“10 business development fundamentals to survive now and thrive later”

Many shop owners are struggling to survive in the present economy. With markets eroding (or shifting), customers and resources are scarce. The truth is the economic landscape is not going to improve anytime soon. It’s a fierce battle. So, if you do not come up with better ways to manage your way out of the pandemic…you’re out of business.

Yes, things are pretty messed up right now BUT having the attitude of “we’ll be okay if we can just get through it now” is a is a wait and see game that puts you on your heels, off balance and not prepared to charge forward as soon as possible. If this is your mindset you are setting yourself up for big surprise. All you need to do is look at recent history to be reminded that no organization is bulletproof from failure. This dysfunction is a huge hindrance in a company’s ability survive now, much less thrive later.

The fundamentals of ”pivot” are not new concepts, though they have been popularized recently– they are basic healthy “business 101” practices that are not any different than what successful owners do when managing a business in a stable, non-pandemic economy. To put it more simply – It’s not rocket science folks. Run your business; don’t let it run you!

Do the things you know you should be doing but haven’t been. The pandemic has now exposed short cuts, and complacent business operations you could formerly overlook…So, maybe NOW is the time for a change towards better, stronger, more dependable methods.

The following 10 strategies are provided as guidelines to help you get back on course. I think you’ll find them valuable reminders if you weren’t paying attention and good practices for sustainability now and growth engines for the future.

Lead as a role model – It’s not enough to own the company you must be present and set an example that supports the culture you want in your firm. You are the torch bearer of your vision by interpreting it, communicating it, and keeping it alive in the minds of everyone in the company, and keep the company moving toward it.

Like it or not you are a role model, be the best role model you can. How you act, the decision’s you make, the way you treat people, your moods, your energy, all combine to affect everyone in your business. Choose consciously the behavior that will have the most positive effect on your employees.

Know your numbers – Financial knowledge is a powerful tool that enables business owners to use what happened in the past to improve upon the future. Rather than only reacting to something that already occurred, correctly analyzing financial statements allows an owner to make proactive, forward-thinking decisions. Your numbers tell the story – They inform how a business is operated, what produces a profit, if goals are being met, or what might be changed in the future to improve performance.

Bring your team together – “People problems” are the #1 frustration in most businesses. More than money problems, competition, government regulations or anything else. The origin of so-called people problems is trying to get people to do things they don’t want to do in the first place. But the truth is you can’t!

If you want a thriving business you’ll need to Implement employee development activities that create an environment in which “doing it” is more important than not doing it….An environment where employees care so much about what they do and how they do it, that nothing else will stand in their way.

Develop dependable systems – Systems development is essential for a business to survive and thrive; it forces you to think through your systems thoroughly. It eliminates errors due to imperfect memory and reduces the likelihood that unproductive habits will creep into a system. A documented system is easy to learn. Otherwise, you have another form of people dependency rather than system dependency. Your commitment to the continuous development of your business systems is the way to catch up, move ahead, and maintain a leadership position for the life of your business.

Exploit pressing frustrations Managing your most pressing frustrations like anxiety over employee performance, disappointment over lost sales opportunities, or anger for not meeting a client deadline (in a systemic way) serves two purposes; it reinforces the primary skill of a highly effective leader, that of thinking systemically, and it enables you to deal with your business frustrations in a way that eliminates them and prevents their occurrence.

Processing key frustrations in a positive manner focuses you away from blaming people. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you encounter a frustration and your immediate reaction is to ask yourself what system is missing, rather than to blame another person. That’s not to say people are never the problem.  Sometimes they are. But that too is made clear by the process of creating a system solution. If people are unwilling or unable to operate your system, it becomes clear in an objective, dispassionate way, and without blame.

Put sacred cows out to pasture – Sacred Cows affect every aspect of an organization. In small sized businesses, they are the untouchable protocols & polices owners cherish most, which have been in place so long no one really challenges them. These probably don’t serve you well and need revision.

They are easily identified – simply challenge the status quo. If you hear it vehemently defended by someone insisting. “We can’t change our product line.”, “We can’t run our company with a remote workforce.” and my personal favorite!” “We can’t change our pricing & payment terms; the owner wants it done that way.” If they said, “it can’t be done!”, you have found a smoking gun that will lead you to a sacred cow. And sacred cows although they are the hard to change, yield the most growth when they are toppled.

Perform quarterly SWOT analysis’s – A SWOT analysis {STRENGTHS – WEAKNESSES – OPPORTUNITIES – THREATS} highlights factors that a company should consider when planning. Preparing a comprehensive overview of your business using this management tool will be a great assurance in making decisions that will have a positive impact on your business. This type of critical business self-analysis is important for an owner to understand factors that make huge differences in the short and long-term success of a business.

Many small business owners know that they need improvement but have no idea where or how to start the improvement process. Preparing a SWOT analysis is an excellent starting point when dealing with this situation.

Look outside your industry – Looking outside your industry is a great way to get inspired. For example, decades ago, automotive giant Henry Ford revolutionized the world with the assembly line concept. But that Idea did not come from the auto industry. He got it by touring a Chicago slaughterhouse. Even when he was one of the world’s richest and most powerful men, he was always looking outside his industry for new Idea’s, so should you.

Recent examples during the COVID crisis include sign manufacturers who have applied pivot strategies by retooling their plants to produce PPE (personal protection equipment) such as face shields, sneeze barriers and social distancing graphics and others who have shifted their entire business model from brokering to in house fabrication.  Think outside the box to adapt and innovate!

Stamp out rework – Dependable quality is one of the most important competitive strategic tools a manufacturing organization can have to ensure continuing success. To survive now and grow later they need to provide customers with great products AND service at the highest level possible each and every time exactly as promised.

Quality control is a key component in this formula, it evaluates output relative to a standard and takes corrective action when the output doesn’t meet the standard. Whenever an organization fails to take its quality management seriously, it always results in some form of rework.  Rework equates to loss of profits and in some cases worst yet the loss of a customer.

Hire a consultant – One of the best ways expand your horizon of opportunity is to bring in an objective advisor such as a business consultant. They offer new insights that people with-in your organization cannot. With a fresh set of eyes, they see the situation from a totally different perspective. They can see how things really are – not how you perceive them to be. An experience business advisor will give you the suggestions, support and guidance you need to enjoy less stress and more profit.

In conclusion, there is so much room for improvement by eliminating unnecessary “old ways” and inventing “new ways” in business. Just think how much better things could be if you pivoted away from the burden of inefficiency and headed towards proven practices that allow breakthroughs regardless of circumstances.

The solution lies in taking charge as a dynamic leader by creating a culture people value, build great teams by freeing your employees to perform at their best, be proactive in your business development activities by thinking outside the box to find new opportunities and get your house in order by championing process excellence – orchestrate your business for consistent, predicable results.

Don’t be left behind. Utilize the 10 business development fundamentals I’ve just outlined and make them your new norm – your customers, employees and banker will be glad you did!