Have you been brave enough to put your business under the microscope lately? If not you may have fallen asleep reading your own business fairy tales. When you start off either creating a business or in new ownership you feel you’re being honest with yourself as you try new ideas and give yourself grace to ‘work on it’. Later as you settle into the day-to-day grind you may not notice the wearing away of creativity and sometimes the shades coming down on your ability to reflect on progress.
Before the journey of your business hits a crossroads it might be time to review the story so far. Being willing to start fresh is often the secret to business growth. Many business operators find a cycle that either they are in control of or it’s in control of them. Times change and so do customers and if we think business will always be the same we could become another Kodak-Eastman or Alta Vista. One name was synonymous with photography and the other owned the internet search industry before we had ever heard of Google.
If you’re familiar with a SWOT analysis then take the time to do one today on an A4 sheet of paper. Draw lines to create four quarters on the page. Now mark a heading in each corner for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The first two in Strengths and Weaknesses are internal things you recognise need attention for fine-tuning or building on. Threats and Opportunities are outside of your business but you know you can’t ignore them and a strategy is required.
For some larger businesses, the best way to do this is at a department level where each area looks at their own progress and challenges. Once complete, bring the key people together and see where there is overlap so you can map out a set of business priorities that need attention and what joint goals should be established to deal with the external influences.
Sometimes you may find it wise to bring in an external moderator to ask the right questions. Depending on your business culture, silence can be an anaesthetic that kills the patient. Within some organisations, the team are silent on key issues out of respect for a leader they admire even though they see things differently from the current direction. In other cases, the staff don’t raise issues because of a fear culture where innovation or anything contrary to the party line is shouted down.
To bring your plan together you need the whole team on board. As the leader in your organisation, the best thing you can do when a new suggestion is put on the table is bite your lip and count to ten. If you can only react your people won’t respond. Always thank your team members for their ideas and then take the time to think about their observations or suggestion. The time you take irrespective of your response will build respect.