Tag: business strategies (page 1 of 2)

Create a compelling vision

Getting your business to fly in formation

Time can only be used once. Ensure you spend it wisely.

To build a truly successful business, you first need a vision – one that will set you alight with excitement, and give those around you something tangible that will capture their imagination.

Your vision will excite and inspire people to follow you – and will be at the core of everything in your business. Your vision will generate extra commitment and effort. It will translate directly into greater profitability and increase the capital value of the business. In addition, it will lay the foundations on which others can build.

Why is this important? Well, as the team around you take ownership of the goal, the goal takes on a life of its own, opening the way for you to focus on other business priorities, build profits and maybe even for you to have the time to have… a life!

Do you have that inspiring vision?

Do you have in mind a destination that you and your business are heading for? If not, then as that old saying goes “If you don’t know where you are going any road will do”.

What is a vision statement?

There are numerous definitions of what a vision statement should be and what it should include. At its simplest a vision statement should answer the following questions:

  1. What does our company do?
  2. Who are our ideal clients?
  3. What service or product do they want to purchase from us?
  4. How will we measure success?

If you can answer those questions then you should have a single message that you can communicate across every channel. It should be built in to your company’s operations and culture so everyone lives and works by it in every aspect of their role.

Where to start?

You start by simply daydreaming. It may be hazy and nebulous at first, but work at it – wafting away the mist to reach the core idea, the spirit of your vision. It may take days, even weeks. The nice thing about this constructive daydreaming is that it doesn’t stop you working while you are doing it. However, beware of thinking, as you dream your dream: ‘Oh we couldn’t do that! It’s just wishful thinking.’ It’s even easier to get lost in the how-to of it all. Don’t be held back by what you think is possible, or you will end up limiting your vision. The moment you catch yourself starting to think of how you will achieve your dream, stop, and go back to the what – the big picture. Right now, you do not need to burden yourself with reality.

 What does a vision do?

There are many advantages of having a clear view of what the business is designed to realise. A good one does several things.

Your vision will ensure that everybody in the company knows what the business is striving to achieve. As a result it allows them to focus their efforts on the things that make a difference and in so doing it motivates them to deliver the results over the long term.

If you define a clear vision you will have included in it some aspect that will differentiate you from your competitors. As you grow you will need to demonstrate that you are offering something that is different and better, and so ensure potential clients select you in preference to your competitors.

Finally it is also a unifying factor in holding an organisation together. The best example we have come across is a company called Spencer du Bois. Their vision is to work with clients whose ambitions go beyond the bottom line, to make a real difference. So they primarily work with charities, educational and cultural institutions and ‘ethically enlightened’ companies. That means that their employees know that they will work on projects that mean something to them, the clients know that they will work with people that share the same values. It all adds up to building an excellent reputation that will attract the right sort of work and will enable them to repel the sort of work that they don’t want to get involved with.

In short, your vision will excite and inspire people to follow you – and it will be at the core of everything in your business. More importantly, it will lay the foundations on which others can build, and so allow you to escape from your business. After all, Kennedy acted like any good business leader – he didn’t build the rocket or choose the astronauts: he just set out the vision and persuaded people that it was one worth pursuing.

We can summarise the benefits of you having a vision statement as follows.

It will:

  • Paint a picture of an aspirational, desired but realistic future;
  • Be distinctive, credible, memorable, and command attention;
  • Inspire and liberate;
  • Be succinct and context free;
  • Be ambitious but achievable;
  • Create ‘clear blue water’ differentiation.
  • Attract the sort of business you want to be involved in
  • Repel the sort of business you do not want to be involved in

It works for Richard Branson

How does it work in practice? Richard Branson has a clear vision of the kinds of people who will work for him. As far as he’s concerned, Virgin people are easy to spot. ‘They act in unusual ways, as it’s the only way they know how. But it’s not forced – it’s natural. They are honest, cheeky, questioning, amusing, disruptive, intelligent and restless… Virgin people are smart.

‘There are certain attributes that we look for future employees to possess. A Virgin person would typically:

  • Have a passion for new ideas;
  • Think “differently”;
  • Have signs of creativity;
  • Smell new business opportunities;
  • Always listen to customers.’

‘I joined Virgin because I wanted rock ‘n’ roll. I wanted the big challenge, the big job, the big car, but I wanted rock ‘n’ roll as well’ – and that came from a stuffy old Finance Director!

How to create your vision

Coming up with a vision begins with thinking about what it is that you are trying to build. Start by writing down what your business will look like at some point in the future.

Imagine yourself arriving at your office in five years’ time and describe what you see.

