5 Steps to Improve Your Business Today (And Tomorrow, And Forever)
Updated: Jul 6
Let me share a story illustrating the impact of incorporating strategic steps to improve your business. When I was a teenager, a friend of mine had a fabulous opportunity to take her dad's boat out on a lake for the first time. Being an awesome friend, she called me to come along.
"My dad's trusting me with the boat! He showed me how to ride it safely, I practiced with him, and now we can finally have an adventure!" she yelled into the phone (which, back in those days, was attached to the wall, and I was talking with her with a stretched cord, under my door, and into my room).
I was excited. I woke up bright and early that Saturday for an adventure we'd hope never to forget. We got down to the water, jumped on the boat, and took off.
"Want to float on the raft?" I asked.
Unfortunately, we didn't bring a raft.
"Well, let's go to an island!"
Sadly, we didn't know where any islands, inlets, or anything else was because we didn't have a map (or the skill to yet try and wing it).
So we did all we could do - just rode in circles for a while.
Then we were starving.
"Time for lunch!" I said. "What did you bring?"
The answer, you might have guessed by now: nothing.
After several hours of not knowing where to go, what to do, or how to eat a non-existent sandwich, we called it a day and retreated to land.
The day wasn't very memorable, and we accomplished nothing more than spending our time trying to figure out what to do.
These days, I'd love to have a day of freedom like that - doing nothing, relaxing, and wandering - but back then, we wanted adventure, and we couldn't figure it out.
We didn't have the vision or the plan, so nothing much happened.
Step 1: Vision
So what did I learn: First, have a big, bold, exciting vision (and more than just a want for sandwiches).
Know where you're headed (we sure didn't). Your vision is your North Star. Set up big, clear goals to make your vision a reality.
Next, create a blueprint with the action steps to reach your vision (turns out just floating around won't lead you to the North Star). One of the most effective goal-setting frameworks is OKRs - Objectives and Key Results. This method is used by Google, Netflix, Amazon and can be easily implemented by small businesses.
Best of all, an exciting objective and vision will inspire and motivate your team!
Step 2: Know Your Zone of Genius
Your Zone of Genius represents what you're naturally gifted at and enjoy doing.
If you can steer the boat well, do that and let somebody else pack a lunch! Strive to stay 80% in your Zone of Genius.
Know your strengths and weaknesses. More to the point - stop wasting time on low-value work.
Delegate the areas you're not strong. This discipline will amplify your output, and enjoyment of your business. Best of all, you won't burn your brain calories - save that for the gym!
When you've made your map clear and know where your North Star is, now you can set off on your adventure.
Step 3: Optimize Your Sales Strategy
What are you doing right now? Not five minutes ago or five weeks from now - right this second. Is it benefiting your quest? Make sure you have a strategy you can follow and refine as you do.
Double down on what's producing results by systemizing - create a system to re-evaluate your sales strategy, at minimum, each quarter.
It's like charting a course to an island - you know it's there, but make sure the trip is planned out for the most optimal results. Achieving your goals starts with process and strategy (and maybe an oar, just in case).
Step 4: Be Authentic And Transparent
For most, 2021 was about as fun as an empty stocking on Christmas morning. For others, it was a stocking filled with coal and a note that said, "Sorry, see you next year."
2021 has led consumers to bolt at the first indication a company may be hiding something, or there's reason for distrust.
Make sure you're adhering to your mission statement, and it's infused throughout your company. Does every team member know what the mission is? When you make big decisions on where the company is headed, is it directed by your vision and mission? It should be 100% of the time.
Need help or better insight? Ask a few people outside of your organization to scrutinize your website, social media, pitch decks, and other business collateral to tell you where they throw "the BS card." If they do, get out of the way of that card and get to fixing the problem!
Follow up with clarifying questions, such as what stuck out to them as disingenuous, salesy, or not transparent. Set yourself up for an abundant stocking next Christmas!
Step 5: Accountability
A highly respected study by the American Society of Training and Development reported, if you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you've committed to, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%. Jackpot! Now that's not just sailing with someone who knows the seas. It's like cruising on a mega-yacht with a captain who lives on the sea!
Staying focused is one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs. Many are continually distracted because they're wearing many hats and putting out fires. Lack of focus can be the difference between achieving success in 12 months or 10 years.
If you want to accelerate your business objectives, schedule regular check-ins with an accountability partner driven like you. I know, it sounds crazy that someone can be as driven as you, but allow yourself to be surprised. Success is everywhere!
So how could my "big day out" on the boat have been better? The same way our businesses could be better:
Clarity is key.
Always start with the end in mind and work backward from there - that's good advice for any journey, especially when you're on the way to the North Star. Oh, and bring some lunch - you'll need it!