Responses to, and outcomes of, the pandemic have varied greatly around the world and not always conformed to stereotypes. This fact, and the issues that have been raised by the immense disruption to our definition of normality are certain to change working cultures across the globe. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of what the world might look like when the pandemic has finally died down.
Globalisation has been the great economic movement for some years now but coronavirus might just have highlighted some of the downfalls of the world becoming a smaller place. Stand aside the speed with which the virus was able to spread, huge trust issues have also been thrust into the open as a result of previous big players like the US and China seemingly unable to handle the pandemic in the right way. From Trump denying its very existence to a strong suspicion that China has dramatically under-reported its numbers, both countries may no longer be featuring in the future plans of big business.
So, while we’ve uncovered a greater need to work as one when it comes to managing crises, the pandemic may also show us that we need to rely less on countries who aren’t trusted and transparent.
2. Quality not quantity
The issue of quality has many strands when considered in relation to the pandemic. Firstly, remote working has uncovered an unexpected increase in efficiency, even with the incredible strain on families who are home schooling. It’s not without risks, as mental health statistics are starting to show but empowering people to get the job done, whenever and however may well be a change that’s here to stay.
Quality is also under the spotlight when it comes to manufacturing and this brings us back to globalisation. Currently China is the main beneficiary of a global economy, chiefly down to the sheer volume of manufacturing it can process. However, it is not making goods to the quality required. Consider PPE: poor quality (aka cheap) face masks are a financial risk not worth taking. The future is likely to demand better brand promises focused around safety and a commitment to trust.
3. Eggs in baskets
One of the main reasons for disruption during the pandemic has been seen through supply chains. Simply getting goods from one place to another has been the critical path many times and this is likely to mean global supply chains will be questioned once the pandemic has died down.
Certainly seeding our suppliers across different countries and continents, while harder to track and control, will mitigate risk. The winners here are likely to be less well-known providers of cheap labour such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. The losers? China again.
4. The age of values and conscience
Perhaps an unexpected outcome of the pandemic has been the accelerated rise of Generation Co – the conscientious, values-based, environmentally-aware demographic within society. They believe that businesses should be partnering with government and society at large to improve the world. Sustainability, empathy and planet-friendly goods and services are under the microscope and there’s a strong belief that large corporations will need to tackle these issues to be successful in the future.
We could be heading towards a world where shareholders are no longer on the top of the pile. In fact GenCo believes that the planet itself should be our main stakeholder.
There’s another angle on conscience to consider and that’s empathy. A global study of workers conducted by Quartz and Qualtrics showed that 37% feel their company culture has improved as a result of the pandemic and a big part of that is greater recognition of employee’s mental health. Employers will need to continue to show empathy and value emotional, as well as physical, health in their people if they want to retain a strong, enthusiastic and capable workforce.
It was Stephen Covey who said “if there’s one thing that’s certain about business, it’s uncertainty”.
Boy, have we learned that lesson over the past year. And now, as we approach the end of the financial year and possibly year end for many businesses, our thoughts turn to planning and forecasting.
It’s quite a natural response, even among seasoned business owners and leaders, to shy away from uncertainty. Often, plans choose a likely scenario and are then reviewed and tweaked as the months pass. However, in the pandemic-ridden world we now inhabit, it’s hard to ignore the uncertainty. It’s front and centre; far-reaching and it’s affecting absolutely everyone.
So, here are some ideas for how to get the most out of planning when uncertainty reigns.
1. What does success look like?
Success can mean all things to all people and there are many ways to measure it. When it comes to business planning during uncertainty, we can learn to think in ranges. Using “if this, then that” logic can help us to understand the varying degrees of success that are on the table.
Pivoting is a hideously overused word at the moment, but it’s been a necessary action for business wishing to survive the disruption of the pandemic. I’m hoping there aren’t any businesses out there who are still waiting for ‘normality’ to return: this isn’t an option we should even consider now. Instead, we need to equip our businesses and our people to be flexible, agile and to think outside the box when it comes to serving our customers’ needs.