What sort of business is it? What will you deliver to your prospective clients? How big? What kinds of people do you have working for you… and what about the customers? How would you describe the ideal client? Are they corporates, global players or local shopkeepers? There is no right answer at this stage, only an image of what you want them to look like. After all it is this group of people that holds the key to your long-term future. What do they want from you? More importantly how will they derive value from using you? How do people behave towards you, each other, your suppliers… your clients? What is the culture or set of values that binds you all together?

Keep imagining what it will look like. Add anything in that you feel will shape the company’s identity. Brainstorm with other people; get loads of feedback from past and current clients, colleagues, acquaintances, friends and family about how they would describe you.

If you prefer pictures to words, we suggest that you use a mood board. Get a decent size piece of card and stick images on it that reflect what it is that you want it to be. Take off the “horizon limiter” during these sessions. Think about what it could look like. If it helps, have a drop of wine or similar to get the creative juices flowing.

Things you might consider

What goes into your vision is entirely down to you, the type of business you are in and where you are on the growth curve. The only check that can be applied to see if it works is – “Are we still heading towards it?” The basic elements of your vision might include:

  • The purpose of your business (which isn’t to make money – that’s just a by-product).

For example, ours is: ‘To help ambitious business leaders achieve profitable and sustainable business growth.’ This clear purpose underpins everything we do.

  • What products and services you offer in their totality or described in terms of the value they create. Be creative; expand on the value the clients get, rather than what it is that you do. For instance we could argue that all lawyers offer legal services, all of them are competent, all of them are qualified, and all of them say that they are personable. If you look at their vision statements it will probably contain one or more of these. If you were a lawyer, your vision statement might want to capture some other aspect of the benefit of using you. You might want to include something that you do really well such as speedier, on line, 24-hour access and so on. Each of these describes ways of achieving a difference.
  •  Who will buy from you? It is unlikely that everyone or anyone will be your target market. You will need to cut it up into smaller pieces and select one to focus on. How will you cut up or segment the market? What are the similarities between them and is the segment big enough for you in the future. You might look at the way your customers feel about the business.
  • What you compete on and what makes people seek you out above all your competitors
  • The feel of the business – what it looks like physically, how it acts, what kind of equipment you use, how your employees feel towards each other, their customers and yourself
  • Your geographic scope – where you are located, where your markets are
  • Finally, you should include some financial metrics to ensure that you keep the business side of things in focus. No business will succeed in the long term if it does not make a profit. What should that profit be? It depends on a whole raft of things. Ultimately it is down to you to decide. You might want to include some or all of the following: the size of your business in terms of turnover, profit level, and annual growth. Insert them at the end of the vision, as you might not want your suppliers to see these!

Remember, vision, differentiation and communication can move mountains! They certainly got a man to the moon.

Turning it into reality

Having gone to the trouble of drafting the vision statement, you then need to ensure that it is used as the basis for everything that you do. Turning it into reality means:

  • Allocating roles and responsibilities. Spell out to everyone what they are expected to do towards delivering to the vision statement. If we return to Kennedy for a moment, there is a famous anecdote to demonstrate the extent to which the vision captured the imaginations of everyone. On arriving at the space centre a visiting congressman asked the car park attendant what he did. “I’m putting a man on the moon, sir” was the reply.
  • Keeping it alive in hearts and minds of employees. Be creative here too. Before every meeting, place a copy of it and read through it. Ask everyone to yell out if the conversation is moving away from the agreed vision.
  • Connecting it to strategy and action programmes. Keep asking yourself – is what we are doing or planning to do going to get us closer to where we said we wanted to go?
  • Identifying critical success factors. Set out a few milestones along the way and most importantly celebrate when they are met. A sincere well done is a huge motivator.

However, your vision will die a slow, lingering death if:

  • Employees are rewarded and remunerated to do something else.
  • Employees are not empowered or equipped with skills to do what is necessary.
  • It isn’t constantly communicated and reinforced.
  • It isn’t based in reality (as well as being achievable and flexible).

Having developed the vision, you then need to communicate it. It is at this stage that things usually start to go wrong. Our experience is that it will only work if it remains visible and out of the business plan/lone sock drawer. Have it drawn up and framed to hang at the most visible part of the building. Have lots of them; support them all with examples of success.

Summary

You need a vision statement to ensure that you focus all your resources on things that matter and make a difference. Long-term sustainable growth, which is the hallmark of a successful business, comes about through leadership, careful planning and the allocation of skills, talents and knowledge to deliver benefits to clients that generates long-term profits.

The final thought on having a vision goes to Peter Drucker, a wise old bird who has given so much to business over the years:

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Wishing you every success in accelerating business growth.

