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10 Questions To Achieve The Clarity You Need For Your Business

In the business context, there are 10 questions that, when answered with clarity, enable a business of any size to get to grips with its business, and its probability of success.

Janet Featherstone

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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.

Related: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started

5. How do you make money?

making-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.

Related: 6 Thought Provoking Leadership Quotes That You Should Actually Follow

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.

Janet Featherstone is an international business & executive coach, consultant and strategist. Janet is a professional associate at GIBS. Connect with Janet at https://za.linkedin.com/in/janetfeatherstone.

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Leading

Coaching: The Best-Kept Secret To Growing As An Entrepreneur

A good coach can turn raw talent into refined expertise and refined talent into renowned success. But how do we bridge “the coaching gap”?

Zach Ferres

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Sometimes, a change at the top can be the difference between a perennial loser and a surprise contender. For proof, look no further than the Los Angeles Rams, a team which less than a year ago wrapped up a 4-12 season that included a midyear coaching transition.

New coach Sean McVay appears to have energised his players, helping the Rams capture momentum that was completely absent when the team lost seven consecutive games to close out the 2016 season.

Yes, the Rams play football, but there’s a lesson there for startup and small business owners. Because, like professional athletes, entrepreneurs perform better under the guidance of great coaches.

And the news there is good: Due to the competitive advantages entrepreneurs enjoy from expert coaching, the marketplace for coaches has started to swell. According to the 2016 Global Coaching study by the International Coach Federation and PricewaterhouseCoopers, global coaching revenue was estimated to be about $2.4 billion in 2015, besting 2011’s figure by a substantial 19 percent.

Not to mention what’s happening with the bigger guys: Up to 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies now work with executive coaches, according to consulting firm Hay Group.

Related: Paddy Upton: People Centred Coaching

Yet, while executive coaching has gained traction, many start-up founders lack access to high-quality coaches. The paradox? They can’t afford an experienced coach, but need one to be able to build their companies to the point of being able to do just that.

What separates a coach from a mentor

posted about this coaching paradox on LinkedIn a while back, and my post attracted a flood of comments. After reading them through, I realised that many people don’t understand the distinction between a mentor and a coach. While these positions might seem similar, there’s actually a world of difference between the two.

“Mentors,” for one thing, don’t usually follow a fixed schedule or require payment. They help with strategic issues, answering questions for founders without actively participating in company operations.

“Coaches,” on the other hand, are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They are typically paid, and operate on, a fixed schedule to help entrepreneurs make themselves better. Mentors offer great advice; coaches ask great questions.

Based on the comments my post attracted, founders of new start-ups are hungry for a coach. There’s a huge gap in the start-up community as it relates to coaching; everyone needs it, but relatively few people are willing to provide it for free. So, what to do?

How to bridge entrepreneurship’s coaching gap

bridge-gap-between-mentorship

The question is, how do we solve the paradox and match enterprising, young CEOs with talented coaches? The answer to this coaching quandary rests in the basic ecology of entrepreneurship. By studying the interactions between entrepreneurs and their physical environment, a cycle of mutually beneficial coaching exchanges begins to emerge.

Here are its three steps:

1. First-time founders: Barter for coaches

Young founders probably can’t afford to shell out more than $1 million a year for coaching sessions with Tony Robbins. Instead, they must find coaches willing to offer their services for a low cost. They also might be able to trade their own services for coaching.

My first coach, James, was also one of my clients when I was running my first company in Ohio. James was a sales coach who asked us to build his new website. When I initially met with him to discuss the project, I accidentally went to the wrong Starbucks. I arrived 15 minutes late for our meeting, which prompted his first lesson: “Be on time when you meet with people. You’re young, and you need to do the little things to ensure that others take you seriously and treat you as a professional.”

Many team members from BounceFire still remember “the call” James made to our office one day when things weren’t going well. We took our lumps, but we learned incredible lessons. He later admitted that he was deliberately hard on me because he wanted to see me succeed.

All first-time entrepreneurs should have someone like that to push them harder and help them navigate the early pitfalls of leadership – inside and outside of work. Work your network to find someone who might be willing to provide a bit of free (or relatively cheap) coaching every now and then to help keep you on track.

Related: How Leadership Coaching Can Lead Your Team To Sustained Success

2. Connect growing founders to paid coaches

Founders of expanding companies have experienced enough success to know where their problems lie, but they haven’t mastered everything. Paid executive coaches can hold founders accountable and provide detailed wisdom during critical decisions, making them a worthwhile investment.