A great way to focus on a range of success scenarios is to work with a small group of people – from within and outside of the business – who can bring different ideas and priorities to the table. You need to have as open and wide a discussion as possible to ensure true innovation in your planning.
2. Channel your creativity
Mind mapping is possibly the polar opposite to traditional business planning but, for that very reason, it comes into its own when we are trying to create some different for unusual times.
It involves making your business the central ‘theme’ and thinking of new and related ideas which radiate out from it. There are lots of apps to help with mind mapping but it’s probably still best tackled with a huge sheet of paper and your kids’ colouring pens. Part of this being a success requires you to tap into a more creative part of your brain so use images, colours and scribbles to get your thoughts down on paper.
The ‘rules’ of successful mind-mapping are simple: start at the centre, add your thoughts from the centre outwards, and use images, colour and text.
3. A plan is a great place to start
Something that’s important to consider is what we do with our plan once it’s created. Most important in today’s climate is to remember that it is not set in stone. We need to be comfortable with revisiting and tweaking our plans; evolving them as situations and knowledge change and grow.
Uncertainty is not a reason to avoid planning; rather it is a time to plan more frequently. There’s no right way but it is true to say that, when we are operating in uncertain circumstances, we have better control when we plan for shorter timescales. So, setting monthly, rather than annual goals could work well.
The only this that is certain as we start 2021, is that covid-19 has set in motion a cultural, technological, and economic revolution. Even now, while we are still operating in a degree of chaos, we cannot know what will arise that might affect the way we run our businesses in 2022 and beyond.
My advice, therefore, is to plan as best you can; dismiss nothing; consider everything; and review regularly.
It was the great Confucius who once said “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Loving what you do for a living seems to be everyone’s dream but then again, love is apparently blind. Business needs passion certainly, but we need to be careful to keep our feet on the ground.
Here, in celebration of the ‘month of love’, are some classic loving statements, interpreted from a business perspective.
1. “’Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” Alfred, Lord Tennyson
There’s a lot of truth in this statement, especially when it comes to serial entrepreneurs. In fact, you could argue that we only truly learn from our mistakes
2. “To me, you are perfect” Love Actually
As a business owner, you should always be striving for growth and achieving this will mean getting out of your comfort zone. Never assume your work is done – there is always room for improvement.
3. “Everything I do, I do it for you” Bryan Adams
If you are looking in the mirror and saying this, you might need to do some leadership coaching. If you’re talking to your staff, you’re bang on. Valuing your people builds trust and respect and these are the currencies of successful business.
4. “A simple ‘I love you’ means more than money” Frank Sinatra
In business, not much means more than money when it comes down to it. However, a little passion, enthusiasm and drive go a long way.
5. “If you find someone you love in your life, then hang on to that person” Princess Diana
No matter how passionate you are about what you do for a living, you always need to plan for the day it’s no longer there. Exit strategies are one of the most commonly overlooked elements of a business plan and yet, if you’ve invested and want to make a return, they are the only way to realise that.
6. “Love yourself first and everything falls into line” Lucille Ball
There’s no doubt that, no matter how rose-coloured your glasses are, running a business is hard work and needs effort. Don’t let any of those hopeless romantics tell you any different!
7. “Love recognises no barriers” Maya Angelou
Maya is a favourite of mine and, while she speaks a lot of sense, a lack of barriers can be a very bad thing in business. It’s critical to stay focused when it comes to planning and growing otherwise you will be at risk of spreading yourself too thinly and failing to deliver.
8. “I love her and that’s the beginning and end of everything” F. Scott Fitzgerald
We all know that work and other aspects of life need to balance out somehow. Being too wrapped up in work can result in early burnout. And our brains cement learning when we have downtime so, if you’re keen to grow as a person too, it’s always good to have some time out of the office.
As with everything, a balance is always best. Being passionate about what you do means enthusiasm and positivity for your staff and clients. Love tends to be a little more open to interpretation. Maybe we should think of our business like a marriage – it will have ups and downs and sometimes the passion may wane, but to make it work, we should commit to it and always strive to make it feel valued.
