February 5, 2016

How to keep your business on track

You’re at the starting point of your business. You’ve pored over your business plans, written a brand manifesto, perfected your products and you’re finally ready for business! But…now what? With so much effort going on the ‘start’ bit, have you thought about the ‘keep going’ part?

Similar to a sports huddle (but with a little less body contact), they are about getting your team together to strategize, review tactics, motivate each other and celebrate wins. While we understand that all businesses are different, these meetings should give you a framework to work to making sure you and your team are connected and doing well.

Weekly Review

Why?

These weekly meetings keep you focussed on the details like sales figures, source of orders or leads and the all-important customer feedback. The aim is to identify any positive or negative trends and take short-term actions to improve for the next week.

Who?

No matter the size of your business, you’ll need to assemble those people who can update on key areas of the operation. This means you’ll need the person who’s running the business and making commercial decisions, the person who delivers the product or service (i.e. customer facing if applicable), if you have a website or have a digital component to your business the technology manager should also attend, the marketing manager and finally the person in charge of customer service and sales.

This group is your ‘A-Team’, you’ll be calling on them throughout the year.

What to ask:

Performance:

– You need to measure success

– How did my sales or leads or actions go last week?

– How does it compare to previous weeks?

– Am I seeing a trend?

Product or service mix:

– Which product or service did I sell most?

– Are my promoted products or services (if relevant) selling compared to my expectations?

– Did the promotion give us the result we want in the short term or long term?

Customers:

– What feedback did I get from customers?

– Is there any trend suggesting there is something I can either fix or improve?

Businessmen in a snow globe

Monthly Review

Why?

The aim of the game here is to look at the last month’s activity, which can show more trends that might be seasonal (e.g. January is a slower month for sales but good for leads) and for you to adjust next month’s tactics. You’ll need a month review from all the main areas of your business like sales, product, marketing, operations and customer service, and HR.

Who?

As with the weekly reviews, you’ll need to assemble your A-Team again and also invite whoever is responsible for human resources too (if they are not already represented by the business/general/operations manager).

What to ask:

Performance:

This means performance tracking whatever you’re measuring success on. This could be revenue, orders or new signups to your service.

– How was revenue/orders/signups/users for the month?

– How does it compare to last month and the same month last year?

– Which of your customer groups is performing the best?

– Do we have enough of the right people to succeed?

– Do we need to hire?

Costs & Margin:

It is really the time to look at your margin and your unit economics. You want to know how much an average customer spends with you versus how much you spent acquiring that customer, so assess any marketing and promotional activities too.

– What were my costs?

– How is the split between the variable and fixed?

– Are my variable costs in line with my revenue growth?

– Did I get as many customers as I expected?

– Are customers coming back?

– Am I getting enough customers to sustain and grow my activity?

– What can I do to bring more of them back, and more often?

– How are people hearing or finding out about my business?

Product offering:

Separate from your on-going product or services iterative improvements and cycle, you should regularly question whether you missing a potential opportunity and really understand your product.

– What are my best or worst selling products?

– Should I push some products forward?

– Based on customer feedback, can I make some changes to my product mix?

Quarterly Reviews

Why?

Much as you would during a football game, take some time out every quarter to assess how you’re doing and make any tactical changes. As well as the regular performance metrics, now’s the time to dig a little deeper into your customer bases and find out who needs a little attention. It’s the perfect opportunity to look around and see what your competitors are doing too – this will ensure you’re keeping ahead.

Who?

Call on the A-Team again! If your organisation is larger, invite your CEO, or a senior team member who is less involved in the day to day execution and can help provide a broader observations and suggestions.

What to ask:

Customers:

– Who are the customers who spend the most or the least?

– What do valuable customers have in common?

– What segments of my customer base are the most valuable?

– How can I encourage customer loyalty?

Competition:

– What has changed in my competitive landscape?

– Are there new players?

– What important actions have my competitors taken (a special sale, a new product or service, a marketing campaign, a new customer target, a change in pricing etc.)?

– Is there a social/political/technological change that I need to consider?

Business men under a microscope

Annual Review or Forecast

As your year’s trading comes to a close it’s time to reflect and consider how you went according to your planned goals. This is an opportunity to review all aspects of your business and look ahead to the next year. This meeting should be deeply insightful drawing on all of the reviews you’ve done throughout the year and inform what you set out to achieve next year.

Who?

As always, your A-Team, and any senior decision makers. If you’re running a larger business, including a facilitator can be useful. They will not know the ins and out of the company but will facilitate workshop with the A-team to create good team dynamics, or help to think about the organisation structure and design.

What to ask

USPs/ Positioning/ Pricing:

Do my Unique Selling Propositions still hold?

– Am I still different from the other players in the market? If so, why?

– Are there new products or services I should consider selling?

– How would that differentiate me or bring me to par with competitors?

– Are there segments of the market that my main competitors are overlooking?

– Has my competitors’ pricing changed?

– Is my pricing still positioning me appropriately in the market?

High-level business goals:

– What am I planning to spend in the next 12 months?

– What are the coming marketing or product investments?

– What return am I expecting from them? Should I go ahead with them as planned?

– Can I afford major investments without putting other areas of my business at risk?

In the world of business you never know who’s going to throw a curveball, but these planning these regular huddles are designed to give your ‘A-Team’ the advantage. Good luck!

Written by Karim Fadlallah, MOO’s Head of Strategy and Planning

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