If you want your business to be better, there are areas that will have to be different. If you want things to be different, you will have to change.
For most businesses, the challenge of getting better falls into one or more of the following categories:
- Lack of focus in vision and strategy: An unclear picture of how you provide value to your ideal customer leads to lack of clarity in vision and strategy. The result is a business that resembles the World War II pilot flying over the South Pacific who radioed, “We’re lost, but we’re making great time.”
- Undisciplined execution: Customers reward consistent excellence, not occasional brilliance. The businesses experiencing this challenge may need to optimize their processes, increase consistency with their existing process, or both.
- Complacency and lack of urgency: A sense of complacency in an organization can be seen and felt. Customer comments and requests are discounted or even ignored. Decisions seem to take forever. There is a prevailing attitude that says, “why do something today that can be put off until tomorrow?”
- A culture that alienates rather than connects: A vibrant culture fosters a strong connection to the organization’s vision and values. It is the intangible that gives your operation an edge. Organizations suffering from a toxic culture rarely become marketplace heroes.
So which area – or areas – is holding your business back? Here are seven ideas for making the changes you need today to guarantee your success tomorrow. You may not need to address them all, but at least one will apply if you want to be better in the future.
- Become clearer on the value you provide. Abraham Lincoln’s quote about preparation applies in this situation as well: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Every hour spent increasing the clarity on the value you provide pays dividends in your marketing, sales and execution.
- Ramp up the urgency. Urgency is created by impending crisis or compelling opportunity. Never waste a legitimate crisis, but don’t create a bogus one. Most businesses can ramp up the urgency by enlisting support, reinforcing action and ensuring accountability for behavior and performance that supports a compelling vision. Enlist others to support a cause, and they will follow.
- Make flawless execution the norm. Process and structure create habits, and as Aristotle taught, excellence is a habit. Are your key processes optimized to provide customer value AND organizational profitability? Now is the time to review and update key processes starting with those that add value to customers.
- Look for something to improve, and then look for something else. Remove one barrier to excellence in the next thirty days. Follow that up with removing a barrier every thirty days for the next three months. Make the results visible to everyone. You may need to start a longer-term improvement during this period, but your goal should be demonstrating urgency for continual improvement and change.
- Value your employees so they will value your customers. Discuss positive contributions in every staff meeting. Make sincere, performance-focused recognition a priority. Remove the barriers that create frustration. Your business will make your customers feel more important when you show your team that they are important.
- Rediscover and nurture the joy of great work. There are people energized by the opportunity to do great work, and there are those who have jobs. The ones that love producing great work add energy to everything they touch. Be one of those people, and if you supervise the work of others, do everything possible to make them feel appreciated.
- Pay attention to the culture every day. Your culture is your operation’s DNA. It is your competitive advantage in a world where products and services are viewed as interchangeable. Something that important shouldn’t be relegated to an annual review or assigned to a single group as its keeper. It is everyone’s responsibility to nurture every day – starting with you, the leader.
Roger von Oech wrote, “Truth is all around us. What matters is where we put our focus.” Now is the time to identify and tackle the challenges and opportunities to make your business better in the New Year.
Randy Pennington is a business performance expert, award-winning author and speaker, and leading authority on leadership, culture, and change. Through his engaging articles, books, and presentations, Randy teaches companies and associations how to make change work within their organization; achieve positive results; effectively lead through transformation efforts; and build a strong organizational culture to safeguard success.