Clarity is the alchemy that divides businesses which fail from those which enjoy longevity. When businesses lose direction, or have none to begin with, it’s a sharp and relatively quick downwards spiral towards closure or acquisition.
A lack of clarity is something that can plague the smallest to the largest organisation. We are operating in a volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous (VUCA) world, and in facing these conditions, and dealing with our own internal turmoil, we can find ourselves lost – or at a loss – at times.
1. What business are you in?
This may seem to be the most mundane question to begin with, but in contrast to its simplicity, it sets the strategic direction for organisations.
Consider McDonalds, for example. Asked what business McDonalds is in, we would probably answer fast food. Ask McDonalds that question and the answer you’ll get is property.
Knowing this fact helps us understand that McDonalds will only purchase prime property, in high-traffic areas. Unless this raison de etre changes, you will not find McDonalds locating in Petrol Stations.
Understanding the very core of the business you operate gives a massive injection to knowing the strategic direction of the organisation.
Related: Create Clarity for Your Team
2. Is the market there?
Whilst the answer to question 1 is an internal, strategic question, question 2 requires engagement with sources outside your organisation or circle of friends.
It is imperative that you quantify the size of the market that you are aiming for, and understand as much about the market dynamic as possible, prior to market entry.
You have to consider the size of the market, how competitive the space is, and whether power is held asymmetrically by any of the players. Think long and hard about how you are going to win your piece of the pie, particularly if you are low on resources versus your competitors.
3. What problem do you solve?
Answering this question helps you understand the need your business addresses. Position your answer in the context of solving a problem that a consumer or business has.
Doing so shifts your focus from features to benefits. For example, if you are a motor manufacturer, saying that you get people from A to B might be true. However, if the only thing your car does is get you from A to B, then your competitor will also be bicycles.
There is far more to this picture than what may be immediately obvious, so it’s important to invest time really thinking through your answer to this question.
4. Who do you serve?
This question is intertwined with 3 above, but moves the question to a different level. This focus requires gaining clarity about the consumer who will buy your product or service. Or, if you’re in the B2B sector, which is the organisation your business would love to serve?
It is important to define this to the point that you can describe your client in terms of an actual person, or specific organisation, and have identified the traits that make them your ideal client. This client–centric approach allows you to gear your business and your marketing around your client’s specific needs and expectations.
5. How do you make money?
- How does your business intend to create income?
- Are you producing a product with a certain margin on at the time of sale? Are you offering a service of some kind?
- What pricing strategy are you going to pursue?
- What is the pricing currently on offer by your competitors
- How does your pricing compare versus the value you are – or intend to be – offering?
Pricing your offering at the correct point is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make as an entrepreneur. Price too low and you leave too much on the table. Price too high and your demand dives. Pricing in the middle secures you the highest possible demand at the best possible price.
6. How much money do you make?
If you consider the cost structure that your business has, versus the revenues that you imagine you will achieve:
- How much money is left on the table at the end of each month, each quarter and each year?
- Is the residual income sufficient to reward you for the risks you are undertaking and the effort you are investing into the business?
- Is there enough cash flow to sustain growth and to fend off competitor interest, should it arise?
- Are your earnings sufficient to meet your longer term expectations, and those of your shareholders or investors?
If you are not comfortable with cash flow analysis, get some help from someone who is. If your business isn’t generating cash the business model won’t sustain.
7. How are you different from your competitors?
What separates you from your competitors? Why would a customer buy from you versus another industry player? When there is parity in the market, the lever to shift is price. Those lofty revenue ambitions that you set drain away as you relentlessly discount to win business.
Your differential needs to be clearly definable and must be something meaningful to your customers. It is absolutely pointless to excel at something that is meaningless to your customer.
There are certain things that you must do to play in the market, and then there are things you can do to win in the market. How do you win over your competitors? Unless you have a distinct and definable differential, expect to compete on price.
