The more I have thought about it, the more convinced I have become that to be successful in business, or shall I say to increase your chances of success, you must go about setting up and operating your business in a sensible and logical manner.
One step at a time – this is how my very own QCOol Steps to Success (QSS) came about. The Qcool steps represent a practical approach, a frame of mind, a positive attitude and a will to succeed in your own business.
If life were a little more predictable one could devise checklists for all sorts of things – and the mere following of those lists would ensure success. If only! The world of the small-to-medium-sized business enterprises (SME) and entrepreneurship is as unpredictable as life itself, with just as many ups and downs. Does this mean that you should simply jump into a business and hope for the best? Or, worse still, if you already own a business, just continue on the same old treadmill?
What is the most logical and effective way to start up a business or enhance your existing business?
The QSS is a set of logical steps that will help in making your business successful. It may appear similar to the ‘7S Model’ (created by the well-known Consulting firm, McKinsey & Co.) but it is quite different in its application and much more relevant to smaller businesses.
The QSS is effectively the building blocks on your path to success. Not much in your life happens by chance, it takes effort and commitment. So it is with business success – if you follow a step-by-step approach, taking care to take the steps in the right order, it should be no surprise when you succeed.
Let’s look at the QSS in more detail.
Step 1 – Strategise
Before you go too far in business it helps to know where you are planning to go. A strategy is a plan of action – it is all about the BIG picture. Unless, and until, you have analysed the strategic issues, your business concept may not get too far.
For example: A company wanting to manufacture electric typewriters in this day and age is doomed to failure, because the technology is obsolete and there is no market for such products. Despite how good the rest of its business model may be such a company is doomed from the outset.
Let’s look at some key strategic issues you should consider:
- Is there a market for your product or service?
- Is the market growing, or contracting?
- What are the technological factors affecting your industry?
- Who are your major competitors?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors?
- Is the size of your market big enough to support more entrants?
- What will your competitive advantage be?
- Can you provide your product or service at a competitive price?
- What are your expansion plans?
- Are there enough qualified personnel in the marketplace?
The strategy you develop must be shared by you and your staff – for that to happen you must communicate the strategy and get agreement from the entire team. It helps to have agreement on the core questions right at the start – if not, everyone will be pulling in different directions.
Step 2 – Systemise
Once you move past the strategic issues, you need to look at the systems. The systems should help you implement your strategy. Regardless of the size of your business, you need to have systems in place to operate and manage it effectively. For example, a simple accounting and administration system, and a stock control system. The idea is to always plan ahead for the growth of the business so that your systems are able to keep up. You need to be able to access information – financial and otherwise – quickly and efficiently.
The more time and effort you spend thinking about developing and implementing systems, the more success you are likely to have. What are some of the types of systems you need to think about?
- HR Management
- Recruitment process
- Training and development
- Performance assessment
- Reward structure.
- Management Information Systems
- Key performance indicators
- Sales Growth
- Average Sale per customer
- Receivable Collection
- Financial Reporting Systems
- Management Reporting
- Budgets and cash flow analysis
An effective system will provide invaluable information to facilitate your decision making and ensure consistency within the organisation. For example, if you have a well-developed system for measuring the performance of your team members it will take away some of the subjective assessments that can result from the lack of a well-defined and developed procedure.
The type of systems or their complexity may vary but the need to have such systems does not.
I have only briefly covered the types of systems but just imagine having a well-documented series of procedures (a system) for all the key aspects of your business. Every time you employed someone new – you would be able to show them and say “This is how we do things around here”. Would life be a bit easier? I am sure it would.
Step 3 – Synergise
In the exceptional book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey refers to the term ‘synergise’. In developing my Qcool Steps to Success, I have applied the concept of synergy differently. Have you ever noticed the difference between a sports team that is focused and playing as a team, and one that is not? Everything seems to come naturally and with little effort to a side that is team focused. Why is this?
It is because all the members of the team share the vision – they have a common goal and common objectives. They make a commitment to be ‘part of it’. This leads to a synergy – a synchronicity of energy; everyone pulling together in the same direction or, as they say, everyone singing from the same hymn book.
For a business to succeed, its team must have a vision and a mission in which they believe. This imparts a solid purpose and meaning to even the most mundane tasks within the organisation. Everyone from the cleaning staff to the area managers of a company need to buy into the vision of the organisation.
Step 4 – Supervise
One of the inescapable facts of being the business owner is that the buck stops with you. In the early stages of the business, it is easy to supervise your staff. As the business grows, this becomes increasingly difficult. Do you know what level of service is being provided to your clients or what the quality of your products really is? Are your customers happy? Are your staff helping or hindering your business?
It is critical that you put in place checks and balances to keep an eye on everything that takes place. You need to develop reporting systems to ensure you are being kept constantly informed. After all, you cannot delegate the responsibility of being the owner.
Supervising is all about keeping in touch with and reviewing what your staff are doing, especially how your clients are being serviced. There are many ways of doing this. It could be done through regular reporting, meetings and client feedback. What will work for you depends on the type of business you are in.
Effective supervision is all about being able to keep an eye on what happens around you every day and taking swift action if and when required. Whether you adopt the ‘One Minute Manager’ techniques or follow the principle of ‘Management by Wandering Around’ as explained in the famous book In Search of Excellence, it is up to you. Do what feels right and comes naturally.
Step 5 – $-Wise
Being $-wise is not about being stingy or miserly. It is about having a strategic and sensible approach to managing your finances. Regardless of your business objectives, it is rudimentary that if the business is to survive the money coming in needs to be more than the money going out. If ‘cash in’ is not more than ‘cash out’ then you will be on your way out.
Being $-wise is about sensibly managing your expenses throughout your organization, from the staff amenities you provide to the car you drive. To be $-wise is not to always go for the cheapest option, but to think carefully about the costs versus the benefits of the various options. At times, buying the more expensive item is, in fact, being $-wise.
Being $-wise also means:
- Building cash reserves when your business is doing well for the times when things slow down.
- Investing in staff training and development.
- Investing in systems that will deliver significant rewards in the future.
- Ensuring you protect your assets and manage the risks effectively.
Taking the Next Step for Your Success
As your organisation grows, the principles upon which your business is founded should remain intact. Your staff will also be watching what you do and how you conduct yourself – driving around in a Porsche and asking them to cut costs will not be popular, will undermine morale, and will end up being counter-effective.
Being an owner of your own business is not easy – are you satisfied with the return you are getting on your time, effort and the capital investment? Is it enough? If the answer is “Yes” then you have nothing to complain about. Of course, if the answer is “No” then what steps are missing from your journey to success? Have you failed to:
- Be $-wise?
What are you going to do about it to ensure that you climb the Qcool steps to success? As the saying goes, the longest journey begins with a single step. Go ahead, take the steps towards your business success!
Amer Qureshi is a business adviser, leadership expert, trainer, author and chartered accountant. He tweets at @amerq_qct