Whether you’re a businessperson or an entrepreneur, you want to have pointers for doing your job better. Here, you’ll find recommendations for ways to energize your staff, organize your business more efficiently and more. Glen Wakeman helps you to grow your business and yourself with these helpful ideas. You’ll find articles with titles such as “If you want excellence, celebrate successes” and “Designate doesn’t mean abdicate.” Build your business the smart way by following those who have succeeded in doing so and are happy to share their expertise.

KNOW WHAT A BULLSEYE IS

A Target Market is a group of customers that you are aiming your products at. They are the people (and companies) that are most likely to buy your stuff. It makes good sense to know as much about them as you can:

What are their characteristics?

There are a number of ways to look at this but the simplest methods are the best because data is readily available and using data is much better than guessing. Gender, age, social segment, spending power, employment status, income, can all provide useful insights for you. Collect as much data as you can on who is buying your product, know what’s important to them and make sure that your offer is compatible with their needs.

What problem do you solve for them?

That’s the first part of the value proposition. The second part is the benefit you provide. The bigger the problem the bigger the price. The opposite is also true. Knowing the “pain points” of your customers and providing relief is a great way to establish a sustainable relationship and revenue stream.

Why will they buy from you?

Don’t underestimate how important differentiators are; comparisons are just a few clicks away. Commodities (same as) compete on price. Uniqueness means higher margins. Set your strategies accordingly.

Organizing customers into groups (targets) and knowing their preferences are necessary fundamentals to align your sales plans and achieve your growth.

RISING SEAS LIFT ALL BOATS

The Market growth rate is a measure of change, from period X to Y. It helps you to determine your possibilities by assessing your environment:

Is your market getting bigger or smaller?

It’s pretty tough to build sales in a shrinking market unless you have a huge cost advantage or easy access to lots of customers. On the other hand, a rising tide does lift all boats.

How quickly is it changing?

Are you getting into your market at its peak or does it have some runway ahead before it starts to stabilize or slow down.

Is the trend sustainable?

Good times don’t last forever and it is very risky to assume they will. New markets are notoriously difficult to predict; you can reduce your risk by focusing on the trends that are driving the growth (population growth, demographics, economic expansion, regulation) and determining which are short-term and which drivers have some staying power.

Companies never operate in a vacuum. They expand or contract as a consequence of their actions and reactions to their markets. A fundamental part of planning requires you to have a solid understanding of market changes.

FIND YOUR PLACE IN THE WORLD

Glen Wakeman Finding Your Place

A Market is a Zone of Commerce, wherein parties exchange goods and services for consideration. The consideration is something of equivalent value, like cash. Basically, a market is where you buy or sell stuff. It gets interesting when you try to define the boundaries of the market.

Is it geographical?

Your market can be defined by a particular area or region.

Is it industry – based?

Your customers can all be part of the same group, like financial services or retailing.

Is it internet – based?

In that case, you will be accessing your customers online and you will need to build a specific set of tools to reach them.

Market definitions help you get perspective on where your startup fits in. Once you define the boundaries, you can better size up your customer base, match your sales efforts and compare your differentiators to your competitors. You will either have more work to do or not but you will be able to know how big is the overall opportunity, how fast is it growing and who is your competition to name a few of the fundamental questions you should be able to answer.

GO FOR IT BUT MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS

Growth means expansion, increasing in size, gaining scale, maturing and getting better. Growth is good. Growth is actually great! But are your growth plans realistic and are they realistic in the timetable you’ve laid out? It’s both important and exciting to dream big and set big goals. But it’s also wise to build a little realism into your plans. You can assess reasonableness of your plan by

Researching your market size.

You really want to know how big your opportunity is before you spend a lot of your money on your new venture, especially if you are launching a start-up. You will need to fight for your place at the table and your chances of success increase if there is a lot of space to move around.

Benchmarking your competition.

See what you can learn from the companies in your segment. You will be seeking the same customers and it’s essential that your offer is somehow different or unique. Your customers will most certainly compare you against “them” so improve your chances of success by really understanding what “them” offers versus yours.

Examining your growth rates.

Everyone would love to double or triple their sales overnight and very few do. Grinding it out is more of the norm so ensure that your plan reflects the most likely set of circumstances that everything won’t go perfectly.

 

-It’s important to know the fundamental difference between an aspiration and a plan.