8. How do you delight your customers?
There is a vast difference between locking your customers into a contract for 24 months – so that they cannot leave you even if that would be their choice – to designing your offering to be so attractive to your customer that they choose to remain with you, despite competitor approach.
If you don’t believe this is possible, consider the millions of Apple fans and how unlikely it is that they will defect to other providers. Delighting customers means really understanding what they want, what they need and when and how to give it to them.
Remember that in marketing, everything counts, so this question must be answered in the context of all the marketing P’s – product, price, place, promotion, people, process and physical environment. With the digital age upon us, these can be expanded to include participation, prediction and personalisation.
9. What happens if …
A large part of your strategic planning approach must be to scenario plan. We are in a VUCA world, and as a result, things happen that we did not anticipate.
Any business can overcome the smaller humps and bumps. However, what if a ‘black-swan’ event occurs; an event that is very rare, but highly significant, to the extent that it is game-changing. Think in the context of how AirBnB disrupted the hotel industry and how Uber has changed the taxi industry.
- What if an AirBnB or Uber arrives in your industry?
- What if they take your largest customer?
- What if they undercut your pricing by some margin?
- What if they offer more value than you can afford?
Negative events should not be the only thing you consider in scenario planning.
- What happens if one of your competitors goes up for sale?
- What happens if one of your competitor’s largest distributors approaches you for business?
- What happens if the opportunity of a lifetime presents itself on your doorstep?
- How ready will you be able to leverage the opportunity to your advantage quickly?
10. What next?
This is a question that every entrepreneur must hold in their mind, because it dictates how the business is managed and run.
- Is the business being built for sale in 5 years?
- Are you actively looking to franchise at a future point?
- Are your plans to expand into Africa or other continents in the near future?
- Is the business being run as a cash cow with the intention of an exit within the next few years?
Each of these strategies has a very different and distinct way that the business must be managed. You must know therefore, with clarity, what your intended future holds.
Once these 10 questions have been asked and answered to your satisfaction, they will need to be asked and answered again in a repeating cycle. The process of gaining and maintaining clarity around your business is never-ending. The business environment is always changing. Similarly, you as an entrepreneur are not static in your needs. Clarity is business alchemy. And knowing the answers to these ten questions at all times during your entrepreneurial journey enables you to transform your business into gold.
Business Leadership: Leading A Culturally Diverse Business Team
The question every successful business leader needs to consider – How do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
As I witnessed the rain dancing against the window panes of the Mega mall in Midvalley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I started reflecting on how to lead a culturally diverse business team.
Thousands of Malay, Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans passed me in the hallways of this gargantuan construction and the Dalai Lamas’ wise words reminded me that at the core of it all, irrespective of what your nationality is or what your belief system is, in general:
“We all want to experience joy and avoid suffering”
A key question that every team leader should carefully consider is how do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
How can we as a diverse team be united in the joys of experiencing an expanding and successful business with a wonderful and constructive culture and avoid the suffering of a failing business and the negative experience of a toxic culture? These are of course ‘loaded’ questions because inherent within these questions are the birthing of other key challenges –
How can we as Leaders create a relatively stable and inspirational environment from within which it is easier for each individual to unlock their vast potential when vast differences in upbringing, schooling, world views, and religious beliefs exists within one team. Especially when considering the ever changing and evolving business environment within which we operate?
Fulfilling the role of a Business Leadership coach, trainer, or life coach as the situation demanded over several years I have coached, Lead, or trained Pilipino, Chinese, Malay, African, and European people. A very key learning from my experiences is that a “cross cultural and shared understanding” can be created that transcends any spoken language or any national culture.
This common language and culture has many elements but for the purpose of this article I will focus on the three key aspects:
Have a united and focused purpose
When a united and focussed purpose exists for the business team that they collectively place higher than themselves the barriers of differences in upbringing, schooling, and world views can dissolve within their shared purpose. As business leaders we cannot refer to purpose too much, even more importantly that that, we must be living, walking and talking examples of the businesses’ purpose.