Despite every day for almost a year feeling like it, did you know Tuesday 2nd February actually is Groundhog Day? Originally introduced to the US by German settlers, it’s the day when people wait for a sign as to whether winter will last another six weeks, or warmer weather will begin to return.
We might be forgiven for asking whether lockdown will last for another six weeks but, as business owners, do we really have the time to wait for anything?
One thing we can take for granted is that things will change. The question is how. It’s a dangerous game for a business to stay dormant, waiting for normality to return. Echoes of the infamous Eckhart Tolle concept of ‘evolve or die’ are ringing around the business world. Thankfully, many businesses have been able to move with the times and alter their delivery methods or even the products they manufacture.
Four things to consider as you evolve for success
Let’s not forget, adapting to change is nothing new for business as the conditions in which we operate rarely stay the same for long.
1. Always include change in your strategy
My first tip was inspired by Intel’s Andrew Grove statement that “only the paranoid survive”. That might sound a little extreme but the sentiment is sound: a business should always be checking for new developments and competition and then planning how to beat it and continue to grow. Make sure this is a conscious activity whenever you are strategizing for the future.
2. Take your people with you
Winning hearts and minds among your team is so important. In some ways it’s up there with winning business and that’s because these are the people who make things happen. If you create a barrier between your plans for the future and your people, you’re setting off on an uphill struggle. Set a strong culture of adventurous thinking and communicate it clearly to your people. Set them up for success and they will reward you with buy in and enthusiasm.
3. Bring in some new thinking
If you are a fast-growing business, it can sometimes be hard to accept you’re changing. What was once your baby, a precious and unique startup idea, suddenly starts to look a lot like a million other medium-sized businesses out there as more people, bureaucracy and process threaten to choke your agility. It always pays off to take a step back in these situations. As owner-operators, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees so ask a trusted, external source to join your brainstorming and help you to think more laterally.
4. Just say no
Perhaps this is controversial, but businesses need to get comfortable with saying no. Let’s assume you’ve struck out in a new direction as a response to the changes in the market and a client comes along wanting some of the old stuff they’ve always bought from you. You should only accept their business if the old stuff remains part of your strategy. Don’t be afraid to say no otherwise you risk becoming a hybrid of old and new.
One of the first things I do with clients who are seeking funding is chat through their business idea and ensure it is viable, sustainable and scalable. If a business has too many barriers to entry, is not going to appeal to a wide enough audience or doesn’t have any chance of growth, the chances are that investors will be wary.
With that in mind, and to help you conduct something similar on any business ideas you might be considering, I thought I’d share an example using a popular business I think most of you will be aware of.
Christmas Services Ltd t/a Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Saint Nick
Clear and simple with an attractive colour palette. Although the name varies slightly when used globally, it does seem to translate to roughly the same value set:
- Family friendly
- Celebrates good
The authenticity of the brand needs some consideration. Because of the strong links with the biggest dishonest collusion any adult will ever enter into, this may be called into question.
Action: Gather and submit evidence which proves this is, in fact, a white lie (which we all know are ok).
- Presents for good children
- Lumps of coal for naughty children
- Goodwill to all men
Consider the definition of ‘good’ and ‘naughty’ including examples of what bad behaviour results in the delivery of coal. Customer satisfaction reports seem to imply that most clients recover their behaviour sufficiently to receive presents.
Action: Is the production and provision of coal still a valid part of the enterprise? If so, should the presentation be tailored for a modern generation?
Action: Update service descriptions to reflect modern society – “goodwill to all” is more diverse and inclusive.
The main consideration is the extremely seasonal nature of the business.
Operating ‘but once a year’ may be considered high risk by investors. However, due to manufacturing and workforce constraints it is not clear whether the operation could be scaled while maintaining standards.
Potentially, this is only an extreme example of the bias that many retail businesses have towards seasonal trading.
