THE FORMULA THAT WILL FOREVER STRENGTHEN YOUR BUSINESS
What separates the 20 per cent of businesses that achieve long-term success from the approximate 80 per cent that do not? What is the common thread that stable, successful businesses share that has results in a considerably better rate of success?
Certainly, businesses that have endured for decades have the benefit of experience, and some with world-wide brand recognition. They enjoy the opportunity to analyse trends and statistics from millions of transactions and precisely identify factors that customers respond to most favourably. But, successful businesses were not always so big that they had this benefit. There must have been something at the core of these organizations that acted as a springboard for their growth. Something that 80 per cent of business are perhaps overlooking.
What is it? One possible answer is quite simple: a plan.
Before a marketing plan, before a growth strategy, and before any PR campaign, successful businesses are founded on a core operational plan that serves as the foundation on which the business can thrive. An operational plan serves as the nucleus, with all other strategies, initiatives, and campaigns orbiting, held in place by its gravitational pull. Turning on your marketing engine before you have a rock-solid operational plan is like putting your car into gear and stomping on the gas before it has a steering wheel.
An effective operational plan breaks every function and every system of the business down into processes that are repeatable, scalable and documented. It should be crafted not to serve the needs of the business today, but rather the needs of the business when it is double or even triple the size. Using the repeatable + scalable + documented formula helps to ease growing pains by ensuring that the foundation of your business can support the run-away growth of which you dream.
Systematized process can be introduced to all facets of your business, from how customers are greeted to how products are made, from how new opportunities are harvested to how invoices are generated.
REPEATABALE: To be considered truly repeatable, a process needs to yield near-identical results time and time again, regardless of who is performing the task. Repeatable processes can be performed in the same way by the newest team member or the most seasoned; the day shift and the night shift; today or a year from now.
SCALABLE: To effectively support growth, processes in your business need to be scalable. This is to ask; can a given process sustain ten times the volume it is supporting today? If not in its current form – and it’s unlikely it can – it means you need a plan in place for how the process will evolve alongside the growth of the business. It’s crucial to identify the milestones which will signal when to graduate to the next level. It may be more staff, more equipment, or upgraded technology – the key is anticipating these investments well in advance as well as doing the groundwork to understand the ideal course, before you need to make a major decision.
DOCUMENTED: The rule of thumb here is: no rules of thumb. Document everything. To support the notions of repeatable and scalable, you need tools to consistently communicate your process, and that can only be done in written, illustrated or recorded forms. The good news here is that less is more. Process documents do not need to be lengthy manuals – they should present key information step-by-step in point form, and use illustrations (or videos) wherever possible. I’m a fan of the master process map, with individual Q&C (Quality and Consistency) checklists to support each function.
Promoting this kind of consistency in your organization will not only make the business more predictable, but also more dependable for your customers. It drives a reliable customer experience, which helps build trust in your brand. Sounds a little bit like marketing? Well, it is, which is why your marketing team should play the lead role in crafting the documentation of process. Looking at process through the lens of brand integrity and customer experience will uncover ways in which the operational and administrative sides of your business can participate in driving growth and customer loyalty. Then, and only then, can you begin to realize the full potential of your business.
Gavin Harrison is co-founder and lead strategist at Compello and the creator of ATLAS™: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Transformative Strategic Planning. firstname.lastname@example.org