To simplify the concept of purpose it can be said that purpose is the highest intent for, or the very good reason why we do what we do. That reason is or should be even more important than ourselves. When we really love what we do and sincerely so our performance is likely to be very good, on the other hand if we totally dislike the line of business that we are in or totally despise our role within an entrepreneurial venture we are likely not going to unleash our unlimited potential.
It could be argued that the sole purpose for having a business is to make a profit. Through this article I argue that that is not a strong enough reason to sustain you and make you thrive even through difficult times. The strange thing is that when you truly live your purpose with all your might and tirelessly inspire your team to do the same the money comes anyway…
Servant heart and attitude
Rabindranath Tagore famously said:
“I dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”
A servant heart is universal and transcends cultural difference, a sincere and giving smile is a beautiful language of its own that needs no translation. If that ‘servant heart and smile’ is underpinned by well-developed people and technical skills it multiplies into a potent combination of character, experience, and wisdom that has great influential power within any culture.
Whether it is through the use of interpreters, and even if it takes great patience, even when a lot of mistakes are made, persevere until everyone in the team understands that servant leadership is the key to winning the minds and hearts of others.
When all in the team becomes aware that we were only ever meant to master ourselves and thereby become better servants to all, this heightened awareness can unlock the unlimited potential within individuals in the team.
Respect for people and their worldviews
My favourite poet Rumi said:
‘The wound is where the light seeps in’
Respect all as we could not understand each individuals’ pain and hardships unless we went through it ourselves. Have compassion for all as we, in general expect compassion when we go through hardships. We can only imagine what sets of beliefs we would entertain where we to grow up in a completely different culture.
My endless curiosity and determination to learn has served me well as a coach for when your interest in others is sincere they tend to ‘open up’ to you and share and thereby you fasttrack your own learning and gain insights into your co-team members worldviews which in turn greatly enhances the team dynamics.
Be authentic and acknowledge your vulnerabilities, ‘wounds’ and shortcomings and be proud of your strengths for then your team members will help you to overcome your weaknesses and learn from your strengths.
15 Ways To Command A Conversation Like A Boss
If you’re the one talking, it’s your responsibility to make sure others are listening.
Conversations can elicit a range of emotions. They may be daunting, or they may be dreaded. They may be awkward, or they may be monotonous. The good news is, you, as a participant in any conversation, have more control than you think about whether these emotions overtake the dialogue.
Having a successful conversation is about striking the balance between preparedness and flexibility, between explaining your thoughts clearly and knowing when to pause or check in. It’s about being upfront about your preferences and ideas while being open to adapting them based on what comes of the discussion.
A fruitful conversation stems from establishing a rapport with someone. Show them you know where they’re coming from. Clarify that you understand what they’ve said. Be respectful of their time and don’t dictate back to them how you perceive them to be thinking or feeling. Keep questions open-ended. Experiment with new conversation settings or styles. And don’t give in to the internal voices that try to convince you to defer too much or suffer in silence.
To help you get your points across and help others convey theirs, read through the following 15 tips, which expand more on the ideas above.
Being A Born Entrepreneur Doesn’t Automatically Mean You’re A Born Leader
The person who has the vision to start a company might not be the person to grow the company.
More often than not, we tend to think of entrepreneurship and leadership as synonymous qualities.
Entrepreneurs are expected to break new ground, be innovative, start something new. It only stands to reason they would naturally take charge of what they’ve created and lead it.
However, it turns out that the required skills of an effective entrepreneur are almost entirely different from the required skills of an effective leader. As many CEOs of growing companies can tell you, there’s a vast difference between creating a business and growing one.
One of the primary reasons great entrepreneurs including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Henry Ford were so influential was precisely because they were both master entrepreneurs and leaders.
To successfully grow a business, an entrepreneur must learn how to become an effective leader. Here are the five leadership skills every entrepreneur must master:
Entrepreneurs, and especially solopreneurs, who run growing businesses are eventually shocked to realise it is impossible to do everything by themselves. Most entrepreneurs are uncomfortable with the idea of delegation. They want to do everything themselves because they have a natural sense of ownership over their work. They find it difficult to believe anyone else would do what needs to be done. After all, they were the ones who built the business from scratch all by themselves.
