written by MO.com Subject Matter Resource Robert Murray
I have worked on over twenty multi-million dollar business turn around projects in over 12 countries during my life as an Executive Mercenary (the guy that gets hired to change the course of a business headed on a collision course with an iceberg) and I have discovered what most entrepreneurial business leaders were never taught when it comes to building a lasting competitive advantage and a winning business. If you are ready to learn and implement them – I mean really, passionately, lead the development of these foundations – then read on!
All too often Entrepreneurs go to market with strategies and marketing plans that are created separately and do not align with each other. Mostly because of the scattered thinking that is all too often the norm for an entrepreneur – a product of thinking that is created in a vacuum from the rest of the customers they are trying to serve, promotional activity that utilizes un-scientific “spray and pray” approaches, pricing strategies that do not align with the business’ distinctive excellence and distribution strategies that try to be all things to all people. The customer experience is often an afterthought.
Fear not! With the right foundation laid up front, all other efforts in the business, from the people you hire, the partners you work with, promtions, products, etc., all become built on a foundation that aligns everything in one direction. It is an approach very similar to building a temple with walls and a roof but without foundation that steadfastly supports the entire structure. Without this foundation in place, the results vary from complete failure of the product or service to weak results, wasted time, money and effort, and lack of motivation and ownership from the team.
The must haves in your foundation are…
1. Vision. Nothing happens without first defining a vision of what success looks like for your business. The Vision sets the course for the team to steer the ship. From the vision, your team can develop delivery strategies on whether your company’s existing mix of products, services, markets and capabilities form a winning combination for the future or what changes have to be implemented to deliver on that winning future. When developing this first foundational must have, you need to answer the following question honestly; “What does good look like?” It may be a revenue based goal, a market position, customer related, etc. Your vision needs to be a clear and compelling goal that you want to achieve. Now massage that into a short, simple, easy to remember mantra that everyone associated with your business will understand.
2. Why? This is critical. If you do not know why you are chasing what you are chasing, no one else will go on the journey with you. Starting right at home, you will not get the all important support from your partner, your family and your friends if you cannot explain to them why your idea should be believed in. Next, you will not get employees, vendors or other partners to willingly go on the journey with you unless you can explain a compelling ‘Why’ to your vision. Everybody on the planet wants to know “What’s in it for me” and if you can articulate that in terms they can relate to, they will follow you anywhere willingly.
3. Be Remarkable. Before you even launch a product to a market, you need to determine what your business does that is hands-down better than anyone else. Apple is great at innovation – no contest. Zappo’s is clearly better at serving customers. FedEx built their market advantage by being operationally excellent. What is it that your business does that is remarkable? Remember that there are literally thousands of ways your potential customers can spend their money. What is going to convince them to spend their hard-earned money with you? If you are not remarkable, then you will have to compete on price and that is not fun at all!
4. Customers. Nothing happens in business without a sale. The most successful entrepreneurial businesses in the world know exactly who their customers are and they find products that their customers want – NOT finding customers for their products. Get inside the heads of your customers. Build a profile on your customers that is so complete you know every possible thing about them. When you have intimate knowledge of the pain your customer goes through on a daily basis, all your decisions around products, promotions, pricing and distribution become super easy!
5. Become Replicable. Make sure everything else in your business aligns with the four foundational concepts above and then build a replicable approach or processes to make sure that it can be done flawlessly every time. Include processes for the people you hire – they need to be passionate advocates and believers in your vision, purpose, your remarkable greatness and your customers. Do not hire someone because of his or her resume. Hire for passion and attitude first. The same goes with the partners you work with. If your greatness is that you serve customers better than anyone else, why would you partner with a company that is focused on the cheapest price in town?
6. Proof. Everything you want to do and will do in your business needs to be measured in order to get the results you expect. If you do not have key measures factored into your business, you will wake up to a crisis that could have been averted. I always do a balance check to make sure everything aligns and that we are selling significant value by “Stapling Myself to an Order” where I follow a customer order all the way through the sales and delivery process. Anywhere that the process does not align with our vision, purpose or greatness, we change it on the spot, document it, train for it and move on to the next thing and make sure that it works as envisioned too (and so on).
As an entrepreneur, I know that you lie awake at night envisioning the cool parts of your business like the product or the idea. I love that passion! Remember though, without a structured approached to having a rock solid foundation, your business will run into seemingly impossible challenges and will not be able to stand the tests of the storms you will face.
Robert Murray is a Key Note Speaker, Serial Entrepreneur, Executive Turn Around Mercenary and the author of the critically acclaimed book; “It’s Already Inside: Nurturing your innate leadership for business and life success.”