Running a business can sometimes be a frenzy of decisions and actions that it’s difficult to know how they’re affecting the direction of the company. For some, the realization comes a little too late and the business goes into crisis mode.
Consider looking at your business as a 3-legged stool where you can’t afford a weak leg. More important, imagine the seat and the middle ring connecting the legs.
Let me explain.
- The seat and middle ring represent Management. These two parts not only hold the enterprise together, but they’re in charge of matters of such extreme importance that they can mean the success or failure of the business. Questions to ask if you have a handle on Management:
- Do I have a vision for the business? What is my mission, that set of disciplined actions that makes the vision a reality? Do I have a set of values that my company and I regard as non-negotiable?
- Do we have strategies and their associated goals and objectives that support the mission?
- How good are we at executing? Do we measure results and take corrective or reinforcement action?
- Do we have a culture of continuous improvement?
- Is someone in the business pushing the innovation or invention envelope? This is commonly called “Research and Development.”
- Do we manage or do we lead? There’s a big difference there.
- This leg gets all the attention, but maybe rightly so: Revenue Generation. Some might call it marketing, some “sales.” It’s really the focused group of activities that creates the currency essential for the company’s existence. Essential questions to see if your business is handling this well:
- Can we clearly and compellingly define our product and service in one sentence?
- Do we know our “sweet spot” in the marketplace, that place where there’s demand for our offerings and where competition is absent or weak?
- Do we have a brand and message that convey our offerings and unique competitive advantage in a way that’s appealing to our chosen markets?
- Do we have the right vehicles – the website, business-social media, print publications, etc. – for our brand and message?
- Do we have a system for managing the Revenue Generation process?
- Production is the one other critical leg of the business. Whether it’s a product or a service, the business needs to produce something that it can charge a fee for. Some businesses outsource production, some do it in-house. Whichever route you choose, you’ll want to ask these questions:
- Do we have a way of measuring the quality of our products or services? If yes, do we have a set of quality specifications?
- Where do we measure quality, in the beginning or at the end of the process?
- To what extent do we collaborate with vendors and suppliers in managing quality and delivery times?
- Do we have a back-up and disaster recovery plan for production?
- Are we getting production involved in helping set direction and goals for the business?
- Like production, this third leg of the business can be outsourced, performed in-house, or blended: Administration. Decisions on Technology, Human Resources, Accounting & Finance, and Legal fall in this area. These functions are often referred to as “back-office services” but that term doesn’t imply low importance. If there’s only one question to ask it’s “Are these resources, whether in-house or outsourced, attuned to the culture and direction of the business?”
(Source: Benny StaRomana, Consultant, UGA SBDC in Gwinnett)