Action: consider whether service could be scaled to any other occasion annually. (NB: set up negotiations with key competitors; Easter Bunny, all witches, skeletons and ghouls, tooth fairy)
The workforce is seen as extremely loyal and effective at producing the required type of artisan goods that link with the brand. However, diversity is virtually non-existent, with almost the entire workforce being of a single nationality/culture. However, the mass employment of the vertically challenged has been seen to be of advantage to the local population as a whole and certainly assists in bringing in goodwill.
Action: consider recruitment campaign to attract a more diverse workforce. (NB: assess impact of this on elf and safety given size constraints of machinery and factory)
The requirement for 9 months of the year being used to prepare for 3 months’ worth of manufacturing and delivery is unusual. Consideration must be given to whether the workforce remains efficient.
Action: assess workforce capabilities with time and motion study. (NB: Particular reference to CEO who appears to be on holiday for those 9 months).
Finally, consider the overall wellbeing of the workforce, who reportedly work long hours at times. Night shifts should be properly staffed to ensure regular breaks are being taken and adequate facilities are provided for inclement working conditions. Anyone showing signs of illness (red nose, overly hot, red cheeks, or overweight bellies that shake like jelly) should be given a company medical.
The Supply Chain
The original brand USP was for artisanal products. However, in recent years, there has been increasing outsourcing leading to a dilution of the brand values and a prevalence of non-environmentally friendly materials being used.
Attention should be paid to the importance of the brand values and goodwill (of all men) towards the original business plan. Should the outsourced manufacturing be brought back in house?
How has the sugar tax affected profit margins? Have suppliers passed this cost on or absorbed it?
Action: conduct supply chain audit to identify contractors whose brand values do not match that of the organisation; rerun competitions for all contracts.
Distribution & logistics
The use of a non-fossil fuel delivery system is well established and appears to be working well. It might be of use to carry out a survey or surveys to establish whether the production of greenhouse gases (e.g. methane and carbon dioxide) might be seen as a negative and to establish the viability of sustainable alternatives, especially for the lead tractor animal who has his own branding with a red nose.
Are the towing animals at risk of extinction? What facilities are there to ensure regular fleet replacements? Is the red nose a common characteristic or deemed to be some sort of rare throwback gene?
The recent global pandemic has caused some issues for the survival of the business. The brand story has been tested and messaging needs to be clear to all clients: if 2020 doesn’t stop us, then nothing will (particularly because ‘magic’ seems to be the main rebuttal to any question concerning disruption of supply).
However, modern technology is yet to catch up with the iconic delivery system utilised by the business and this is a positive aspect to be included in any sale calculations.
Currently, options for exit are:
- Franchise and assume managerial/brand guardian role (beware quality control of franchisees, many less-than-convincing substitutes have been seen – beards on elastic, cheap wellies, rubbish plastic presents)
- Sale as going concern (consider location of new owner and possible impact on workforce, brand story and general authenticity – Superman will get cold in just tights, Iceman thought to lack empathy)
- Merger/acquisition (difficult to identify sufficiently similar organisation, but possible contenders are:
- Multinational drinks company with really nice lorry but likely not to embody brand values or extremely competitive pricing strategy
- Other cloaked heroes all of whom do seem to have their own battles ongoing, therefore present risk of lack of focus or departure from core business
- Tooth fairy, although concerns on size match mean this business might not be viable option – currently SME with little ability to grow.
So, what do you think? Would you invest?
Wishing all my clients, colleagues, collaborators and followers a very happy Christmas.
It’s the topic on everyone’s lips at the moment but, as the saying goes, ‘this too shall pass’ and eventually we will need to start thinking about life after covid. This three-part blog series looks at moving on from crises and why businesses need to acknowledge what’s happened and learn the right lessons.
