Smart entrepreneurs realize they always have to keep thinking about what’s next, both for themselves and for the companies they lead. Otherwise, they won’t be ready for the next big opportunity that comes their way.
But it’s so easy to get worn down by the daily grind of running a business, to lose focus.
Get too comfortable with the way things are, and pretty soon, growth starts to stagnate or even decline.
If you feel like you’re sliding into the danger zone, it might be time to recalibrate and engage in some “what’s next” planning. Here’s a three-step plan for getting back on track.
Recalibrating can involve a modest adjustment to what you’re currently doing, or it can be a sweeping change. It means encouraging disruption and examining what was and what is, then readjusting for what can be.
It all starts with understanding where you are today. Knowing what matters to you, your business, your workforce and your customers is fundamental to laying the groundwork for what’s next.
You can accomplish this by:
- Paying more attention to what your competitors are doing.
- Talking to your customers and listening to what they’re saying.
- Examining your customers’ behavior by identifying what makes them an ideal customer for you, i.e., what are they buying from you, how often are they buying, when are they buying and how much are they buying.
- Talking to your front-line people and finding out what they hear, say and do.
With this intelligence, you can create “what’s next.”
The next step is to set your company apart from its competition.
People have lots of choices today. Customers are not limited to the neighborhood market—they can buy from around the world. So, if
you don’t have a point of difference, you will be invisible.
One way to differentiate is by offering something that competing businesses do not. You can innovate your product, your service
or your attitude.
For example, if you’re an insurance company, you can be friendly, personable and easy to understand. That’s different!
If you’re a cellphone company, you can throw out the dreaded contracts, make it easy to transfer content and have accessories that actually work.
If you’re a fitness center, you can be centered on the fitness goals of the client rather than the latest, greatest promotion … unless it’s a promotion that adds value to the relationship you have with your clients. Of course, that means you have to have a meaningful relationship.
To create what’s next, you have to break the existing mold.
You’ve done your research and recalibrated how you look at your business. You’ve come up with exciting new ways to differentiate your company. There’s just one thing left to do: engage.
Engagement starts with you, the entrepreneur. If you don’t believe in what’s next, if you don’t have passion for this new path, no one will follow.
If you are engaged, you can engage other people—rally them to serve as your advocates. This can include your management team, your workforce, your customers, your suppliers—anyone who is part of your organization’s circle of influence.
Engagement involves listening. Ask for feedback. Ask for ideas. Work together to find new solutions. If there’s collaboration, there’s engagement. If there’s engagement, you’ll sell more, enjoy stronger relationships with clients and have a team that is committed to your goals and interests.
But again, it all starts with you. Are you ready for what’s next?
Burnout is one of the top three reasons companies are facing a significant exodus of people—not just among rank-and-file, but among the leadership, too. Maybe you’re tired of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
While burnout is a real concern, it’s hard for many business owners to break loose. Your identity is tied to the business, and you probably haven’t thought about yourself as an individual for a long time.
If you take the time to consider what matters to you and what you might want to do, why you want to do it, how you want to be perceived and how you want to connect with others, you’ll uncover exciting possibilities for yourself and your company. Maybe it means acquiring another company, inventing a new product, giving back or preparing to hand off your company.
Just remember that recalibrating is not a one-and-done event. It’s an opportunity to experiment and readjust and, importantly,
it’s a continuous action.