Robert M. Hook

The Business CoPilot

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Yes, I know it is a bit clichéd. But we have sound evidence that most small firms do not plan well enough to ensure that they grow in a way that is sustainable and profitable.

Personally I have no problem with a one page business plan that resembles an action list rather than the deep, structured formal plan. It reflects where they are and  most probably the variability in the environment in which they are seeking to operate.

Anyhow, back to the evidence. We asked 35 people to complete a Gap Analysis of what they need to strengthen the most. The response was a need to have a plan and have goals and objectives to make the plan happen.

If you want to add your insights to the research, do feel free. Business strategy assessment.

Business CoPilot Announcements

Hi,   
We have some announcements to make!!

The Business CoPilot is broadening it’s offering.

We are adding strategic sales management to the business and executive coaching portfolio.
The simple reason being that  our clients tell us that sales and sales strategy is at the uppermost of peoples minds when growing the business. And we can help them through that journey.
Rob was recently awarded Fellow status of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Managers underpinning our credentials in sales strategy.
Our existing clients will see no change in the relationship and no change in the current arrangements. Just that the future Business CoPilot marketing material will be aimed more at bringing in new clients that are seeking support on their sales strategy.
More to follow…
Have a business issue to resolve?
If you’d like to come and meet us to talk through your sales strategy, or if you’d like more information, please call us on 0117 317 8147 or email robh@businesscopilot.co.uk.
Best wishes,
Rob and Nick

Go deep – find your intrinsic motivators

What you’re really meant to do

Strategic Sales Management Training CourseMotivation is a huge topic right now. In a business setting getting it right can pay huge dividends, getting it wrong can play havoc with the bottom line. A motivated team will go that extra mile, think bigger and more creatively, seek to make a difference. An unmotivated team will sap morale, watch the clock and save their best for elsewhere.

Something has to be done you say. And you are right. Most businesses focus on tackling the extrinsic aspects of motivation – those that can be manifested visibly. An obvious one is money. The more money you can get access to the higher the motivation and the greater the benefit. Status is another. Hitch up the job title another notch, the bigger desk, the cooler office location. The list goes on. Power, authority, bonuses. If we can tackle the tangible then the intangible will occur. Right?

Well maybe. But another way of looking at the issue is to seek to enhance engagement through the intrinsic motivators. These are the things that motivate us internally. For instance you may be passionate about your business’ culture , the unique way things get done. Or you might seek to engage and relate with work on an intellectual stimulation basis. You love the challenge of a difficult problem to grapple with and receive thanks for the efforts. Some might seek to forge strong bonds with others and create a team spirit that delivers.

The problem as you can see immediately is that extrinsic is easy to see and manage and can be effected corporately, whilst intrinsic focuses on what cannot be seen and is centred on the individual.

But it’s worth the effort. Break the mould of stereotypical views of success by measuring it through benchmarking, goals, objectives, all forms of visible milestones. Seek instead to motivate by digging deep and uncovering what really motivates us – our values. By doing so you release untapped potential.

How? Take the time to ask the team members what it is that they value and how they can make that happen at the workplace. I met a business owner who values where he works. He is hard working, diligent, creative and resourceful. But he likes to work in a variety of settings. Placing him in an office would stifle his energy and eventually lead to him either leaving or working sub-optimally. Another loved to walk and talk. The place and the pace were the key to him achieving his inner or intrinsic motivational platform.

Insanely simple and yet difficult to make happen. Which is why most organisations prefer extrinsic measures. Why not break through the outer hard shell and engage with the living person beneath. It might surprise you.

Let me know how you get on.

What youre really meant to doPS – the inspiration for this blog came from reading this book – “What you’re really meant to do.” by Robert S. Kaplan

 

Vision must be embedded in the day to day of doing business

“Here is our vision”. I looked at it and was impressed. Partly because they had gone to the trouble of actually thinking about it and then writing it down and because it was very strong. It had many of the components that a vision should have. It had direction, values, core competency, target audience and a clear definition of the services offered. it was aspirational and practical. Great stuff.

flightplan

But what I noticed when I talked to them was that the vision was not actually the guiding light it was intended to be. Whilst looking at new avenues for growth or to assess performance, they didn’t go back to the flight plan or the vision.

It seemed to me that they did the vision statement but then left it. Job done move on.

I am now working with companies to make sure they embed the vision in the business. To somehow insert the vision statement into the business metrics or the performance stats. Even when they do strategic interventions or look at new ideas I am looking at ways to ensure they consistently revisit the vision statement.