EMPOWERMENT SHOULD BE EXTENDED GRADUALLY AND BASED ON PERFORMANCE.

Giving things away is a lot easier than taking things back. Delegating authority, or empowerment is no different. It isn’t something that should be rushed or freely given. It is something that should be earned that requires a solid foundation to ensure it is strong and sustainable.

Trust takes time.

Building a foundation of trust doesn’t happen in an instant. Think of it as bricklaying. Trust is assembled one brick, or event, at a time. It requires a series of events that can be assessed for their effectiveness. What was the expected outcome and what was the actual outcome? What choices (decisions) were made along the way. Were they knucklehead choices or were they sound decisions, ideally based on data. If there was no analysis or assessment, the decisions may be more like gambling than risk taking. Bake that learning into your empowerment plans for the next go around and adjust your delegation as necessary. Take the time to evolve your levels of empowerment.

Seek disconfirming evidence.

Insist that your team try to make good choices by looking for data that disputes what they believe. In assessing choices, utilizing facts as a basis is always a good start. But it is not enough to find data that agrees with their conclusions. They must actively seek data that doesn’t agree. This is called disconfirming evidence and essentially it means, they might be wrong. Oh boy, that’s a problem! Why would you want your team to actively seek to disprove what they believe? Well, because they could be wrong. And wouldn’t you want them to know that before they make a knucklehead choice? If you actively look for and don’t find evidence that disproves your beliefs, then, by all means, carry on, with confidence.

Have them repeat it back.

You may know what you want them to do and may have repeated it a few times. There is always a risk of misunderstanding. A simple but powerful way to reduce this risk is to ask them to describe to you what they are doing. Have them repeat the problem statement so you can assure you are aligned. They can get corrective guidance at the beginning and you can avoid rework, frustration and hard feelings along the way.

CRITICAL JUDGMENTS REQUIRE TIME TO ASSESS UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.

As the Leader of your company, your choices will determine the ultimate fate of your enterprise. There is no net underneath you.  If you make a bad choice, and it is a critical choice for your company, there may be no going back. So it is essential that you are extremely careful when take big decisions like critical hires, new product development, acquisitions, divestitures, and new market entries (for example). Careful doesn’t mean slow. It means thorough. Think about the many consequences and plan accordingly.  Use a whiteboard, write an email, have a conversation with a colleague but make sure you have tried to think through as many risks as possible. This is difficult to do and takes practice and will.

Engineer out emotion.

Emotions can cloud your judgments. We are all in love with our own ideas. And, whenever we negotiate with ourselves, we always win. Real life can be different and the best thing you can do is to make sure you are seeing things clearly. A good way to do that is to propose your decision and rationale to a friendly source, and then defend it. If you can’t explain what you are doing and why in simple terms and then can’t defend why it makes sense, you probably should pause and think a little more carefully.

Give yourself time to process everything.

Don’t hurry big decisions. Take the time to reflect. Utilize tools like email or staff meetings to cause yourself to clarify your thinking by expressing your rationale. Taking a time out, even for a day, to sleep on it or waiting to press send is a good means of controlling your risks. You don’t want to be remorseful because you pulled a trigger too quickly. Slowing down your sense of time can be helpful, especially if you are in a crisis.

Commit and get started!

When you do make a final decision, dive in and don’t look back. Don’t increase your risks by going half way on implementation. If you’ve thought it through, you need to give the plan a realistic shot at succeeding. Hesitation isn’t the same thing as wisdom. It’s more like chickening out. So decide, then go!

OPERATING PLANS SHOULD CONTEMPLATE SETBACKS AND INCLUDE ALTERNATIVES.

Plans are intended to guide your execution and will never be as precise as a mathematical formula because of the many variables they do and don’t contemplate. And let’s not forget the human factor, which is an essential part of any plan, is the least predictable variable of all. So a good plan should incorporate some room for mistakes, delays in timing, revenue misses, and cost overruns. These are downsides that require mitigation. You should think through them before you execute. Outcomes can also be better than plan. Isolate those variables as well and include them on your upsides list.

Isolate key assumptions that drive your financial performance.

These assumptions/variables are the critical factors that you need to manage. They can include launch dates, hiring levels, expenditures, new product introductions, price changes, advertising, response rates, etc. It is critical that you get a clear handle on the 3 – 5 things that will drive your financial results and thereby determine your success. Have clear monitoring plans in place and stay on top of them. Make course corrections as needed.

