Five Practices to Drive Business Resilience
This week marks one year since I started mentoring in Victoria’s Business Recovery & Resilience Mentoring Program.
In that time I’ve had the privilege of helping more than 60 businesses get through the pandemic, running nearly 200 sessions.
Half of those businesses came into the Program with Digital Literacy & Engagement as the top priority. And one-third with Business Survival as the top priority.
For many, the challenge has been how to increase revenue and profitability. Often that’s been to implement more effective marketing techniques or develop new revenue streams.
For others, the challenge has been to free up time for the business owners. Often that’s meant developing systems to achieve predictability and consistency.
The businesses that have made the most progress have several similarities. A set of common practices that have positioned them for the future and allow them to tackle 2022 with more clarity and confidence.
Define a clear purpose and keep it front of mind
In these extremely challenging times, mindset plays an enormous role.
Two near-identical businesses can have a vastly different outcome simply due to the leader’s mindset. Some choose to make it work. Others look to lay blame.
Purpose can help drive you to find a way through. It helps you to keep sight of why you started in the first place and stay the course.
Without it every challenge can seem insurmountable.
“Setting out to solve big problems brings purpose and meaning to work—it gives us a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning and face another day.”
“The more we organise around massive transformative purpose, the harder we’ll work, the more dedicated we’ll be, the faster we can solve big problems—and maybe most importantly, the more fulfilled we’ll feel about the work we do.” – Singularity Hub.
Dedicate time to work on the business
Stepping back to work on the business should be one of the most valuable activities you can do.
Observing trends. Setting goals. Diagnosing and solving problems. Making plans. Reviewing progress.
Of course, there’s a cost. It means saying no to a potential client, closing the doors for a couple of hours or putting off something that is seemingly urgent.
Think of this time as an investment. The time you put in now to work out where you’re going, how you’ll get there and resolve what’s standing in the way probably won’t pay off immediately. But if you consider this as investment time, and a habit that you need to develop, the rewards far outweigh the short-term sacrifices.
“Working on it, not just in it can change everything.
The call to work on it is a call to think the way a true entrepreneur thinks. To the entrepreneur, the business operates without them. To the technician, the business operates because of them.
To the entrepreneur, the business is the product. To the technician, the business is a place to go to work every day.” – Emyth.
A word of caution. Like most things in life, balance is necessary. While you need to be able to let go of the reins as you scale up, it’s critical to have the control mechanisms in place to know if things are going right.
Hiring a team of A-players is great, but wasteful if you don’t know how to score an A grade…
Establish goals and measure your progress
Imagine a football coach saying: “I don’t know care how we do it, just win the match”.
Sounds crazy right? No game plan. Everyone doing their own thing. Just playing in hope.
But many businesses adopt this very approach.
Even if you’ve set your ‘win the match” goal – such as revenue, profit or impact – it’s hard to get far if you aren’t tracking the measures that lead to the result.
In football, the leading measures might be metres gained, contested possessions and tackles. And at the end of each quarter, you’ve got the opportunity to consider “how did we do?” and “where do we need to improve?”
Simply saying “we need to get in front on the scoreboard” isn’t going to help you achieve the goal.. you need to do the things that create the result.
In business the same principle applies.
Let’s say you want more sales. You need to understand what generates those results.
You might want more website visitors. And to get more website visitors you need to be generating more search traffic. And to get more search traffic you need to be improving your search engine rankings for the important keywords. And to do that you need to know what those keywords are. I’m oversimplifying things, but you get the idea…
“In driving Execution, implement three key habits:
- Set a handful of Priorities (the fewer the better);
- Gather quantitative and qualitative Data daily and review weekly to guide decisions; and
- Establish an effective daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual meeting Rhythm to keep everyone in the loop. Those who pulse faster, grow faster.” – Scaling Up.
And even if you’re a sole proprietor, the idea of a meeting rhythm still applies. It’s just that you’re using that time to keep yourself accountable for results.
Make consistent progress… and learn from it
The side effect of setting aside time for the priorities that matter is …. you get things done!
I know. Big surprise right?
You’re better off making a little progress on something every single day than making big progress occasionally. You’ll build greater discipline. Maintain commitment from seeing regular progress. And often you’ll reach your goal faster.
“Great founders execute… When I do office hours with a great founder and they say they’re going to do something, two weeks later they’ve done it and they’ve learned something. And they do that consistently. They have the consistent ability to say what they want to do, do it, and learn from that.” – Y Combinator CEO Michael Siebel on what makes the top 10% of founders different.
Its hard to overstate the importance of learning.
We won’t always be working on the right thing. Customers don’t always respond the way we expect. We overestimate the impact of our tactics. And events happen that are outside our control (like a global pandemic)!
However we need to monitor progress to see if what we’re doing is producing results. And either way, you want to get to the point of understanding why or why not. Guesswork isn’t a good long-term strategy.
Be willing to challenge the status quo
What seemed good ten years ago, five years ago or even last year is probably not good anymore. At the very least you want to ask “is it still right for now?”
If you find yourself saying “we’ve always done it that way” or “it’s been working, why change it?” this is a sure sign you’re missing an opportunity. The point is not to recklessly abandon what’s been working but to consider how can we make it better, faster or cheaper?
Some level of success is achievable with ‘good enough’. And good enough might get you customers. Good enough might even keep you busy.
But what if you stepped it up to ‘good’? Perhaps good could save you two hours of wasted time every day? Or cut your customer acquisition cost in half? Or double your revenue over the next three months?
Simply asking “how could we do this better?” will force to look beyond the day-to-day of your business. It will help you to understand what’s happening in the world and where things are moving. Are there new competitors in your market? How have customer needs evolved? What impact could technology have on your business?
These practices don’t come easily for most of us. We fall in the trap of focusing on things that will help in the short term, without realising the problems this creates in the long term.
So how can you get started?
- Define your purpose – why do you do what you do?
- Set aside a bit of time every week to work ON your business
- Set a business goal for this quarter. Work out what actions you’re going to take and measures to know you’re on track.
- Set aside time every week to work on the goal.
- And ask whenever you can: How can we do this better?
Pete has worked with the leaders of startups, government and publicly-listed companies for over 15 years, providing advice on strategy, operations and technology issues. He is the founder of Starteer and helps founders and CEOs to achieve sustainable growth.