My one way is to make sure that the sales stats reflect the target audience in the vision statement. That way they have to go back and check to see if they are within the plan or to assess if the vision needs updating.

Where would you ensure that the vision was embedded in the day-to-day running of the business?

Game, Set, Match – get them in the right order

To win a tennis match means winning a series of games. The games won will then turn into sets that will then turn into matches.

Balls win matches

“Isn’t that insulting my intelligence?” I hear you rant at the screen. “I know how to win a game of tennis!” Agreed. How about winning in business though?

I come across a lot of business owners who want to win matches but don’t accumulate enough games to win the match.

They are too busy doing the other things assuming victory is theirs as a right. Using the tennis metaphor they will be writing their victory speech or reflecting on the press conference rather than getting on with the grind of winning games.

In business a game could be completing the marketing collateral, writing the job specs, filling in the expenses, doing the budgets, reviewing client satisfaction ratings. Al the small but essential tasks that need to be done and done well.

Do enough of them and you will see progress. The equivalent of a set perhaps. Persist and the match might be yours. Time for you to grasp the racket and head for the base line.

New balls please …

Coping with the summertime slowdown

sunbizJune is in full swing, and summertime is upon us. Yes, we might look out of the window and see grey skies, or even – dare I say it? – rain! But according to the longer days and impending school holidays, it is definitely summer.

Assuming that your business isn’t seasonal and looking forward to a warm-weather boom, you could face a lull as people start to switch off and get into holiday mode.

So how can you prepare, and what can you do to minimise its impact?

Grow your network (on and offline)

This is a great time to attend as many events as possible and build your network. Attending after-work events on summer evenings is much more appealing than rainy nights when it gets dark early! Be careful though, as some regular events may not take place in summer months, so make sure you check the details before heading out.

Automate what you can

If you and others you work with are going to be away, it’s a better excuse than ever to automate what communications you can. Automate responses to newsletter sign ups, with timed follow-ups if you can, and set out a timetable of social media posts to keep it ticking over while you switch off. Personalised marketing is still essential, but these can be a handy supplement.

Send your staff out for training

This can also be a great time to send staff out for training, and can be a constructive way to keep holiday-headed employees focused while also renewing their enthusiasm.

Take a break

One thing you must do is make sure you take a break yourself, switching off completely. A break where you check your emails and deal with issues is not a break. Make sure you book time off well in advance and make the necessary preparations before you leave to ensure everyone knows you’ll be out of action. This is your reward for being connected for the rest of the year, so don’t feel guilty!

(NB. Make sure your autoresponse message is correct, rather than just setting it off with the same message as your holiday last year, to avoid confusion over when you will return.)

Experiment!

Summer is a brilliant time to try out all of the innovative ideas you have thought of but haven’t had time for. Perhaps it’s a new marketing method or an initiative to increase productivity. Perhaps you want to try an incentive for returning clients. Whatever it is, now is the time to give it a go!

Freebies are priceless

giftsWith the internet’s wealth of free content, we are all used to getting something for nothing. Whether it’s sharp insights from a blog, a song streamed through Spotify or a tutorial watched on YouTube, you can get most things for free somewhere on the internet (though quality might not always be guaranteed).

This culture of free access to information is not limited to the internet. Actually, giving something away for nothing (think loss-leaders and taster products) has been a tried-and-tested part of the sales process for a very long time.

But why, you might ask, should you waste valuable time giving your services away for nothing? You might have plenty of paying customers, but if you don’t have more in the pipeline, offering a freebie can provide a great boost.

You build trust

A free use of your services builds trust with the customer and gives them an opportunity to ask you any questions which might be preventing them from buying. They can experience first-hand your expertise and see exactly how the product works.

They get to try something new

Giving your customer the opportunity to experience your service for nothing offers the perfect excuse to step outside their comfort zone and try something new. The freebie offer is particularly useful for things which people are unsure about or don’t quite understand. Showing is far more effective than telling.

Start building a relationship

Most people understand that they will be required to give something, whether it’s their email address, feedback or something else of use to you, in return for their freebie. It also gives you and the customer an opportunity to see you’re the right fit for what they need.

Engage with a wider audience

Hand in hand with relationship building, the freebie gives the customer a chance to engage with you and vice versa. Eve

n if they don’t become a customer following their freebie, stay in touch using your newsletter and social media, in case future offerings will be better suited to them or their contacts.

Try it:
Perhaps you could offer a free consultation, if your business suits this concept, or hold an event to display your expertise in a certain field. Make sure you get at least an email address for anyone you meet with and keep in touch!

