What Business Are You Really In?
By Bob Garrow
people not knowing what business they are in! Sadly, that is not all
that unusual. Firstly, staff members in today’s organizations, like
their clothes closets and garages at home, tend to lose their focus
over time. Secondly, markets change little by little, day by day which
can, over time, mean that an organization is no longer focused on the
right customers or customer needs.
the following real life case: People were too busy to get their jobs
done. Customer service people struggled to serve small businesses, who
had been their first customers when their business was founded.
Commissioned sales people strove to generate larger sales orders from
larger customers. The plant employees were caught in the middle,
unable to serve either type of customers without delaying orders for
15% of the company’s customers represented 85% of its sales. These
customers also represented the company’s future growth potential.
Sales to the remaining 85% of the customers consisted of small and
the company’s product line was a simple but vital product used in
emergency health care. This product rode in the back of every
ambulance in North America. In
summary, the company needed to refocus itself to serve its most valued
clients and to capitalize on the product that represented its greatest
potential for growth.
Ask yourself, “what business are you really in and why?”: This
question is important because your organization’s key strategic
decisions will all flow from your collective view of what business you
are really in. Any confusion here will show up big time in day to day
decision making, day after day, week after week until it is resolved.
Greater clarity about what business you are really in will help you
with the following challenges:
Focusing everyone on your organization’s biggest
Reducing the potential for conflicts.
Delegating decision making authority and
accountabilities throughout your organization.
Selecting which new business opportunities to
Crafting your strategy and marketing messages.
Think Pirates: Pirates knew what business they were in and every
pirate knew what was expected of him. Before each sailing, pirates
went through their own business planning model. They discussed and
voted on where they would sail, their code of conduct, and how they
would divide their treasures. Finally, they elected their captain.
Only then were they able to sail forth to capture treasures!
three Pirate Leadership Principles to adopt to capitalize on what
business you are really in:
1) Get On Board: Success requires a shared buy in to a common
purpose, goals and strategy. Lead your leaders through the following
strategic planning process:
Undertake a SWOT analysis to identify your
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Clearly identify your core skills. (What you do
best and do on a daily basis that is of benefit to your
Identify and describe what markets you currently
serve, including how you serve each market and your competitive
advantages and disadvantages in each market. To do this, look at
yourself and your competitors through your customers’ eyes.
Explore other business concepts and markets where you might use
your core skills to profitably serve customers.
Crystallize your purpose as an organization and
develop a mission statement to set it out clearly.
Set a few bold long term objectives that you want
to achieve. Be prepared to annually set specific goals to measure
your ongoing success in fulfilling your purpose.
Craft a strategy or game plan for successfully
fulfilling your purpose in your chosen business.
Develop Action Plans to implement your chosen
strategies, clearly setting out what must be done, by whom, and by
2) Stay the Course: Articulate your purpose, goals and strategy at
every opportunity. Ensure everyone’s ongoing commitment. Review your
progress and fine tune when necessary. This is an essential aspect of
leadership. Insufficient effort here will mean that people may revert
back to their old ways of doing things.
3) Share the Treasures: Early pirate captains learned that the more
treasures they shared, the more treasures they found. Since then, we
have learned that it takes more than money to energize people. Once
people have money, they want more than money. Be creative in
developing fun ways to recognize and reward successful implementation
of your new business plan. A word to the wise, nothing beats
recognition and praise and the feeling of being a member of a team
with important work to do.
outcome of the three Pirate Leadership Principles outlined above
should include the following:
A clearer and more widely understood basis for
A clear plan to best capitalize on what business
you are really in.
A more focused management team.
A more profitable future.
hearties, here’s wishing ye smooth sailing and rich treasures!
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