The business landscape is shifting and 2014 will be here before we know it. Pressures from all around…globally, politically, economically and within the industry…reduce the margins for error in running our businesses. According to most analysts and experts, this is not likely to change in the near future leaving us with no choice but to change or be changed.
Never in our lifetimes have we seen such rapid and radical shifts in the world and even in the United States. This year like none other, you’ll want to reposition your business to successfully navigate the tricky landscape ahead and become a market leader.
In addition to revisiting some fundamentals with renewed mindfulness and an eye for innovation, I suggest you consider where you are in seven specific areas of personal, professional and business achievement. At a macro level, all business owners would be wise to do some introspective thinking in these seven keys areas required to truly thrive in a new reality.
Secret One: Focus on Your Sphere of Influence
Take out a sheet of paper; draw a relatively small stick figure in the middle of it. Then draw four to five concentric circles around the stick figure. The image will look like a dart board with a stick figure in the middle. The figure represents you, me and all the other business owners who often feel alone in the middle of a dart board with things flying at us all the time. We have to use leverage to manage it all. This means focusing where we have the most control and influence. Relationally, that begins with self and whatever spiritual convictions we have about ourselves and our purpose. These core values must align with our role and goals. Through conscious awareness we can look inward and then reflect outward to build alignment and congruency between where you are now and what you want the future to look like. Then we can begin to have greater influence on all those around us starting with key leadership and so on. Alignment from the inside out is a key, like sprockets and drives, the pieces may be different but they fit together to achieve leverage when energy (vision + conviction + action) is applied.
Secret Two: Build Critical Inertia
Creating initial momentum for change is essential to seeing it through and moreover, sustaining it long term. Simply put, momentum is a factor of force and speed. When both are in play, momentum is created to overcome the inevitable resistance to initial and sustained change. Perhaps it’s helpful to replace force with accountability and speed with pace of action. Now we see the importance of having a feedback loop that aligns the big goals with roles and responsibilities. Whether we’re making personal or organizational changes, there’s natural resistance because of systems, processes and patterned thinking leading to behaviors. Awareness of these resisting forces will allow you to remove these barriers in advance and overcome the rest through the cadence of accountability like recurring meetings and report reviews. And we can never forget people need leadership to channel and make the most effective use of their strengths and resources. Alignment from the inside out is essential to creating this initial momentum. Whether it’s our beliefs about what’s really possible or the absence of clarity in how to achieve it, we have to keep the momentum going through on-going check-ins.
Secret Three: Think Sustainability
As individuals we’re all susceptible to falling into bad habits and collectively, this happens to our organizations at a cultural and behavioral level. There are few strategies offering instantaneous results of any significance. Typically a company does well to break even on a one year ROI in new substantial initiatives. Consequently we must be working on results oriented strategies today that can be sustained tomorrow and down the road. Because these best few initiatives require longer range commitments, we can no longer afford to risk our valuable resources without clarity and commitment. We often spread ourselves and businesses too thin when we just need to do a few essential things consistently well to sustain critical long term success.
Secret Four: Substantiate Your Value
Again as noted in Secret One, starting from the inside out we have to consider our core strengths and value proposition as individuals and a business. Consider your own core strengths as an entrepreneur, partner, leader, manager, coach and professional. Activities you enjoy, are good at and grow the business represent your personal “zone” or “sweet spot.” Whether we’re evaluating ourselves or others, we always want to move in the direction of leveraging more of these core strengths. Realizing individuals make up the organization; business leaders must also recognize their team collectively represents the culture, brand and ultimately the value proposition to clients. Make sure you’re a value driven company that rewards people who contribute value and results. The same applies to clients as you consider where to invest your time and resources. Identify your core strengths and marry them up with the clients and prospects who perceive it that way…as a tremendous value.
Secret Five: Build Strategic Relationships
Something amazing happens when you’re applying the first four secrets with success, you become attractive to others. All of us have experienced it in some way through kudos from a client or a referral from someone you know. Doing the right things attracts the right people where the law of reciprocity can play out naturally and with compounding success. The old saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts” was pretty much right. The caveat is we want to be the real deal when leveraging relationships in this way where our reputations and hopefully even friendships are on the line. Integrity, congruency and authenticity are words that come to mind when building the right strategic relationships. A strategic relationship is one formed between two or more parties to pursue a set of agreed upon objectives or to meet a critical business need while remaining independent organizations (Wikipedia). In short, building strategic relationships with clients, centers of influence and alliance partners can be one of the most powerful and efficient ways to accelerate and create greater results in our life and profession.
Secret Six: Pay People to Create, Refine and Sustain Systems & Processes
Beyond simply setting goals and creating a cadence of accountability with your team, business owners and leaders must always be looking for efficient, duplicable and sustainable results. These are the keys to profitability, the most important cash flow objective in business. Always be aware of the lowest value task you and others are performing on a recurring basis and how to leverage a routines (or processes) and systems (like software) to minimize manual labor. Since staff is likely your most expensive, challenging and vital resource, we must focus “people power” wisely.
Secret Seven: Think Succession and Significance
As business owners and aspiring leaders, we should all be thinking about succession planning, starting with simple cross training. Consider critical processes, systems and activities managed by you and others which could have a significant negative impact on the business if something happened. Moreover, if you’re growing successfully, the tide raises all boats so leaders must continue to divest themselves of non-core activities discussed earlier. This also creates a career path for others and an environment where you and others can feel truly significant in the world making an impact on lives.
My challenge to you is this…evaluate yourself and your business against the back drop of these seven secrets to position for a phenomenal 2014. While the challenges are real, fortunately so are the rewards. Focus, plan and take action! Coach “T.”
“This content was originally published in NAFA Annuity Outlook magazine (AnnuityOutlookMagazine.com) and is reprinted with permission.”