By Ken Keller
As your business planning continues for the new year, I pose thought-provoking questions to help guide your thinking.
What business are you really in?
Railroads were once in the transportation business, but now, excepting Amtrak, they are in the business of moving freight. Starbucks started out as a coffee shop, and it’s now an upscale, quick-service restaurant chain. Over time, businesses mature, develop and adapt. Identify and acknowledge how your business has transformed.
What is your sustainable competitive advantage?
Competitive advantage occurs when an organization acquires or develops an attribute or combination of attributes that allows it to outperform its competitors.
Creating a sustainable competitive advantage is done from the outside in. Clients initially chose to work with a vendor because that vendor provides something, either tangible or intangible, not provided elsewhere. Clients stay with a vendor for specific reasons. The solution is to find out the “why” behind those buying decisions.
Is your vision still clear?
Distractions disguised as opportunities abound. Without a vision, without a target to hit in the future, short-term goals are not likely to be achieved. Does the vision reflect reality? Is it filled with energy, alignment, and focus? Can employees state what the vision statement? Is it memorable enough to be memorized?
How do you really measure progress?
While revenue growth, improving margins and larger profits are strong indicators of moving forward, other metrics may be more important. Are you measuring client acquisition and retention? Employee engagement? Efficiencies in operations, purchasing and output? How much progress has been made this year on the non-financial metrics and how much progress is anticipated in the year ahead?
How well are you avoiding the commodity trap?
CEOs and salespeople often believe that their offerings have become commoditized by the competition, meaning, pricing pressure seems to have taken over as the key decision behind purchasing.
A commodity is a good or service where there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation. When a buyer cannot discern a qualitative difference of offerings, price becomes the only factor in the decision to spend.
The opportunity is to build value that matters into the purchasing equation. Former, current, and potential buyers can provide invaluable information to help strengthen your existing sustainable competitive advantage and provide insight into what constitutes value for the client.
Who is your target market?
Review, refine and redefine the target market of the company. Who is the ideal client? Has the client base changed? Who is making the buying decision; are there multiple buyers and influencers involved? What can you do to avoid single points of communication within your clients?
Are your key plans updated?
There are three key documents worth updating during the planning cycle. The first is the strategic plan for the company; the second is the marketing and sales plan for the next 18 months and the third is the operating plan for the year ahead. Do you possess these critical documents and if not, when will you create them? The definition of business insanity is, “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” If you desire a better year in 2022, focus on these seven questions to help move your business to better outcomes.
Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners,
CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business
expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies and greater profitability.
Email:[email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not
necessarily those of the SCVBJ.