Not sure what to look for in a good executive coach? Countless executives have gleaned incredible insights from the likes of Jerry Colonna, who uses self-inquiry to help executives hone their leadership skills and better understand themselves. Others take a more solution-oriented approach, asking questions to steer executives through routine business issues. Such was the case with Silicon Valley legend Bill Campbell. Find someone who meshes with your personal style, and view the monthly fee as a worthwhile investment in your company’s future.

According to the study by the International Coach Federation, 23 percent of coaches surveyed said they primarily focus on executives. Growing founders should not hesitate to invest some time and money into someone who can help them get more out of themselves.

3. Develop successful founders into coaches and advisors 

The path to coaching is relatively simple for successful entrepreneurs, because it’s typically one of the key traits you develop as a leader. Find one or two first-time founders whom you truly believe in, and give them an hour or two of your time every month for coaching sessions. This will keep your coaching and leadership skills sharp, and you will be helping the next generation of entrepreneurs.

I am still working to become a better coach and leader, but I do advise several start-ups across the country. I also find myself in an advisory role for many of our accelerator start-ups. We recently took seven of them to GITEX Technology Week in Dubai, and it was great to spend time mentoring start-up founders while learning about their unique struggles.

Related: How Business Coaching Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

Once you have some experience, you might consider doing a paid coaching engagement with an active or growing founder. As you break your way into the coaching scene, don’t forget to continue to work with your own coach – you’ll still need some help along the way.

Executive coaching shouldn’t be rare or reserved for well-connected entrepreneurs. A good coach can turn raw talent into refined expertise or refined talent into renowned success. From the greenest start-up to the most seasoned veterans, coaching is the key to unlocking untapped potential.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Why Your Fleet Management Plays a Pivotal Role In Your Business

Fleet managers and fleet management tools are often associated with large logistics and transportation companies.

TomTom Telematics

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The challenge

Fleet managers and fleet management tools are often associated with large logistics and transportation companies.

But, if your company:

  • Relies on transportation and vehicles to service your clients or deliver a product
  • Is interested in improving efficiencies and productivity, and saving on the bottom line
  • Has transport costs as a line-item on your expense report
  • Then you are a fleet manager — whether the title exists in your business or not.

Related: Fleet Tools Will Help You Get More Done In Less Time

The solution

Why do companies need fleet management?

WEBFLEET lets people work better together to achieve business results. When everyone is connected, people can work better together and this can help make smarter decisions to help businesses achieve their goals. These can include: Improved efficiency, improved productivity, improved accountability, greater focus on service, greater responsibility, and innovation.

WEBFLEET gets you closer to your drivers

When your team is connected, this helps everyone make better decisions — and that facilitates happy customers, great governance and reaching new goals for your business.

Quick to implement and easy to use, WEBFLEET provides immediate vehicle insight, tracking, messaging and controls, totally in sync with your core business processes.

webfleetWhat is WEBFLEET?

Software as a Service (online fleet management software) that provides businesses with immediate information about what is happening with their vehicles, people and orders in the field, designed for any business size and every vehicle type (passenger cars, vans, trucks).

WEBFLEET connects the vehicles and drivers with the staff in the office, bringing them closer together.

WEBFLEET provides vehicle tracking, fleet optimisation, workforce management and the option to integrate business applications.

The right fleet management solution will not only help you save on your bottom line, it can help you improve efficiencies and productivity, and give your customers a better overall experience.

Related: Why Mitigating Your Risk Can Drive Up Your Fleets Profits

TomTom Telematics is assisting its customers through the following solutions and differentiators:

  • A future-proof solution, thanks to continuous innovation. 17 years of experience in processing big data and turning it into actionable insights for TomTom Telematics’ clients means ground-breaking and continuous innovation is par for the course. These innovations include the industry’s first SaaS, first APIs, OptiDrive 360, maximum reliability and security due to an ISO 27001 certification and full reporting.
  • Proof through platform. WEBFLEET offers high standards of confidentiality, integrity and availability. It also offers an API that seamlessly integrates into any business process. TomTom Telematics also has the largest partner ecosystem with hundreds of proven integrations and add-on applications in the world.
  • An optimised user-experience. TomTom Telematics technology and products have been integrated to create an optimised user experience, including maps, traffic services and driver terminals.
  • Workflow efficiency. Help deliver higher standards of customer service and improve productivity through real-time visibility on vehicle location and mileage reporting, and live and historic geo-location data, which enriches dynamic routing and scheduling applications.

 

  • 77% – of workers drive over the speed limit due to work pressure
  • 30% – of your vehicles’ total cost of ownership is influenced by the way the car is driven

Visit telematics.tomtom.com/tellmemore and follow us on Twitter @TomTomWEBFLEET

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Leading

How You Can Make Leadership Excellence An Effortless Effort

From my childhood I was literally fascinated by the seemingly effortless performances of individuals whom have mastered their craft.