McKinsey & Co have been publishing a fascinating ongoing blog on the impact of Covid-19; one instalment of which explores the somewhat unexpected performance of the stock market in recent months. Despite crisis, uncertainty and deep recession, the markets are reaching new highs. Why? Firstly, because investors tend to take a long-term view of things and even the resilience of this pandemic is only a blot on the landscape of the average investment period; secondly because the markets are dominated by five major tech companies who, understandably, aren’t really affected by the change on working practices; and thirdly because for every plus there is a minus and impact across the various business sectors has varied wildly. For every disaster, say the events industry, there has been a success, say those manufacturing PPE. The market is a reflection of the whole and so its aggregate value remains resilient.
The report, however, made me think that there is an important lesson in positivity for us to take away. Despite pain and sadness, 2020 will leave another legacy. An understanding that there’s more than one way to do business. A feeling that we’re perhaps more resilient than we gave ourselves credit for.
So, what did we learn and what can we take away for the future?
- We can pivot. It’s become one of a few hideously overused words but that can’t detract from the fact that we experienced an incredible agility in our business world. Manufacturers suddenly started making ventilators or manufacturing PPE. We found out we could meet online instead of in person. Small, medium and large businesses found a way to adapt.
- You’ve (probably) got deeper business relationships. Being ‘in it together’ has a unifying impact and many businesses are likely to experience increased loyalty from clients and employees alike. I said in my last blog on this topic that the way we show up in a crisis underlines our future reputation and this is never more true than when it comes to our people.
- You’ve got a story to tell. Your brand identity will be enriched and authenticity enhanced by letting people know what you did to survive. Many businesses didn’t just survive, they contributed to their community, helped in the national effort to save lives and supported their peers without question. Marketing aside, this is a story of community and we need a little more of that in our business lives.
- Survive this, survive anything. Or so the saying goes: complacency has no place here but you have now stress tested your crisis plans, pushed your business to the extent of its comfort zone and survived. That’s something to celebrate and also to learn from. Disaster and business interruption planning is important but probably overlooked unless you’re a giant corporate. That’s likely to change and our agility can only improve as a result.
- The importance of connection. Whether it’s working in a remote team or keeping your customers up to date with what you can and can’t do, we’ve all learned the lesson that communication matters. Your messaging could easily have been the difference between adapt or die for your business and there’s no reason to change your approach now. Keeping people informed, continuing to be front-of-mind with your audience is great for business at any time and hopefully this will be a new habit we intend to continue with.
It’s the topic on everyone’s lips at the moment but, as the saying goes, ‘this too shall pass’ and eventually we will need to start thinking about life after covid. My new three-part blog series looks at moving on from crises and why businesses need to acknowledge what’s happened and learn the right lessons.
The way in which businesses showed up during the 2020 pandemic will define their reputation for years to come. Your reaction and approach, if positive and supportive, will be a key to future growth and success but only if you record them and use the information in your narrative.
Join the dots
It’s possible that your business looks very different to the way it did a year ago. Those changes could be minimal or material but, either way, it’s really important that you join the dots for your audience and tell the latest chapter in your business story. Put simply, you need to explain why you do what you do, and how you do it – and if Covid changed that, people need to be aware. Far from any changes being seen as a degradation of service or an unexplained departure from the norm, your business story should be one of flexibility and agility. People trust a business that can adapt and flex according to what is required and telling the story of how you survived the pandemic and subsequent deep recession is of paramount importance.
Where are you now?
Because the pandemic changed everything in life and business, businesses will have experienced far-reaching disruption. Your route to market may be different; you might be present on different channels (more social media activity, maybe, client meetings on Zoom?) or you could have drastically change the shape and purpose of the business. Are you still happy with your short and long-term business plan? It is essential to revisit your numbers to make sure pricing and profit forecasts are still accurate given any changes you have made. Whatever your story, resilience is at the heart of it and that is something to be celebrated.
Now is the time to be preparing some of this important background material upon which you will build your next chapter: that of the recovery.
A story to celebrate
Let’s look at one of the more recent major crises to hit the business world: the 2008 financial crisis. It hit business hard, especially smaller businesses who were forced to pay off employees, halt spending and investment and find new ways to survive. And the fallout was far-reaching too. The effect on commercial lending was considerable and suddenly loans to small businesses became virtually non-existent.
