Tortured, confused, unfocused, overwhelmed, frustrated. This is how I felt on January 4, 2012. Why? Lack of clarity.
I knew that I wanted to change some things in the way that I was working and the things that I was doing. In fact, it has been all I’ve been thinking about for the last 2 months. But all the things that I was coming up with didn’t feel right.
I was trudging through treacle. In my head, I was going round and round in circles with no way out. I was desperate for someone to tell me the answer as I didn’t seem able to discover it myself. Thankfully good advice, a lot of writing and a plan of action has sorted me out – but if you are in that tortured place, here are some questions to help guide you through.
Without clarity, your business moves from place to place like a ship without a rudder. You drift from one thing to another, without a plan to hold it together. But with clarity, you are focused on specific results or actions, you run your business “on purpose” and you can create amazing results — both for you and for your customers!
Why, Who, What, How
Starting with your why is critical to personal and business success. What is your why? Why are you a small business owner rather than working for someone else? Why have you made this choice (because let’s face it, there are easier ways to earn a living!) over other choices. What is driving your decision to be an entrepreneur?
Being clear on your why will make sure that you are chasing a dream that fits with the reality of the life that you desire. When I started Women Unlimited in 2008 I had visions of creating a million pound company, of changing the face of entrepreneurship in the UK forever (AND make it more female!) and of creating a national company that had meetings and networks all over the country.
What I have discovered after running Women Unlimited for 3 years, is that I actually want a lifestyle business. A profitable one, and one that brings me a significant personal income, but a lifestyle business none the less. I have realised that I want to build a business that fits my life, rather than a business that drives my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have aspirations to grow Women Unlimited and am absolutely passionate about helping women to create more successful businesses but I want to do it in a way that supports me and my personal objectives as well as my business objectives.
Quick Tip: Write down your Personal Why on a piece of paper and post it where you will see it every day. Put it on your smart phone and set a reminder to read it every morning before you start your day. This will keep you on track and keep your motivation up!
Your Business Why
Simon Sinek has a fantastic book “Start with Why” which is where he shares his perspective on what makes great companies great. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. You can also watch his TED video here on why great leaders inspire action to give you a head start.
Who are you doing this for? One of the mistakes that many people make in their business is lack of clarity on who their target market’s are and end up trying to sell to anyone that will buy their product – and unfortunately saying that your target market is anyone who will buy your products isn’t sufficient.
Being clear on specific customer segments will make everything within your business easier; from your marketing strategy, your marketing communication and your market channels. Even better, your customer will be able to identify themselves within your communications and relate to your products and services straight away.
Once you have your customer identified it will be much easier to identify products and services that will particularly suit their needs. What keeps them awake at night? (I love that question…) What are their passions, their challenges, their needs, their deepest desires. If you can tap into these things, your customer can’t help but connect with you. If you are able to be the go to person for them, they will inevitably want to spend money with you.
What products can you, do you, should you offer to thrive in this market? What will they pay for? What will they beat down your door to get? What solutions can you offer that will make them shout from the rooftops that your business, services, products are the answer they have been looking for.
The above questions are your roadmap. They are the destination and your guidance system. Your how is your mode of transport. Your how has flexibility built in. You set a plan, identify your channels, identify what you need to do and as you follow that plan you’ll discover what works.
Write it all down
Once you have written down the answers to the above questions, I recommend having a really good (and honest) look at your business. Have the activities that you have been doing in your business been supporting these questions? Where are the gaps? What is going to make you and your business stand out a crowd? What is going to inspire your customer?
One of the challenges of running a small business is getting so caught up fire-fighting in your business that you don’t build in strategy time – thinking time. The habit that really successful entrepreneurs have, is that they schedule this in. Every week take time out to review where you are against your why, who, what and how and make sure that you are on track. Has anything changed? Have new market factors come into play that you need to consider? Building in this reflection time into your diary will really help you keep on track and help your business realise it’s potential.
What is your why? We’d love to hear your stories and thoughts in the comments below.