Currently, everyone seems overwhelmed with stress, change, complexity, uncertainty, and disruption. The pandemic, inflation, politics, crime, and a general increase in depression are all taking a toll on us individually and as a society. With so much on our plates in the midst of all the chaos, how exactly can you improve your business?
There are a few simple strategies that can help improve your business (and your life). For starters, we could all stand to be a little nicer (to others and to ourselves) and we also must learn to reduce the stress, conflict, and uncertainty in our lives.
At Startup Connection, we’ve found that, when feeling stuck or overwhelmed, it often helps to get back to basics. We can all benefit from taking a step back and reminding ourselves of the good advice we’ve gained along the way. We hope the following suggestions challenge you, resonate with you, and help improve your business and life:
Find and maintain balance. Whether it’s passion and reality, Left Brain-Right Brain, qualitative versus quantitative, analytics versus intuition, these seemingly opposing concepts are actually more similar than different. The goal is to find balance and reduce the conflict that often permeates discussions about these ideas in order to develop a more integrated approach.
Practice more civil and positive behavior. This can have significant outcomes while being fairly simple to apply. Saying please, thank you, and asking, “How are you?” can go a long way. Ensure you understand other perspectives and alternatives, listen when others are talking, and work on remembering names and biographies. And, most importantly, be kind.
Understand goals and needs. This applies to your own goals and needs as well as those of your partner(s) in relationship (both personally and professionally). In particular, ask and learn about things like price, service, quality, and reliability in any relationship. Professional sports have done a great job adding entertainment (notice how she got a jersey in the photo) and better food to the consumer experience, which can mitigate the higher costs (and the possibility of your team losing 50% of the time).
Have clear priorities. As Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t where you are going, any road will get you there.” Reassess and renew efforts on programs that have the most potential. But,it is equally important to eliminate unproductive efforts. Focus on what you’re good at and pay less attention to your weaknesses.
Utilize the 80-20 rule. Many operations and expert mathematicians have long promoted that 80% of sales are made up of 20% of your products. However, suppliers continue to proliferate styles, colors, sizes, and models to, presumably, serve more customers and provide more features. The tough economy has produced a great opportunity to reduce proliferation of products that just aren’t producing.
Always remember measurement. Measurement is simply the increased use of models, probability, risk, numbers, analysis, and even experience and intuition to improve decision-making. In some simple cases, it has proved to be a valuable tool to understand and improve decisions or simply validate prior intuition. The bigger the data and the more complex the circumstances, the more measuring can improve decisions.
Accept that change is accelerating and is more uncertain. Understand and incorporate change like inflation, the situation in Ukraine, changing goivernment, etc into your planning and management. Encourage out-of-the-box thinking and ideas, and avoid normal day-to-day problem solving. For example, you may develop solutions by better understanding underlying causes of issues rather than their characteristics. In other words, address the root cause and not the symptoms. One of the most significant opportunities may be understanding and reacting to demographics. The country is simply getting older, more diverse, more ethnic, and more educated.
Restructure relationships. If you communicate with partners, lots of win-win opportunities can occur. In my own experience, sharing forecasts, production plans, inventory quantities, etc. is one of the easiest and most inexpensive tools that can produce the greatest of outcomes.
Remember that failure is part of success. Brian K. Mitchell said, “If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough.” The experiences of the following innovators best make this point:
- Steve Jobs, co-founder of the original Apple Computer, was fired from the firm.
- Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors of all time, had 10,000 failed trials with his light bulb.
- Stephen Spielberg, famed movie director, went solo after being rejected three times from the University of California.
- Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, both college-dropouts, went on to, well you know what.
Be more open. Organizations need to be open to measurement, feedback, change, and anything else that comes along. This often starts with fostering an open culture, which includes sharing financials, operations reports, and sales reports.
Put more effort into customer service. While we always focus on product, marketing, finance, and customer service are just as critical. Remember: Anyone can put a product in a store or pictures on the Internet and attempt to sell it. It’s the differences in service that frequently differentiates businesses. Focus on expanding relationships with your ideal customers and the products they support, and give less marketing attention to declining customers and unprofitable products.
Maximize operations. Effective logistics and operations planning starts with determining key issues, understanding tradeoffs, and developing goals and standards. The recent supply shortages in diverse area like airlines, baby food, and computer chips that are crippling our economy exemplify its importance. Scheduling staff, services, and supplies correctly to meet customer needs without incurring excess expense is critical. Customers who wait or walk out of a business because of delays generate the most complaints. Reducing lead times, improving flexibility, and planning can improve effectiveness and lower costs.
There’s always room for improvement. What are some ways you’d like to improve your business? And what are you going to do to successfully accomplish those things?