I’ve blogged before about opportunity emerging from crisis and, true to form, crowdfunding was born of this financial hardship. In the hunt for ‘alternative lending’, the online world stepped up and suddenly large numbers of people could participate in gifts, loans and shares to enable small businesses to raise the equity they needed to deliver on their plan.
So, what seems like a near-miss or a difficult time may actually simply be looked back on as a transformation to new and better things. Make sure your story celebrates what you’ve done during 2020.
Next time, I’ll be looking at what we’ve learned from this crisis and what we can take away – a little positivity to follow the uncertainty and sadness of the year.
It’s the topic on everyone’s lips at the moment but, as the saying goes, ‘this too shall pass’ and eventually we will need to start thinking about life after covid. My new three-part blog series looks at moving on from crises and why businesses need to acknowledge what’s happened and learn the right lessons.
The business world is no stranger to crisis but the 2020 pandemic will certainly be remembered for its persistence. Dealing with crisis is often about the importance of the initial reaction, protecting your brand reputation and damage limitation. Covid, however, keeps moving the goalposts.
Inevitably though, it will come to an end and it seems to be generally accepted that now is a good time to start planning for that. As John Chambers, ex-CEO/Chairman of Cisco Systems says “It’s time to reinvent or be left behind.” So, how do we go about that? Here are my three top tips:
1. Start with customers
As always, the people already doing business with you are the most important. Crisis or normality, it remains easier to do more business with existing clients than to find new ones. Focus on nurturing with an excellent client experience but also remember that your clients will also have shifted. Their businesses will have pivoted and you need to reassess their challenges and pain points.
2. Be clear
It’s really important that business leaders stay in the here and now and stick with the changes they have made. You’ve pivoted your business because of the pandemic but, even though it will eventually pass, that doesn’t mean you can revert to old ways of working. It’s rare for such a transformational period to pass without lasting change and there will be many new ways of working that will stick around. Don’t look at the end of the pandemic as an end point. You need to continue operating, riding out the transitional period by sticking to your guns about why your business remains the best in its field. Consistency and clarity are key here: businesses that demonstrate this will be trusted by their customers.
3. Revisit everything
The possibility of permanent change means revisiting all the moving parts of your business. You might have put emergency plans in place to get you through the crisis but there now needs to be a shift towards sustainable change in your policies and procedures. Systems might need to change to support the business adapting. Take time to fully assess the impact of any pivot you have made and set your business up for future success by putting the right foundations in place for the future.
An important part of this review is to take another look at your business plan and make sure you have captured those changes you want to continue with. Another good look at your numbers is also prudent to ensure pricing is still on the right lines. You may have been in survival mode for a period of time but you need to approach the coming months with a clear view of your finances to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
Next time, read about why it’s critical to rewrite your business story as well as reinforcing the operational aspects of what you do.
When it comes to success in business, there’s a chapter people rarely consider. The art of the exit strategy is the part of the business journey which stands entrepreneurs apart from the crowd.
Some would argue that you’ve only been successful if you’ve exited with a return on your investment, ready to move on to the next bigger and better opportunity.
This is the third and final blog in my three-part series about how to Aim Big, Think Big and Act Big. These are the three essential steps to guaranteed business growth that I spoke about in my first blog of the series.
So, how do we Act Big? I’d like to take you back to my little dog, Baxter, and his very big stick. I guess Baxter has the luxury of not needing to worry about where his big stick journey goes. To me, there’s a clear failure coming, when he realises that half a tree isn’t the best thing to decide to carry on a long walk. But, he’s living in the moment, and very happy to do so.
When it comes to business, we can’t afford to set ourselves up for failure. Which is why, oddly, one of the first questions I ask a business founder is “What happens at the end?” I’m not for a minute suggesting their business won’t continue, very successfully, for many years. But I am suggesting that they might not always be a part of it.
