One of the challenges many business owners face at the start of a new year is deciding how to achieve their growth goals. Choosing a course of action means assessing the prior year's performance, selecting key metrics and organizing your team to succeed. With all of the competing priorities calling for your attention, there's one thing you can do that will have a direct impact on your results this year: focus on the fundamentals.
World-renowned marketing guru Seth Godin identifies two critical skills that most CEOs lack, and which are essential to master for those CEOs looking to achieve greater growth. The two skills are focus and tenacity. Focus means deciding what you're going to give consistent, reliable, everyday attention to. Tenacity means maintaining that commitment regardless of what issues, priorities, crises and challenges may attempt to interfere with your focus.
For most companies, there are four fundamentals that rest at the core of sustained business success. The four fundamentals are sales, marketing, strategy and leadership. One of the great challenges of being a business owner is that you often find yourself being "jack of all trades, master of none" – and this tendency to be spread a mile wide but not even going an inch deep always catches up to the CEO.
By focusing on the fundamentals, you can avoid overstretching yourself and zero in on your strengths as a business owner – and the strengths of your team. Remember that in business, reliable and consistent execution is what often wins the day. How are you executing against the four fundamentals? Let's take a look.
Focus Area: Sales
Sales – Sales is the lifeblood of any company. Whether you lead a business-to-consumer, business-to-business or business-to-government enterprise, you need a healthy and growing mix of new customers and repeat customers, if you are to achieve your goals. So, how do you make sales a driver of your success? Consider these questions:
• Have you identified and mastered a range of reliable lead generation models that consistently bring in new, qualified and interested prospects?
• Is your sales team capturing information about these leads and consistently qualifying them through a well-structured sales process?
• Are you using customer relationship management (CRM) software that can help you build on your deals won, and learn from your deals lost?
Focus Area: Marketing
Marketing – Marketing is what tilts the playing field of your marketplace into a home team advantage. It's also a profession undergoing rapid and dramatic change. Some marketing questions to focus on include:
• Are you embracing a clearly defined marketing model that generates interest and grows awareness?
• How is your team educating, informing and engaging the marketplace to build loyalty and trust?
• What new technologies – mobile, social, web, video – are you harnessing to move where the market is headed?
Focus Area: Strategy
Strategy – The success of your sales and marketing efforts often begins with a clearly defined and well-honed strategy. Taking the time to answer these questions will help you define a clear position in the marketplace:
• Can you clearly articulate what sets you apart from your leading competitors?
• Have you defined and quantified the value proposition that you offer to customers?
• Are you investing in new innovations, technologies or concepts that can keep you ahead and position you for growth?
Focus Area: Leadership
Leadership – The strength and quality of your team ultimately determines how well the marketplace responds to your efforts. That means your team needs to be ready and equipped to execute. To help benchmark your team, consider:
• What critical skills do you need to help you run your business, and does your core team possess them?
• Are you vulnerable to the loss of one or two key people because you haven't developed enough high-potential employees to become future leaders?
• How are you positioning your firm to attract the best employees, both in terms of qualifications and cultural fit?
Bringing It All Together
Focusing on the fundamentals – sales, marketing, strategy and leadership – will set your business on a clearer path and help you avoid careening from one challenge to the next without the strength you need to drive growth.
So, how do you get started? After reviewing and responding to these questions, ask yourself which focus area your team could master this year if you made it your primary focus…and how you can connect each member of your core team to that focus.
For example, marketing is not just a department – it is a vision that every employee should understand, embrace and embody. Sales is not a person, it is a philosophy that recognizes the role that every employee can play in finding, securing and supporting the next customer.
The research consistently shows that companies whose CEOs focus on fundamentals and commit to mastery of those priorities grow 30% faster, last 2-3 times longer in the marketplace, and ultimately become dominant forces in their industry. Make 2013 the year that you focus on the fundamentals of success for your business, and let your commitment help set the foundation for lasting growth in the years to come.
Alice E. Wendt is vice president of Wendt Partners, a business consulting firm focused on helping CEOs achieve their goals in sales, marketing, strategy and leadership.
This article was originally published in Fairfax County EDA's Business Ventures.