Know the “Why”
If you do not have clarity over your Vision and Mission, your efforts to build a sustainable business are at best limited but more likely doomed to failure. There must be an over-arching reason for the business to exist. The Vision is the ultimate purpose of the business: the “Why?” your business exists. The best Vision is the one that all other stakeholders can subscribe to. It may be as great as being the first to build an aeroplane that flies, a computer that is affordable or a cure for cancer. Equally, it can be as basic as making a living, being a good printer or able to sell cars. Only the business owner can determine the vision that is right for them.
If the Vision is the Why? then the Mission is the What? which gives you the Why? What are we going to produce or provide that will benefit customers and will help us deliver our Vision? So as a local corner shop, we may decide to focus on being the convenience store for the neighbourhood or bringing freshly baked breads and cakes to the community. As a printer, we may focus on cheap, quick and fast or we may focus on a high finish, quality product. What is essential is that we have focus and clarity on what it is that we are committed to provide to meet the customers need.
Satisfy the Customer
The primary function of any business is to find and meet a customer need. Sometimes the function is to identify an existing need and do it better than anyone else and sometimes it is in creating a need that we did not know existed. We all need food so a supermarket or hypermarket, where we can get everything under one roof, is a great idea. What makes it better, for most people, is an improved service or a better price, if not both. On the other hand, who ever thought that bottled water would be an essential element of our lives? In business, nothing happens without a Sale. You do not need production, people, finance or resources if you do not have a Sale! For a sustainable business it is better to focus on the Customer, rather than just on the Sale. Focusing on the Customer and their need means identifying and supporting their immediate and long-term needs in the way that the Customer most wants it, rather than seeking to make a quick buck from one highly profitable Sale.
Open for Operations
Customers want what you deliver; that’s why they buy from you in the first place. If you do it well, they return. You can get all caught up in the Vision, Mission and making the Sale but it is all dependent upon your ability to supply and service the Customer need. How are you going to produce or deliver what it is that the customer wants? This is the engine room of any business. This is where you succeed or fail to deliver on Customer requirements. Ignore it at your peril. The vast majority of your resources are most likely to be involved in this area of the business.
Power in People
Everything that happens in business is delivered and provided by human beings. Many, many Business Owners will pay lip service to how great their people are: as Staff, as Suppliers or as Customers. Unless there is a very real focus on every individual associated with the business, knowing and understanding their roles, responsibilities and meeting their needs, there will be a continuous stream of replacement people required in all areas. More than anything, people want to be recognised and appreciated for a good job well done. After that they want challenge and growth. And yes, they do want remuneration and rewards but the most important of these rewards is not always financial. Know what the people around your business want, work to ensure that they have it and you add considerably to the foundation for a successful and sustainable business.
Know the Numbers
The day of reckoning comes sooner rather than later. There is an on-going and immediate need to know and understand how the business is doing: whether it is making a profit or a loss. In the long term, any business generating profits has the capacity to survive, grow and prosper. Any business generating losses will cease to exist. It is imperative that there is constant and quick feedback on the numbers: sales made and collected, suppliers tracked and paid, staff remunerated regularly as well as all of the compliance required by law. The Business Owner does not need to know how every last task is completed but they need to have an understanding that the critical elements are under constant management and review.
Cash is King
Businesses that fail, that go out of business, do so for one reason and one reason only. They run out of cash. It is essential for any business to have a reasonable base to start with: sufficient cash and funds for the launch and finance of assets, resources and working capital. The majority of time and effort required by Finance and Accounts is in ensuring that working capital is properly managed, that cash flow continues to be positive, both for the business and the business owners.
How do you know that your business is doing well? Review and devise the key measures that spell success for your business: It may be Orders, Customers, Profits or Cash or something else, as defined by you. The essential element is to know what is critical for your business and to measure it regularly. To enable the business to grow and expand, it is critical to ensure that every significant task and job is completed in a consistent manner, within a specified timeframe to the required standards. Thus, everyone involved will know what is required and expected of them
There are great rewards to be gained through climbing the ladder of success for Business Owners. Unfortunately, the majority do not concentrate on any ultimate goal and the effort needed to achieve that. Initially, it is about survival. Ultimately it is the capacity to live your dream. Make the effort.