Each year, there is a global fall dance – that is, the period of time between late summer and late fall when the heads of the business set the annual operating plan for the following year. There’s a colorful exchange between the leaders to determine the right balance between what they will and should deliver to exceed expectations. Being that shareholders are always looking to see growth, it’s never okay to remain stagnant.
Public companies often give investors an indication of expected growth to entice them to buy or hold their stock. It’s a catch 22. If they don’t estimate high, investors lose interest. If they estimate high and don’t hit, their stock prices feel the pain – even if their current quarter’s earnings are better than last. You notice how Wall Street is always talking about earnings and guidance and estimates? That’s what it’s all about.
So what does all that mean for you?
First, do a little dance that you own your business!
Second, consider it a great practice to run your business this way anyway – as though you must constantly improve. Here are some mega-sized ideas you can bring home to your own operation:
1) Have a vision statement
In the early 60’s, JFK created one that was so clear, so sticky and so inspiring that everyone from rocket scientists to delivery men felt they had a part in it: put an American on the moon in the next decade.
It should be simple. It should be clear: you either achieved it or you didn’t. It should be universally understood by everyone in your company.
2) Have a plan
Let me state again what I have stated in previous posts: the evolution of every great entity is the transition from a reactive state to a proactive one.
The plan is a commitment to a future state.
Don’t worry about what a business plan should look like. Think about what it should say. You don’t have to be a Harvard MBA with fancy models to build a plan. The plan shows you the roadmap on how you will achieve your vision statement. A plan that is written on a napkin with a #2 pencil with the words “50 clients; 100,000 subscribers” is better than a crazy spreadsheet that no one understands.
3) Make sure everyone knows their part
- Give each department, team, and person clear goals
- Have consistent, ongoing meetings to review progress against those goals
- Have clear incentives for meeting targets
- Have clear consequences for not meeting targets
4) Define your business’s culture
Is it cool, modern, hip and creative?
Is it professional, outstanding, and competitive?
Is it funky, edgy, and outside the lines?
Is it friendly, fun, and laid-back?
What do you value most? What do you want your employees to feel when they come into work? Build on that.
5) Invest in your company’s growth
In order to grow, you need to invest. As with anything, stay away from the two extremes:
A) Spending recklessly to have the best website, the flashiest business cards, the loudest advertisements, the most exclusive business advisors versus
B) Being such a penny pincher that you pay your 12 year-old sister to build your website
Investing means putting in money, time, and resources to get something better than what you put in. If you think of it that way, you will make good investment decisions.
6) Manage your brand
Brand management means that you are sending the right message about your brand to the right people. You are trying to get in front of the right population, but you are also mindful about how you are coming across. If you are branding yourself as cutting edge and avant-garde, you should be positioning your business against those backdrops. Remember when your parents told you that you are who your friends are? It’s the same way with business: it will be who and what you choose to associate with. Always think five steps ahead. If you want that cutting edge, avant-garde brand, then seek out only the ads, the messages, the media, the colors, the styles, the magazines that REEK of what you want to be.
7) Have a good training program
Training is one of the quickest and cheapest way to improve results. A few tips:
- Keep it simple
- State three things you want your students to learn
- Keep it interactive and fun
- Spread it out and make it ongoing
- Get creative (job shadowing, 1:1 coaching, in-class, self-study, small group)
Be it via e-mail, through your website, by letter, phone, or in-person, keeping everyone in the loop is important. What good is adding a cool, new feature to your client’s service if she will never find out about it? What good is giving your best employee an award if no one else in the office will ever find out? Communications should be clear, quick, and timely.
9) Manage risk
Risk is unglamorous. I admit this. So much so, that I didn’t even want to write about it until the end. But if not managed appropriately, it can take your whole operation down in a second: you get sued for using a company name that was already taken… your client submits a complaint because your website was offensive… your company files are not security protected and a hacker steals your intellectual capital. The list is gruesome and frightening.
The moment you think “that will never happen to me” is when something happens. Take the time to take time. Frequently take a step back and ask, what could go wrong? What am I not thinking about here?
To your business, live long and prosper.