Following a proven business development process can save you a lot of time, money, and stress.
Business development is often pretty chaotic in small businesses, but it doesn’t need to be that way. When faced with pressures to change and evolve many small business owners aren’t confident enough to react quickly and meaningfully; they end up getting stuck and have to watch competitors move ahead of them. Alternatively, they unknowingly take too big a step into the unknown and get their fingers burnt. My recent book, Build Your Ultimate Business in 100 Days, now in its second edition, sets out a better way to approach the development of your business.
The book has four workbooks, with detailed action lists that take you step by step through exactly what you need to do. There are four because they are designed for different stages of a business’ evolution: the Rookie Workbook caters for those starting out, or in business for less than a year; the Novice Workbook for 1-3 years; the Established Workbook for 3-10 years; and the Old Hand Workbook for 10+ years. The issues facing business owners at different stages are very different, but the underlying process is similar as it simply tries to develop the best possible strategy for the particular circumstances that the small business owner finds themselves in. For me strategy is all about consistent behaviour that makes the most of what you have, so the process first helps you identify exactly what possible sources of competitive advantage you have; it then guides you through a process to identify the best way of exploiting them; and then, once the business model is proven, how to best manage the business in order to grow it further.
I have been told that the process set out in my book is a blueprint for how all business development should be managed and once learnt it can be applied time after time. The process has five steps and they can be summarised as follows:
- Play To Your Strengths & Likes. Be very clear about what your strengths are. Surprisingly perhaps many people aren’t that clear about this and many small businesses aren’t able to provide convincing answers to some pretty simple questions about why people choose them over competitors or even what business they are in. The right sort of collaboration and objective input here can make a huge difference; as can choosing things that you like doing.
- Focus on The Right Customers. Think very creatively about ALL of the options you have to leverage your strengths. Don’t discount anything, as the wilder ideas often open up opportunities that you didn’t originally see. Then research all the options. Most people avoid research because it is hard work and it is easier to guess. You would be amazed at just how much guesswork goes on when it comes to big decisions in both big and small businesses. All the options need to be qualified in terms of demand, competitiveness, economic return and enjoyment, if you want to have half a chance of making the best choices.
- Position Yourself Strongly. Positioning allows every business the chance to be different and difference is what drives long term value. There is much to learn from consumer marketing, particularly if you are operating in the b2b space.
- Have a Plan. There are many benefits to planning if you approach it correctly and don’t get over elaborate, in fact, it is essential for success.
- Follow Best Practice. There really is a better way to manage a growing business and that requires a degree of introspection, delegation and iteration that doesn’t come naturally to most.
Whilst the above may seem rather simple very few people master it on their own; those that do give themselves great market advantage. For more detail on all of the above, and copies of all four workbooks, get the second edition of my book by clicking on the link below.
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