Business Focus in These Uncertain Times

The power of staying focused in business in these uncertain times will reap benefits greater than getting distracted and losing your strategic focus and intent.

Even in “normal” times, it was often difficult for business leaders and their key people not to get distracted in both strategy and execution, causing tensions and poor performance due to contradictory moves in conflicting directions. This ultimately leads to poor business performance and failure against strategic expectations. 

Here are some questions business leaders should be asking:

  • Critically, in these difficult times with the COVID-19 pandemic still holding sway over people and businesses, how should business leaders reduce the impact of poor business performance with greater focus? 
  • How can you counter the general lack of confidence of your own people due to the general bad news and business conditions?

A business mentor or coach can assist business leaders by facilitating the processes needed to focus on what matters most and ultimately improve business performance.

Some of these areas include:

100-Day Plan

The start point is for business leaders to clarify their short and longer term vision and distil the practical critical decisions and detailed actions required, enabling them to develop a 100-day plan to revitalise the business and meet their short term strategy. Then the leaders must communicate clearly to their people their revised vision and these short-term actions. The 100-day plan must emphasise deadlines that must be met and targets critical to the success of the business. This communication and the subsequent practical actions will get the organisation and people moving with purpose and reinforce their belief in the business leadership. 

Focus Your Informal or Formal Team to Improve Performance

Since focused teamwork will increase energy and focus, you can use teams (formal and informal) to energise your organisation and people to implement the 100-day plan. Teams tend to work collaboratively (including remotely and online) and can cut through unadapting formal hierarchy structures to get critical stuff done faster. Leverage your teams to actively promote new ideas and stimulate innovation in how you do business, helping to generate new opportunities and enthusiasm to get the business moving.

You must focus, coordinate and align these teams with your 100-day plan and the vision and strategy you have produced. This is an area where business mentoring can help. All teams, leadership and other staff need to share information and work together. This working in teams and 100-day plan will give the senior leadership time to assess the business and formulate the new organisation structure and business plans needed to support the longer-term strategy.

The teams will need to focus on the 100-day plan, and senior leadership should consider how to manage and support the current teams and the likely future organisation structures. This process of focusing the teams should centre on customer service and delivery of products and services, operational efficiency, systems requirements, purchasing, succession planning for all key people, purchasing and cost control, business culture and engagement, and later on, the possible delivery of on-demand organisational learning as well as information centres, analytics and digital HR tools to help people operate, share information and work together well.

Developing Your 100-Day Plan and Longer-Term Strategy

In these difficult times, you should be looking to uplift your business quickly by focusing on growth from where you are currently in the market. 

Consider these areas:

  • Competitors analysis – Look at where your competitors are succeeding in the short-term and look for where you can equal or do better. This will need speedy evaluation and rapid action plans to take advantage of current conditions, and it may lead to permanent changes in how you service your customers. It may also give rise to new customers, products, services or geographical areas, while also changing how you deliver and operate.
  • What is trending in products or services? – You must evaluate demand both immediate and longer term. Is the demand simply an impact of the current lockdown environment, or is it a fundamental shift longer term? For example, the rapid move to greater online shopping is a trend that has been accelerated short-term but is likely to continue well after the COVID-19 crisis has been solved.
  • Re-evaluate your competitive capability – What do you do that customers appreciate and are willing to pay for? Is it the product? Is it the delivery? Is it the service? Is it just the low price? Is it the geographic convenience?

Where to Target Your Business Focus

A business mentor can help you determine where your business focus should be targeted. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Focus Your Business Around and About Your Customer

Focus on what your customers or potential customers want to buy. Successful businesses know and understand their customers and what they want now and in the future. You must offer your customers what they want to buy. Focus your business as customer centric, not as product centric. Customers must be the focal point of decision making, service delivery and product creation. Your customers’ focus needs to be on your offering and business. You will do this only by delivering high value to your customers and thereby encouraging them to keep coming back for more. This also gets them talking about you and what you deliver to other potential customers.

Focus On Your Brand

In these difficult times, it is even more important to focus on making your brand experience stand out in the minds of your customers. Your business depends critically on your customers’ experience with your business. All of their experiences as they interact with your business will determine how fast you grow.

Therefore, you must make sure that every customer touch point works for the customers and is their reference point of your brand. You will need to proactively research all areas and get direct feedback from customers. This is preferably done external to your own people to get unbiased opinions and look for instant actions so you can take on board positive suggestions for improvements from customers.

Focus On Improving Positive Cash Flow

The life blood of all businesses is cash flow. You must get revenues up at good prices and margins to the extent the market will bear. Keep cost structures to a minimum, without destroying the strategic fabric of your business. Get cost reduction from your suppliers and better payment terms. Find ways to get more cash sooner from customers. Delay unnecessary expenditure on assets and all discretionary costs, again without destroying the strategic fabric for the business. Delay payments and dividends to shareholders. Delay wage increases. Consider headcount reductions. Re-negotiate remuneration and focus bonuses on short-term success to get things moving. Renegotiate with all suppliers – both unit cost and terms. Get more funding from both equity and bank sourced finance

Focus On Your Own People

Positively communicate the 100-day plan and strategy changes, and give strong and regular updates on how well you and your people are delivering. Get interactive feedback in these sessions and listen to your staff positively. At the updates, always ask for your peoples’ support to keep the plan on track for the benefit of the business and all people in the business. This approach should assist in the development of a sense of ownership, achievement and responsibility for the plan, and improve your peoples’ morale and group productivity. 

Focus On Sales and Business Development

Focus efforts on developing new customers, retaining existing ones and expanding your territory to tap the untouched potential. Business morale and impetus increase when a sale is made, and no sales equals no business. Increasing the leads should convert to increased sales. You must review your leads and sales approach to get the sales rolling in.

Focus On Results and Show These On a Dashboard or Whiteboard

To keep everyone’s focus, including your own, any business mentor will tell you that it’s important to measure progress and performance daily. This will show where your growth is coming from, and where blockages or lost opportunities are piling up against your 100-day plan and your vision and performance goals.

You and your people will see your own and each other’s performance and will want to contribute rather than being seen to underperform. You want them to act as a self-regulating and motivating group to drive the common performance, be active and have a positive outlook needed for your combined success.

Focus On the Whole Business and the Critical Parts

Critically, in this business environment you must focus on the entire business as an integrated system that delivers performance. Otherwise you will develop blind spots and performance will fail. The system or business needs to deliver value to customers, attract and keep customers, and operate efficiently to deliver what customers value at the right cost structures, including efficiency, profitability, and net cash flow. The business must have well motivated people with good leadership and management skills and who can work cooperatively together in a healthy and competitive culture.

Improving your business focus in this environment is one of the areas in which a well-matched business mentor or business coach can greatly help.

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