September is the real start of the next business year. How different will this year be, and how prepared is your company to compete and prosper over the next several years?
Running proactively is how to operate under control in uncertain times. You do it by engineering the three most important parts of any business; ongoing process improvement, optimizing business development, and becoming a better leader. Here’s how:
Create an SOP for the company. Memorializing the foundational steps that you and your people take every day can lower costs substantially, eliminate most emergencies, boost morale, and improve internal communications. Known as Standard Operating Procedures, or an Operating Manual, all repetitive actions are documented for instruction and reference assuring procedures are followed. Every business does better when using a platform that anticipates challenges and provides contingencies. As a result, any new problems get solved closer to where they occur.
Consider your typical day, is there a cycle of recurring problems; or, do employees know exactly what to do when things don’t go right? This one initiative can make all the difference between running on tension and leading a team. Assemble a taskforce or get some extra help to build a proactive operating platform.
Learn how to market more effectively. Today, almost every tactical business development tool has evolved into a digital platform. This is supposed to make it easier to identify and communicate with prospects and customers. To sustain your company’s future, it is imperative that the business maintains a strong customer finding platform. Digital marketing is tactical. It works only when the strategic premise is accurate.
Don’t hunt for polar bears in the jungle. Make sure the marketing lead understands your customers’ objectives and buying triggers. Sharpen costing metrics to help assure competitive pricing. Complete your marketing audit, then create provocative promotional campaigns that best reflect the solutions your prospects require. Lastly, if you depend on a sales staff of any kind, invest in their success.
Remember this CEO/CFO interchange:
CFO: We are spending for sales training, what if they leave after?
CEO: What if we don’t train them, and they stay?
The bear-minimum essential marketing plan should include: absolutely “nailing” your value proposition, a current (less than 5-year-old) website, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database for keeping track of prospect/customer interaction and finally, engineer the transaction – figure out the most likely, most efficient, most repeatable method for closing deals.
Become a better leader. Does leadership make a regular habit of communicating objectives and sharing news with staff? In an uninspired environment people look to the boss for direction requiring constant involvement. With the completion of an Operations Manual, or SOP document, your team has the map they need to work toward your expectations. Bridging the gap between forcing it every day and building sustainable processes requires the leader to change the most. Your role is now one of patience and inspiration not command management. (Call/write to me about the patience part.)
You say you don’t attract that kind of employee profile, think about it this way. There are three kinds of employees, 1) those that get it and want to achieve, 2) those that need to be actively motivated, (the majority you work at reaching), and 3) the C players that eventually fall by the wayside. An active leader shares his or her vision for the direction of the company and explains, in company-wide sessions and one-to-ones, what is planned and what each employee’s role is for achieving your goals. It takes work but, it works!
In case you’re not confident about your leadership skills, or the environment at your company is such that your people depend on you for all the answers, try documenting your operating systems, building a business development “machine,” and leading by inspiring not commanding.
Steve Lauterback is a process improvement specialist in New Jersey assisting leaders of smaller companies of all types. His 20+ years in consulting and earlier corporate career includes implementing processes for business development, operational improvement, culture shift, and leadership education.