It’s amazing what we can achieve when we have to. When either the clock is ticking or there is some other imperative, we tend to focus on the things that matter most and forget about the rest.
The other part of “having to” is those times when we have no choice. Sometimes, the status quo is just not an option, so we have to make major changes whether we want to or not. Let’s call this the burning platform – if we’re going to escape the fire, we just have to jump. We can’t know what we’re jumping into, the only certainty is that if we stay where we are, we’ll perish.
This is of course an extreme image. The reality is that our burning platforms are not in flames. However, if we can smell smoke and the surface beneath our feet is getting hotter, then it’s time to jump.
The conversations I’m having these days with business owners are about The Big Issues – new product development, distribution changes, price-fighting brands, right down to the business model that’s been operating and the need for change.
How should we think about our business model?
The first thing we have to do is go back to our vision. Take your mind out three years from today and see yourself looking at your business with a sense of achievement and pride. What does it look like? How many people are around you? How do you see yourself? Have you created something great? Is it the same shape as it is now, or is it different? A truly great vision is not prescriptive about how you get there.
The second step is to ask the open question, how can we achieve that now? Doing more of the same is unlikely to be an option.
In terms of your offering, recognising that your customer’s needs have changed is the most fundamental insight you can gain. The next fundamental insight is that you are more attached to the way you have delivered your value than they are.
Your customer is re-defining the value proposition – the cost/benefit calculation. At the moment many are happy to take less benefit for less cost. How do you take out cost and features without cutting too deep into benefit?
As companies think about innovation, they get excited about new products and new markets. Reality sets in as they realise that they may be joining a crowded market. While it’s good to think about new products, the other reality is that good distribution beats good product every time. One of the central “business model” questions is how you’ll go to market? Will you simply put new product through existing channels, or can you put existing product through new channels? A wholesaler, for example, might decide to have a direct offering, either through retail or online, though it may be wise to do so under a different brand.
The really key thing in all this is your thinking process. You have to look at some big issues about your market, your industry and your business model. You can’t do that sitting in traffic or at the gym, and you certainly can’t do it while you’re doing the day-to-day stuff.
The way to think about this is to take a couple of hours a week in a place where you can work uninterrupted. It might be with your team or with a mentor. Start with the vision in mind, and consider the different ways in which you might achieve that vision. Write them down, explore them with an open mind and a sense of detachment. The main obstacle to new ideas is that our attachment to the past blocks rational analysis. And today more than ever we have to think clearly and fearlessly.
We’ve applied the principle in our own business: we saw an opportunity for a business development product for smaller businesses, where the economics do not support the traditional coaching model. We’ve taken the principles of our highly successful “real world” programme, built in some powerful technology to support goal achievement, and come up with a practical and positive programme that will help small business owners improve their business and their lifestyle. We’ve priced it to be as accessible to as many people as possible, and the emphasis is on simplicity – the vital few things that every business owner can do to improve performance.
Some people think that their business is unique. Interestingly, humans and mice share 98% of their DNA. It’s the same with businesses: clearly, the last 2% makes all the difference, but the same rules apply to every enterprise. And if they don’t, you probably haven’t got a business, you’ve got a job.
Dr. Mike Ashby is Director of NBCoach and BizTime. Contact him on [email protected]
Mike is Managing Director of National Business Coaching Ltd. Since 2003 Mike has worked with hundreds of business owners who are looking to take their lives and business to the next level.
Prior to getting involved in the small business sector he was Chief Operating Officer at Southern Cross Healthcare, taking over at the height of the operational crisis in late 2001. Mike led the company from a loss of $42M into a profit of $30M in two years.
Mike joined Southern Cross from Ernst & Young Consulting. He was a partner in the Wellington office, leading the national Strategy and Transformation team. He worked with the leaders of large and small firms in agribusiness, insurance, government and financial services.
Prior to joining Ernst & Young, he ran his own consultancy business. Mike is married with 3 fast-growing children, and his hobbies include guitar, fishing, golf and sports of most kinds.