Unlocking the door
There are lots of choices when it comes to an exit strategy, the four most common are:
- Management Buy Out (MBO) – when an executive team combines resources to acquire some or all of the business they manage;
- Outside Sale – a straight sale to new owners;
- Merger & Acquisition (M&A) – either merging with a similarly sized company or being bought by a larger one;
- Initial Public Offering (IPO) – essentially floating on the stock market and raising capital from external investors, not as popular as it once was, following the bursting of the dot-com bubble;
There’s no ‘best’ option as the right strategy will be the one which fits your business and personal goals. It’s this framing and planning stage which should come at the start of the business journey to enable you to structure your business for ultimate success in the exit strategy you choose.
Determining the right balance between personal and business goals as well as honouring any investments needs careful planning. The key point of the strategy is to optimise the value of the business so planning from an early stage provides maximum flexibility and opportunity.
By acknowledging and actioning the need for an exit strategy, not only are we fulfilling the need to Act Big, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to grow yet more in the future as we have the chance to move on to greater challenges or more business opportunities.
This blog is the second in my latest mini-series which shares 3 essential steps to guarantee successful business growth
Last time, I wrote about Aiming Big. This time, you can find out how to Think Big and create sustainable growth for your business.
Clarity is Key
One of the secrets to business success is to ensure that your audience knows and understands what you do. By picking a market or a skillset and sticking to it, you create a much stronger brand and you can then grow your business under that brand in such a way that the goodwill you generate will extend to everything you offer.
By moving between markets or offering random services that aren’t linked together by a common skillset, you risk confusing your target market and the confused mind always says ‘no’.
Think Quality, Not Quantity
If you find you get the biggest buzz from the ‘new’, you need to hear the story of Rand Fishkin, founder and former CEO of Moz. Today, Moz is one of the most successful SEO companies in the world but that wasn’t always the case.
Fishkin describes his obsession with ‘the new’ as “one of Moz’s most consistent, most pernicious failures” under his leadership of the business. Instead of continually improving and refining his offering by focusing on what Moz was good at, the entrepreneurial founder was continually chasing the next big discovery. He wanted to repeat his original experience of finding a problem, solving it and becoming a huge success.
However, this chase led to many new product or features being launched, marketing and then promptly forgotten about. There was no support, no upgrades (both of which are essential in the tech industry), until everything came to a head with severe product failures and what Fishkin describes as “nightmarishly bad customer feedback”.
It was at this point that Moz’s growth rate plummeted from 100% year-on-year to just 20%.
A Lesson Learned
In the end it took years to turn Moz around, something which happened under new leadership. But the lesson was learned by Fishkin, who says he plans to carry it with him for the rest of his career.
In my experience, a successful business is something which needs strategic thinking. By considering why you are successful – presumably because you are good at what you do – and planning to deliver more of the same rather than diversifying or over-expanding and risking the whole business.
Next time, read more about how to grow your business successfully as I look at how to Act Big and what choices are available to business owners once they’ve found success and growth.
I’m always an advocate of planning. From the first little spark of an idea, through the approach to funding, setting up and throughout the lifetime of your business, you should plan, plan, plan.
When it comes to growing a business, it’s common for some entrepreneurs to get a little over excited. Passion and dreams can run riot, especially now they’ve seen that their idea works, the business exists at last and it’s doing well.
Perhaps oddly, growing a business is a risky time. I’m absolutely not against it in any way – one of the most common services Streamlion Consulting offers is help with growing and scaling businesses. But I do believe there’s a right and a wrong way.
My next series of blogs is going to share 3 essential steps which, if taken, can guarantee successful business growth.
The first step is to Aim Big.
And we’re back to planning. The clue to the right way to approach this is in the word “aim”. You’ll notice this is different to “fire” or “fire at will”, both of which conjure up images of a scattergun approach, a distinct lack of planning. And therein lies a common mistake. With a thriving business and proof that you’ve found your niche, it’s easy to get over-confident and start growing in every direction, simply saying ‘yes’ to every request and pleasing your customers right, left and centre.