The reality is, though, as a business grows, so does the amount of work that needs to go into running it.
Leaders understand their own time and energy are finite resources. Great leaders understand that, to be most effective in the company, they must play to their strengths and delegate their weaknesses to others who are more qualified.
Steve Jobs famously played a very small part in building the OS and designing the original Apple computers. He knew how to grow a business, so he focused on what he could do and wisely left it to Steve Wozniak and his team to execute his vision.
The perk of being a lone wolf is that you know exactly what needs to be done and the right way to do it. But, that has to change when you find yourself a leader.
We all have horror stories of working for a manager who didn’t communicate instructions effectively, which inevitably leads to confusion and frustration from both parties. As a leader, you’ll need to clearly and succinctly explain everything from your vision to administrative tasks to your employees.
But, communication is not a one-way street. You need to know what to say and how to listen. Effective leaders don’t simply give orders. They accept feedback and criticism, as well.
A constant bridge of communication between a leader and an employee not only reduces inefficiencies but also leads to a healthier and more productive workplace for all.
Entrepreneurs seldom lack in the inspiration department. They were passionate enough to start a business themselves, but not everyone shares their enthusiasm. A key skill of any good leader is to inspire the people around them.
It’s not enough to simply tell people what their job is and expect them to do it. To get the most out of your team, you have to make them believe in your vision and feel like they’re actively making an impact in their role. This is especially important when working in a start-up.
The good news is that anyone can become an inspiring leader as long as they create a clear culture around the company’s vision, values, and beliefs.
When Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as CEO, he quickly realised the majority of his employees were no longer focused on providing customers with a positive experience. This led him to shut down 7,100 stores one day to retrain all baristas on making an espresso. This bold move not only sharpened his employees’ technical skills, but also quickly brought Starbucks’ ultimate vision back into focus.
As an entrepreneur, you should be well aware of just how powerful a mentor can be to personal and professional growth. As a leader, if you want your employees to be as effective as possible, you need to do more than just give them orders.
Along with giving them the resources they need to do their job well, you also need to be able to help them move forward in their own careers.
This can be as simple as offering them training in skills they are interested in, giving them more responsibilities, or spending more one-on-one time with them. Leaders should be able to do more than just lead from the front; they have to be able to provide support from behind as well.
By adopting a coaching mentality, you can be assured of your employees’ loyalty to you and your vision. Plus, helping your employees achieve their full potential means they’re more likely be an asset to you and your business.
It should go without saying that being innovative and adaptive is key for entrepreneurs. But, instead of only using their knack for problem-solving on market opportunities, leaders are also focused on providing solutions for problems within the company.
A large part of running a growing company is learning how to deal with internal problems like employee disputes, disorganisation, or a lack of motivation. Employees will always look to the leader to solve these issues.
When no clear-cut solutions are present, leaders need to be able to think outside the box. One surefire way to quickly lose both the respect and trust of your employees is to outsource the solution to someone else or avoid responsibility by blaming others.
Last-minute changes and mishaps happen in any business, so it’s up to the leader to adapt quickly and show everyone else the right way to handle these situations.
If entrepreneurs who have the passion and innovation to start their own businesses can develop these five skills of great leaders, they will be most effective in leading those businessess into growth and a bright future.
Read next: What Kind Of Leader Are You?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Snapshots9 years ago
Habari Media: Adrian Hewlett
Start-up Industry Specific3 weeks ago
How Do I Start A Transport Or Logistics Business?
Snapshots11 months ago
27 Of The Richest People In South Africa
Types of Businesses to Start3 weeks ago
11 Uniquely South African Business Ideas
Entrepreneur Profiles6 months ago
10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing
Types of Businesses to Start7 months ago
10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!
Support for Women Entrepreneurs10 months ago
10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family
Lessons Learnt3 weeks ago
6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa