What It Takes’ by Mark Bouris whilst on a gorgeous Bali holiday recently and he reinforced how critical your business strategy is and moreover how clearly it answers what he calls ‘the questions’.

So, what are the questions?

They cover the general: What is the target? What is the plan to get there? Who are the key people? Is it achievable given the market? They also cover the more specific: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. They also go deeper into the responses of the self-questioning you do as you uncover challenges to your strategy.

Every business owner must challenge themselves with some basic questioning before they start a business and then continue to challenge the assumptions they make on a regular basis. If you don’t, sooner or later the market will challenge you and if you don’t have the answers or ability to avoid unnecessary disadvantage you may find your business taking a dive instead of soaring.

We are reminded on an almost daily basis that our business exists in a dynamic, ever-changing environment and complacency is dangerous. Take the recent, unfortunate demise of Australia’s oldest chocolate maker Ernest Hillier. Increasing local manufacturing cost and competitive pressure from international brands have been blamed and I imagine that the increased local competition from the many wonderful artisan brands and their ability to leverage online for brand awareness hasn’t helped either. I know myself, I am much more aware of brands such as Coco Black, Pana and Loving Earth due to clever marketing in the online space than I am of the well-established Australian icon.

Technology moves at light speed and if we don’t keep up we will be left behind. With so many affordable, cloud based software options and the connectivity and brand awareness which can be provided by the web, it’s entirely plausible for small business to compete with larger organisations. I work with many small to medium businesses and what I love in comparison to larger businesses is their ability to make agile and timely decisions. There’s no committee or board to run things by and slow things down. They can ask the necessary questions, gather the information they need to evaluate and then make a call one way or the other.

What are the benchmarks?

What makes this process particularly simple and efficient is if they have clear benchmarks or KPI’s in place upon which to measure and manage the business progress towards attaining its targets. Having one main KPI and perhaps two minor ones which have to be attained each week seems a pretty straightforward strategy however this kind of clarity isn’t always common among small business owners. Having systems in place to measure these KPI’s and deliver accurate, timely reporting on them so the business owner can ask the questions and make tactical decisions is the next logical step.

To grow a business you need to invest in it. In order to commit to growth expenditure, be that products, equipment or people you need laser clarity on how this will benefit the business and deliver profitability. Systems not only allow you to test and measure, they allow you to scale and create a saleable asset. A robust CRM system will measure the number of calls your sales team makes each week, how many leads are created each month, how many are converted into paying customers and over time how profitable they are to the business. It will also deliver ROI data on marketing campaigns you run, easily highlight your best salespeople, and record important data and  interaction with your customers so you can build lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. Perhaps one of strategic questions you need to ask yourself this year is, ‘does my business have the systems in place to answer my questions?’

In closing I’ll share one other tip I loved from Mark Bouris – “In business, you always sweat the small stuff. You always ask the questions because that is where the growth is.” So…here’s to asking those questions and getting on with it!

As always, if you need help working out which CRM software or other business system is the best fit for you just drop us an email.