Look for weak points that require attention.

Always assess your plan, actuals, and gaps. If you have a miss or a win by 10% or more, it bears looking into. It isn’t luck (good or bad). Something more important is going on. If you address misses as they arise, you lower your risks and get control of your execution before it can get out of hand.

Build on strengths and don’t abandon them.

Operating plan management is not just about downsides. If you did a good job planning and you are executing well, you will be delighted to find that some things are going better than expected. Don’t ignore them. Isolate the reasons why and make sure the wins are sustainable.

IF YOU ARE DOING THE WORK, WHO IS DOING THE LEADING?

It is pretty difficult to get people to follow you if you are always looking down instead of looking ahead. They won’t know where you are taking them because you won’t know. Doing the work can have that effect because it can make you forget that you are the leader. There are always times where you need to pitch in to get something over the finish line. But that should be the exception and not the norm. Every team needs a leader that sits on top of the pack and provides direction. At times, it may be necessary to “do”. Make sure it is for the right reasons.

Don’t enable poor performance.

When you routinely do someone else’s job for them, you are ignoring poor performance. And in so doing, you are making your organization weaker, not stronger. You are limiting the output of your organization to your output yet you are paying for more than that. It is neither sustainable nor productive to carry on that way. It is easy to feel empathy for struggling employees and leaders certainly need to be human. However, you should also feel empathy for your top producers who are carrying your company as they deserve more of your support and not less.

Assist doesn’t mean do all of the work.

It means to give support or to offer help. They still do their share; you try to get them over the hump. Everyone needs a hand from time to time but taken to extremes, support can be a real disabler.

Don’t let tasks overwhelm you.

Working lists are clear and easy to follow and you should supervise that they are getting done, by the people getting paid to do them. Don’t get lost in the weeds and confuse activity with progress. Activity isn’t necessarily progressing if it isn’t moving your company closer to your goal. It’s your job to set the true north and guide your company in that direction. So pick your head up and lead.

 

LEADERSHIP IS A CONTINUOUS PROCESS.

Articulating a vision, developing strategy, setting goals and performing assessments are the 4 repeatable activities within the leadership process. A vision is an end state that inspires your employees to be their best. Strategy is the series of actions you will take to get there. Goals describe your planned achievements and act as milestones or goalposts to indicate your progress.  Assessments tell you how you are doing, objectively.

Ensure there is repeatability.

If you can’t repeat it, it isn’t a process. It’s a series of coincidences. Repetition leads to perfection and will help you set the right example for your team.

Treat every day like it’s your first day.

Relive the wonders and fears and then take comfort in the fact that it isn’t your first day, you know a lot of stuff already and you just need to make plans to change the things you don’t like. Now that you know what to do, you need to follow through and do it.

Seek opposing views.

If two people always agree, you don’t need one of them. Only one is adding intellectual capital to the company so why pay or two. More than that, seek differences as a way to continuously learn and improve. A wise leader will introduce those new ideas into their plans and adjust accordingly.

LEADERSHIP REQUIRES BEHAVIORAL AGILITY.

Circumstances and people change so you need to be adaptable to different situations. That means you need to adjust your listening skills, sense of urgency, and tendency to be directive or passive, depending on the problem, people, and expected outcome. This doesn’t mean you morph into a new person every day like some 21st Century superhero. It is quite the contrary.

Be Yourself.

Between your DNA and life events, you are who you are and you can’t really control that. But you can control your choices, actions, reactions, and behaviors. They need to all be in tune with your situation and circumstances. Push when you need to and pause when you don’t. Be self-aware and very importantly, be a very attentive observer and a very aggressive listener of those around you.

Listen First.

Collect information as often as possible, especially when you need to make a big decision. Reduce your risks of errors in judgment by basing as much of your judgment as possible on facts. Accepting input from those around you is a good way to develop new sources of information. The information is most valuable when it does not match your preconceptions so pay close attention. Agility means that you can adapt and change whenever you need to. So if the facts change, your opinion should also change.

Focus On The Goal.

Think, listen, think but don’t get paralyzed. You do need to decide and act. But maintain a clear understanding of your true North, your goal, and decide and guide your team accordingly. Agility is an essential leadership skill for anyone that is building a new enterprise. To increase your chances of success, be adaptable but be true to yourself, listen and then decide.