Dirk Coetsee

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buddha

“Wu-Wei” – From original Chinese, meaning effortless effort

From my childhood I was literally fascinated by the seemingly effortless performances of individuals whom have mastered their craft. Images of Luciano Pavorotti hitting high C notes with simplified grace, Chris Cornell’s raw rock voice hitting gravel and then reaching for the heavens, Lang Langs’ majestic hands creating unimaginable sounds on the ivory whites of a piano, Tony Robbins’ flaming and scorching energy, Churchills’ effortless and eloquent speeches, Bransons’ unrelenting passion for business and people, Jona Lomus’ awesome power, and Bolts’ graceful running leaves me in a state of inspired awe.

When the state of amazement enthused by great individuals dissipate we are left with a burning question:

How does one become a leader in any field and how does one reach a state where optimal performance virtually becomes a natural state?

Related: Servant Leadership – Will You Serve?

A vast amount of experiential learning and volumes of information would empower an individual to attempt an answer to this question. This writing is not an attempt at a solution to this complex question but instead only serves as a guide to those individuals whom has a burning desire to earnestly start on their search to find the truth for themselves.

Are leaders and top performers simply born with a great talent and therefore naturally will outperform others? Not necessarily so. Some modern Leaders such as Gary Vaynerchuck are totally unimpressed by talent yet very impressed by a knack for people skills.

The Legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi used to say: “Talent simply means you have not done it yet.”

The aforesaid implies that talent might be a bonus yet has to be combined with hard and effective work, as well as toughened mental capacity, to be moulded into skills required for performance at the highest level.

winston-churchill

“We shall not melt in the fire but instead be tempered by it” – The great Winston Churchill was alluding to the British nations willingness to endure great hardships and be transformed into one unified front and a patriotic nation during the carnage of the second world war. Most great Leaders ultimately learnt that hardships were not something to resist but rather something to invite in when it knocks at your door as it is the very hardships that teach and shape us, that is if we allow it to.

Those who fear their own inner greatness will run from the hardships and thereby neglect the wonderful yet very uncomfortable opportunity to grow as a leader and a human being. The daring few who would embrace their inner greatness, foster their own commitment and willingly be’ tempered by fire’ have started their journey towards greatness.

When embarking on this journey reflect on the fact that never was a great leader made without help.  A high level of self -awareness which is a basic requirement of effective Leadership dictates that we must get rid of the small voice of the ego that tempts us into daring to think that we could know it all and do all by ourselves. Be open to advice, seek help from the wise, and more importantly act on good advice.

When you earnestly seek mentorship the one that turns you down in general was not the right one in the first place. Alternatively, he or she turned you down because you were not ready to be mentored and must first earnestly seek your own heart for the truth about your intentions.

Your intent is the crucial factor and on the path to greatness everyone would do well to introspectively seek every corner of their hearts and minds and ask:

  • What do I honestly seek?
  • Is it fame or to help others or both?
  • Do I have pure selfish intent, or do I want to give back and coach other Leaders?

Related: Managing Resistance To Change: An Essential Management And Leadership Skill

Without sacrifice, without a burning desire to succeed, without help, and without ethical intent this journey is ‘a bridge too far’. A Leadership journey based on a hunger for power over others and greed for money might take you to great heights initially but the fall from those dizzying heights is far and excruciatingly painful.

What follows is an attempt to answer the very general questions facing most of us when we decide on whether we should embark on a personal Leadership journey or not:

Can anyone Lead?

Yes, it is a matter of intent, effective work, mentorship, sacrifice, people skills and continuous learning amongst other factors.

Does a title such as CEO, shareholder, president, professor imply that I am a leader?

No, a title is merely a name allocated to a position, the behaviours that led me to that title and the behaviours displayed for as long as I am in that position determines whether I was a leader or not, while I had or claimed to have that title. Leadership is not a title it consists out of behaviours that gives a title deep meaning and validity.

Do I have to have a formal qualification to be recognised as a leader?

No. Your behaviour determines whether you are a leader or not.  Continuous learning is a basic Leadership behaviour. Whether that means you obtain a formal qualification or learn through a mentor which learning does not result in a formal qualification has no bearing on your Leadership capacity or capabilities.

Contemplation of the above answers to the general questions that a lot of people consider might lead the reader to think that the state of “Wu-Wei”- “Effortless-effort “can only be achieved through a lot of effort. In thinking that you are correct, yet it is not only a matter of effort. To get to the ultimate state of performance as a leader each one of us must be so committed to a cause higher than ourselves that we are willing to be ‘tempered by fire’. We must cast our egos aside and remain “teachable”, and most importantly give back by coaching other leaders.

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