Over the years as a business consultant I have had the opportunity to talk with many owners and senior executives about the next steps in their business careers.These conversations are very poignant and indeed extremely introspective. They are often approached somewhat sub-rosa and naturally conducted outside of their respective organizations. The leaders are generally very sensitive to not burdening their staff or family with their dilemma.
The reality is everyone knows what you’re thinking, because it is the natural order of things. Often subtle changes in; behavior, energy, sense of urgency, absence from work, strategic thinking, all portent something is afoot.
The core theme is an inevitable examination of where do I go from here and when. It frequently entails the transitioning of roles and responsibilities to other family members or a management team. The discussion and analysis also includes just selling the whole enterprise, thus avoiding the intrinsic complications of transitioning.
While the mental strain continues a far more insidious dilemma is the “elephant in the living room”, what will I do for the rest of my life?
Most owners and senior executives have immersed themselves in their careers as their life’s work, their ego, self- identity, energy, and worth as a human being are inextricably bound up it the business.
They obsess and ruminate over:
We all need a purpose as we move on to a new stage in our life. There are infinite possibilities if we recognize the next step isn’t an ending, but rather a new beginning in life’s journey.
Embrace the change, take your passion and experience along for the ride, they will stand you in good stead!
Your family and business will positively respond to your new direction.
Running a successful business is no easy task. Once you get beyond the initial euphoria of opening your own business reality sets in very fast.Although millions of small to medium size businesses are opened every year the vast majority aren’t even around after 5 years.
A typical scenario is as follows: One or two people have a great idea for a good or service and they throw their heart and soul into the business working 16 hours plus a day.
The founders often, make the product, market it, sell it, provide the service, bill for it, manage complaints and clean the bathrooms as well! As the enterprise grows inevitably there comes a point when the owner’s personal energy, enthusiasm, and expertise is not enough.
There are many reason why things go haywire: cash flow, customer service, productivity, quality etc., however the most frequently posed reason is the lack of sales.
If we dig deeper and analyze what’s contributing to the lack of sales, there are often four missing factors that are organizationally based values that are sub-optimized or missing completely:
Eventually the company starts to implode, fingers are pointed at every one and the death spiral continues to its inevitable end.
For owners and management teams the answer is to address these critical areas early on as the company evolves. By proactively anticipating and addressing them the probability of avoiding a company’s demise is greatly enhanced.
One of my friends is a consummate fishermen, he meticulously plans each fishing trip and obsesses over details:
I find it curious how many entrepreneurs, sales managers, and sales professionals simply “wing it” when it comes to selecting the customers they are pursuing. They seem to aimlessly cast about hoping to catch a customer without a real plan addressing who makes a good customer and why.
A corollary observation is many organizations don’t give their sales teams or individual sales professionals direction as to who to pursue and why. The result is relegating a critical decision to a sales professional who may or may not understand or even be worried about the strategic direction of the company’s revenue stream.
Without casting negative dispersions a sales professionals, generally by nature they focused on what’s best for them, specifically how they can earn the highest compensation. Many times their compensation is not tied to any well thought out organizational strategy, leaving management and sales people fishing arbitrarily and certainly not aligned.
What is the solution? We recommend management and the sales organization jointly address and answer three questions:
Is there an opportunity?
This is a very fundamental question and you would be surprised how much time, energy and money is wasted as sales professionals who just try to catch any fish (customer) with no forethought.
This exercise is best engaged in with management and the sales team…do these (x, y, & z) types of customers use or could use our menu of goods and services?
If yes then develop a list of prospects that everyone agrees to.
Can we compete and win?
This is a sobering question that requires some introspection and a serious reality check.
Determining if you can compete on a local, regional, national or international level is critical. Often small to medium size businesses over-extend themselves and engage in wishful thinking about their skill set, logistical capabilities and resources to compete in all four of these markets effectively.
Focusing your time, money and talent strategically is paramount to utilizing the precious resource you have with the right customers.
Is the business worth winning?
This question underscores the need for management to review if the organization has the money, resources, time, capacity and people to win.
The bottom line is can your organization operate profitably with the expected margins certain types of market segments afford?
Is the organization or sales team trying to capture a certain customer like everyone else or is there a well thought out strategic reason to do so?
A finally thought, answering these three simple questions can prevent wasted time, energy, and money. Additionally, serve as the foundation for establishing a strategic sales plan and aligning the entire sales organization, thus selecting the right customers for the right reasons!
Our Blogs are Authored by various members of the NEALABC team.