February 14, 2013 No Comments

Eliminate Barriers to Small Business Growth

In my analysis of the exotic furniture shop that felt it couldn’t compete with “the big boys”, I mentioned the concept of an “anti-USP”. This is any factor that works against your Unique Selling Proposition. Your USP is one of the most valuable aspects of your business. It clearly states why customers should choose to do business with you instead of your competitors, and it emphasizes the value you offer your customers.

When you have any anti-USPs, however, all the good work you do in your business can be negated by one or more simple things. For the exotic furniture store, the used look of their furniture negated the value of these high-priced pieces.

Sometimes even the business name can be an anti-USP, as in the case of a former client who had the word “Kwik” in his business name. That particular spelling of the word “quick” indicates a low-priced, lower value service so sets up a customer expectation that yes, they’ll get something fast, but it is going to be inexpensive. Sadly, that business owner’s services were not inexpensive at all. Potential customers who invited him to give them a quote got immediate sticker shock as the price far exceeded what they were expecting to pay. His business suffered accordingly. (more…)

October 3, 2012 No Comments

Customer-Centric Business Model

To grow your business, you might need to adjust your business model. A business model is the structure, focus, and operational methodology of your business.

Business growth usually means paying more attention to customers. If you do not have a customer-centric business model that is tightly focused on attracting, delighting, and maintaining customers, you might want to make some changes so that it is. Depending on your industry, that concentration on meeting customers’ needs can result in exponential growth.

In software development, for example, a customer-centric business model means that no project is undertaken unless there is absolute certainty that there are customers clamoring for that software. Developing a software program just because it’s “cool” is not enough anymore. The market must clearly express a need or problem for which your product is the solution.

A Joint Application Development (JAD) model for software development involves every department of the company in the development process. There are regular cross-functional meetings where representatives from finance, HR, customer support, QA, marketing, sales, and development get together to plan, troubleshoot, and support the development of the product. In this way, each area of the company has a stake, and a vested interest, in the success of the project.

Also called an integrated business model, this way of working together to get, keep, and satisfy customers ensures strong customer loyalty and that there are no surprises for the company.

A customer-centric business model takes the focus off the product or service, and puts it squarely and continually on the customer. Remember, to build a better mouse trap, it’s not about making it better for the mouse, but making it much better for the customer who has a mouse problem.

January 23, 2012 No Comments

Three States of Living Matter

Here’s a post I wrote in January, 2007. It’s worth bringing it around again for your consideration.
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At the beginning of a new year, many of us like to review the past 12 months, and revisit our plans for the coming 12 months. If we are forward thinking, we probably have a look at the 5-year and 10-year plans we may have made, as well.

It is always said of business plans that they are dynamic documents which should be regularly read, revised, republished, and consulted. I agree. I also like to extend that thought to any plan.

A plan is one approach to getting from point A to point B, whether in time or space. It is the approach you’ve chosen. It may not be the most correct way to accomplish your goal, but it is the one you’ve researched, analyzed, scoped. specified, funded, and are now implementing. You’ve made a commitment to that plan and those particular tactics over other possible ways to get the job done.

However, life happens. Sometimes the universe changes the variables with which we are working. We encounter obstacles that were different from what we had anticipated. Our actions have different consequences that what we had predicted. We are confronted with new information that we didn’t have when we first formulated our plan. Consequently, we need to adjust. We need to rethink the plan.

Smart people understand that reworking a plan is a natural part of project management. Any time the conditions, variables, resources, or outcomes change in a project, it is advisable to take another look at the project plan and make adjustments accordingly. It may mean increasing funding, pushing out a deadline, reassigning personnel, reducing requirements, or changing other aspects of the plan. Dynamic plans live and breathe. They grow.

There are only three states of living matter in the universe. Anything live is either growing, stagnant (in stasis), or decaying.

When looking at plans for your business this year, it is valuable to ask:

  • Where are we now?
  • Are we growing, stagnant, or decaying?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • What do we need to change, to get the growth we want to have?

You want your business to thrive, to grow, to be a living entity. Re-evaluation of your current state can help you decide what to do next.