Why Organisation and Perspiration are not enough
There are many challenges when growing a business, most of which become self evident pretty quickly – getting enough customers, getting the product ‘right’ for the target market, managing costs etc – but there are a few problems that often get pushed to the side in the day to day onslaught of activities and issues. These are the ‘structural elements’ which are emphasised by many business coaches and consultants.
They typically comprise:
- Get the right systems in place to make your company run smoothly and efficiently (accountancy, stock management, staff management protocols etc)
- Get your costs down – make more money! Look at processes to reduce your cost base without sacrificing product or service quality (hopefully!)
- Get marketing in place – make sure you’re being seen in the right places, with the right messages, to drive sales up and keep brand awareness high
Now I wouldn’t say that these are unimportant, in fact they are critical to make a business run smoothly and efficiently and tick all the right boxes, but they often move the focus on to systems from challenges, but still miss one critical element - the vision. The inspiration and imagination that was part of the reason for the business in the first place can get lost in the management speak of a larger or growing business, and this is the difference between a company that survives and one that thrives.
How does this translate in the real world? As an example let us look at two companies in the same industry: Apple and Creative. They both produce portable music and media players (we’re not looking at the wider Apple product range for this example), which both do the same thing, with a similar range of features. What distinguishes them? Structural efficiency? Marketing penetration? Product design? Well maybe the latter a little, but fundamentally the Ipod is a more attractive product because it demonstrates a vision, an attitude and a passion for design and the experience of the user that Creative doesn’t match.
And this has not been achieved by a clever marketing campaign, Apple has developed a culture and vision for their business that is reflected internally and externally in everything they do, and is matched and amplified by their marketing. They therefore come across as authentic, passionate, innovative, expert creators of products. What feeling do we have about the people at Creative? I have no feeling for what they stand for apart from high quality, which is not exactly a stand out feature in a crowded market.
As a side note we can see the start of Apple’s problems as some of their products reach the end of their ‘innovation curve’ – Ipods can’t really improve that much or look innovative any more, and they run the risk (as i believe we can see at the recent ipod announcment) of innovating for the sake of it. Ipads and Iphones, however are still climbing that curve and can ‘carry’ the excitement of the apple brand.
So how do you incorporate vision and inspiration into your company? This is the subject of a future article, but in brief the key building blocks are:
- Remember why the company came into being: what drove the founders to start the company? What can you do better than anyone else? What can you demonstrate a passion for
- What do you want to be as a company in 5, 10, 15 years: owners, staff attitudes, products, relationship with customers, services etc. Aim high, make it exciting, communicate it internally and externally
- Focus on your uniqueness in the marketplace: there are bound to be competitors offering products or services that solve the same or similar problems to yours. Try to boil it down to a sentence (for Apple you could suggest “beautiful, innovative experiences through portable technology”, for creative perhaps “immersive media, unsurpassed quality – lets you get closer to the experience”).
- Note: focus on problems, not product. The ipod solves the problem of carrying a large music library with you, it did not ‘compete’ with the walkman as a new version of a same product
- Remember if you can’t inspire yourself to look forward to the future, how can you expect your staff and customers to do the same.
Your need to get your structural systems in place, but it’s no fun (and much harder to excel) without a clear vision.