Practising what we preach: We offer a free 90-minute one to one meeting to gauge how well we’ll work together and what we can do to help you achieve your business goals. To see how well our freebie works, get in touch and book your one to one now, by emailing alexh@businesscopilot.co.uk or calling 0117 317 8147. 

Who Moved My Cheese?

A young employee’s perspective

In the past year, I have experienced more change than perhaps at any other point in my life so far. I graduated from University, moved to a new city, started a new job, moved in with people I didn’t know, moved out again, moved in with old friends and started learning to play piano.

Who Moved My Cheese?

So ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Dr Spencer Johnson really struck a chord with me when I read it last week.

‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ is, put simply, a book about change. It’s about how change affects us, or perhaps more accurately, how we let change affect us. The book’s 4 characters (Hem, Haw, Scurry and Sniff) all react differently to their main source of sustenance and happiness, their cheese, being moved. Some move on without thinking, some refuse to accept it and some come round to the idea of looking for something new. It is a business book which isn’t explicitly about business, but whose lessons are particularly relevant to business, especially in the modern market.

The story mostly follows Hem, who at first is crushed by losing his cheese, but comes to learn that finding new cheese will make him stronger, and that he mustn’t take cheese for granted.

The moral is clear: don’t get comfortable. When you begin to rely on cheese, take it for granted and forget that it isn’t yours, you set yourself up for a fall when it is inevitably removed. I can’t help but feel that this book is much more relevant now in a business sense than it would have been when it was published in 1998. People are very rarely employed in a job for life, and the constantly updating digital landscape means things are continually in flux. Nothing stands still.

So, this book may be simple in its message, but it is all the better for it. Do not let yourself be static while the rest of the world moves along. In the book, the metaphor for change-readiness is keeping your running shoes tied at the laces, hung around your neck. This is an invaluable lesson, and one which I intend to follow. Always be ready to move, whether this means learning new skills, crafting new products to meet customers’ needs, rebranding yourself or your company, or just keeping an eye on what’s going on in your industry.

Just make sure that when the cheese moves, you’re ready to get out there and find it again.

Alex, Communications Officer
alexh@businesscopilot.co.uk

View from the Cockpit: Transformation Leaders

Transformation Leaders is a a unique managed community of independent board level transformation leaders. David Pinchard, MD, answers questions about the company’s past and future in this month’s View from the Cockpit.

What is the vision for Transformation Leaders? Where would you love to see your business go?

We are an independent company based in Bristol and London and we have already been operating for 12 years. We are unique, as we believe in running a carefully selected and managed community with a ceiling of no more than 150 very good senior board level independents, available for great transformation projects in all board disciplines. We have won over £2.5 million of successful projects so far for our members, some being as far away as with Tata HQ in India, and last November I joined a mission of 15 SW MD’s on the largest trade mission to China for many years.

Unusually, we are not an interim agent (and don’t charge like one either), so we have saved our wide range of clients, from the very big like Panasonic and HMG, to the smaller, fast growing companies in the private sector, over £1M through the way that interim agents charge to find the right independent transformation-leader for a project.

The goal is thus: ‘More successful projects year on year’ for clients at board level. We just love what we do, making a real difference to our clients and members.

What might prevent you from achieving this?

Nothing, really. We know how we have got to where we are, and being high quality and unique in the market helps enormously. Referral gets us there. The internet, websites and so on are excellent methods to check people out, but they are not usually what get you through the front door.

We are independent ‘thought leaders ‘in our segment, so we run a lot of good development events in three centres around the country to share our knowledge with clients and members and keep on learning.

How do you plan to resolve these issues?

Although we don’t anticipate any issues, we do have our own five year plan. As a wider picture I think we all have to understand that 50% of our GDP in the state is already a recipe for disaster. Too much debt is lethal once interest rates rise. Printing money in the short term may be vital, but strategically it is inflationary. For our country, which is 1% of the world’s population, not earning our way in the world in innovative ways that add value to what we produce, means we’ll end up starving, with a danger of accompanying civil disturbance; and our currency? It will end up on the floor.

This means constant change, constant improvement and delivery of ‘measurably better for less cost’, or we will not be able to afford the very considerable benefits our people currently enjoy. If you ‘add value’, you’ll need to add even more. If you rely on the state (as around 25% of UK adults do), you’ll need to take a lot less. We have been bankrupt before, from 1940 and onwards to 1952 or so. We got out of that one and also a number of very sticky periods in between. We need to do so again. And we can thank another great British inventor, Tim Berners Lee, only 20 years ago, enabling computers to talk to each other to significantly increase the ability of small businesses to compete and export at much lower set up and running costs and to export their added value easily.

Visit the Transformation Leaders website or connect with David on LinkedIn.

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