Business Development

6 Focus Areas of a Profitable Business

I had the opportunity to attend drupa, the Olympics of Graphic Communication trade shows, in Dusseldorf Germany. The show comes only once every 4 years and it's 14 days long. Fourteen days of trade showing is A LOT of time on your feet, listening and sharing information! I needed a way to organize myself and in the back of my brain I developed a simple framework that has been getting stronger and stronger each day since then.

I began to hone a particular business mindset that frames much of what I see and do in business today. I believe it's worth sharing because I have found others benefitting from it, and now I'm looking strengthen it- I welcome any input!

Below are six areas of business that can be used to organize yourself in your own business, or you could even use it as a filter to look at your customer's business too.

6 Focus Areas of a Profitable Business

  1. Strategy:  This is all about where you are and where you want to go. It's the high-level look to help you work ON your business even though we typically spend the day-to-day working IN the business.
    • Does the current direction align with where you want to be?
    • Does the current direction align with current customer needs?
    • Does the current direction align with new customer needs?
    • If so, how's it going, and where are the roadblocks?
    • If not, how come? What will it take to move in that direction?
  2. Product/Service Offering:  As an organization, you DO something. This represents the products/services you offer to keep the customers you have and obtain new ones.
    • What one product/service do you sell the most? Why? Is it profitable enough? Does it lead to more profitable business?
    • What is the most profitable product/service you offer? Least profitable? What are you doing to align your marketing and selling efforts to sell more of this?
    • If you could add any product or service not currently offered, what would it be? Why? How does it align with current customer/new customer needs?
    • What are you doing to find out if what you deliver to your customer meets/exceeds their needs?
    • What else does your customer need (not know they need) that you could be offering?
  3. Marketing:  This represents the processes by which you identify what people want and lets them know you have it for them.
    • Do you actively identify and continue to find out what customers and prospects want? 
    • Do you follow a process as you do it? Is it measurable? Is it repeatable? If you do, do you take the time to review and improve it?
    • How do people who don't know you/your organization hear about you?
    • What are the perceptions of what you do for your customer?
    • Have you considered using a marketing approach to review and help your customer with their business?
  4. Sales:  This area is all about creating business transactions that give people/organizations what they want or didn't know they could have.
    • Do you have a sales process? Why/why not?
    • Is it measurable? Is it repeatable? Do you take the time to review and improve it?
    • What is the most successful way you/your organization interacts with a customer for the first time?
    • What channel do you use (direct mail, web-based, face to face, phone, etc.) and what do you say? How does it change as a suspect becomes a prospect and then a customer?
    • How do you get to what makes your organization more profitable/successful?
  5. Workflow:  This represents the people, processes and technology working together to enable profitable work to happen. This is how you create, develop, build and improve what it is that you DO for your customers.
    • Do you have a process to identify the bottlenecks in your existing workflow? Why/why not? If you do, what do you do about it once you find them?
    • What holds you back from doing more in less time at less cost?
    • What could you spend (time and/or money) and be more efficient at the work you do?
    • How can you use this thinking to go after business from your customer? What if you made their workflow "better?" What would it take to make it happen?
  6. Finance:  This area represents the cost of doing business, the tracking of time, money and resources to make it happen, as well as the ability to report on the profit/loss of the organization.
    • How do you track the costs of operation?
    • How do you set pricing?
    • How do you set/interact with the budgets for each area of the business?
    • Is there a documented process; is it measurable and repeatable?
    • What, if any, investment is made in the development of future success?

Think of each as a frame by which you can look into your business, or any business for that matter, and identify what is working and what isn't. Although you may think like this, do all the employees think about all six of these even though they may only work in one of them?

Think about the benefits of a more holistic look at what gets done, isn't getting done or isn't being done well. This mindset could help justify the change each and every organization needs to do every day to be successful.

What do you think of this list? What would you add, take away, do better? I'd like to know!

~Keep the learning going, pass it on!

Finding Your Breath in Business

How far can you swim? In 2010 I learned to distance swim (sure I could swim, but not very far) and completed two Sprint Triathlons, one Olympic Triathlon and one Half Iron Man Triathlon. Before you start thinking it’s no big deal for someone who does this all the time I want you to know I had never participated in a triathlon before. I had also never swum more than a couple of laps. I realized early on that the mechanics of the stroke are easy to observe and harder to practice but it’s the breathing that made all the difference for me. When I relaxed and focused on my breathing I found myself able to learn more, practice more and do more.

After a few months off I got into the pool today and was surprised that even after a shaky two laps at the start; much of what I had learned came back to me and I proceeded to have a great workout. The first few workouts I had in 2010, as I learned to distance swim, were not so smooth. Not being able to swim more than a few laps because of fatigue, swallowing water, hitting my head, water up my nose, rushed strokes and so many more struggles was frustrating to me. I remember back to other activities in my life that caused similar frustration: golf, snowboarding, public speaking and teaching just to name a few. As the year went on it wasn’t so new anymore and I worked on perfecting how I performed. Time and time again I came back to my breathing. The intake of energy and the exhale of waste whether in the pool, on the bike or pounding the pavement drove me, powered me, centered me and allowed me to do more than I ever thought I was capable of doing. No, I wasn’t first…or even in the top 25% of finishers in most of my races, but at least I was conditioned to do things most people only dream of doing.

2011 is off to a fast start and I find myself struggling to find my breath in my business. Calls and e-mails to return, blog posts to get done, social networking updates to be made, new services to develop and sell, marketing to research, billing…and oh taxes too! I know I’m not the only one; I’ve spoken to others and heard similar woes. Today I sat and reminded myself I know how to run my business. There are new things I want to do too and I can add them once I prioritize what needs to be done. I realized I need to take time to breathe and look at our strategy of where we are and where we want to go. Breathe and look at what it will take to get there. Breathe and engage the resources we have or bring in others to get it done. Breathe and measure the effort to show it’s worth the return. Breathe and consider my customers can use our help to do the same for their business.

What can you do to help your customers find their breath? What can you do to help your customer to be successful, sell more, win new customers and show the customers they have why they should keep doing business? You can help your customers grow their business and you can grow your business too. That’s what business development is all about. Finding your breath and helping others do the same.

Share your thoughts on finding your breath or helping others do the same by posting a comment.

~Keep the learning going...pass it on.