Taking a moment, taking aim in fact, means knowing what you’re good at and offering this proven skill, perhaps in new markets, rather than reinventing yourself which often means a move away from your core skillset.
Offering a wider range of different products or services too early can destabilise the business. Think of your main offering as the core of your business. A strong and well-defined core creates a stable, steady business. Your brand will become known for this core product or service and your reviews will reflect your proficiency in this arena.
Complement your core
As well as destablising your core, suddenly offering a wide range of different products or services will also end up costing more to scale as your business continues to grow. Quality or reliability might suffer and suddenly your brand is damaged.
By aiming big – and taking a moment to plan – you can stabilise your core offering and then plan complementary growth channels which work with this core but perhaps allow you to explore different markets or areas of expertise.
Taking some time to plan a logical growth journey at this stage will pay dividends in the end as your business remains efficient and effective while also getting bigger.
Next month, I’ll be looking at the next step you can take to secure successful growth – thinking big in order to create sustainable growth.
As the reality of the financial burden of COVID dawns, there will no doubt be yet another round of cost-cutting in the business world. It has become a well-worn path – recruit and increase manpower when times are good; restructure and reduce overheads when trouble hits.
However, there is a school of thought that COVID has merely been the magnifying glass which exposed a culture of overstaffing which has been building for years. According to an article run by The Telegraph during lockdown, both the public and private sector have become addicted to overmanning, with armies of people employed in spuriously-named positions who seem to have very little on their to-do list.
However, the recovery following COVID will likely need to dig deeper than simply getting rid of excess manpower. Cuts will need to be deep and a focus will need to be given to prioritising core activities within organisations.
The outsourcing opportunity
Luckily, the other side of the crisis coin means many businesses have pivoted to offer remote services, thus potentially offering resourcing flexibility without the commitment and cost that comes with employees.
Outsourcing is nothing new. It first became a cost-saving strategy in the late 1980s and, more recently, a plethora of online platforms have emerged; Fiverr, PeoplePerHour and Outsourcely to name a few; which claim to make engaging with freelancers even quicker and simpler.
With furlough having the potential to turn into a giant time-and-motion study for the future, the future of outsourcing looks good but, as with anything you don’t deliver in house, quality can be a key concern.
Many businesses prefer to work with known and trusted consultants who will take the same care of their business as they would themselves; something that isn’t guaranteed by the digital ‘freelance farms’ mentioned earlier. In some cases, it’s impossible to know exactly who will carry out the work you send, not to mention what quality will be returned. Such bidding sites are based on a ‘cheap and cheerful’ model and, as many businesspeople know, you get what you pay for.
So, what’s the alternative?
Enter the Ecosystem
Another concept that has grown in popularity during the abnormal times of 2020, is that of a business ecosystem. Again, it’s nothing new, but the attraction of being a part of one has perhaps become more evident as smaller firms look to support one another in order to survive and, eventually, thrive. Because firms within an ecosystem work together on a regular basis, there is a trusted relationship and quality can be assured because everyone’s reputation is on the line if it is not delivered.
Streamlion has long adopted the approach of building an ecosystem within which we operate. Our natural ability to network and build relationships with clients and suppliers alike means we have a powerful list of partner and associate affiliations which enable us to offer our clients a wider range of services, whilst still ensuring the quality and satisfying experience they would get by working directly with us.
Happily, this approach enables us to continue supporting smaller businesses after arranging their funding and giving them the chance to thrive during any economic climate. Of course, it’s always sad when people are made redundant but, following a decade of growth and easy money, businesses are carrying additional costs which are not sustainable. Moving back to an outsourcing model could actually be better for the economy in the medium term, especially with our new-found flexibility and ability to run operations with less infrastructure and overhead costs than ever before.
Smaller, remote teams or individuals can be nimble when responding to the needs of their clients, thus turning work around faster and ensuring quality that comes from using an expert in their field.
At Streamlion, we pride ourselves in collaborating for success. Check out a recent case study from our website for more information on how this works.