As an entrepreneur with a passion for business growth, I’ve supported other entrepreneurs and business owners throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
I recall supporting a business that has really struggled to adapt its business model so it can ensure sustainability.
Another had to make the hard decision to reduce numbers within its growing team, as it couldn’t guarantee that there would even be enough business coming through the door.
But across all conversations, I’ve recognised the emergence of five key themes that could offer a glimmer of renewed confidence and hope.
Breaking these themes down into actionable advice, I believe, will help ambitious small to medium-sized businesses think more creatively about their response towards recovery and beyond.
1. Build an iterative business growth strategy
Having a strategic plan for growth is important. It gives you a sense of direction, potential growth and focus that can bring you closer to your vision.
But there’s a need for greater agility of this strategy, to ensure you’re best equipped to deal with unexpected disruption.
Such agility needs to be built in.
Having non-negotiable key performance indicators (KPIs) is fine but ensure you’re also developing agile operational processes, milestone flexibility where possible, and disruptive models of delivery when required to keep you on track.
For example, I’ve seen businesses adopt integrated customer relationship management (CRM) systems so they can align customer engagement with cash flow dips and spikes more efficiently.
Others have used free social media platforms to set up their own livestream channel to help reduce marketing costs and capitalise on the fact that more people have been at home.
2. Genuinely embrace diversity to drive innovation
The moral, social and business case for diversity is very clear and well documented.
But embracing diversity to drive change is essential because the modern world exposes you to difference all the time and, therefore, new opportunities for growth.
A desire to hold on to leadership mentalities such as “we’ve always done it this way, why change?” restricts your ability to engage with the diverse level of thinking and action required to tackle future challenges.
Using the power of innovation to maintain a consistent level of progression enables you to be the most open and creative that you can.
That’s why having diverse and entrepreneurial talent to think more widely and explore innovative solutions to problems that you may face is so important.
3. Develop entrepreneurial leaders
The more your business follows a pattern of traditional hierarchy, the more you allow the group think to set in and the development of non-inclusive workforce culture.
Don’t forget that you need an inclusive workforce that is not only diverse in race, gender, (dis)ability, sexuality and personal culture, but also in perspectives, experiences and mindset, etc, to be continually innovative and keep the business on the front foot.
The demands of the modern day are best suited to inclusive entrepreneurial leadership cultures, as such cultures encourage every employee to embrace accountability, responsibility and ownership of their role.
This creates a sense of unity and a strong ‘one people’ philosophy towards achieving your goals, with the ability to open new value propositions for your customers.
To start this, you may wish to think about open and transparent approaches such as:
- Internal focus groups with your team
- Reverse mentoring, where staff mentor leadership team members
- Improving trust and loyalty by making your team consistently aware of the strategic impact that their individual contributions are making to the bottom line.
4. Become your customer
Find new ways of adding value to your customers.
It’s important to remember that customer need is being influenced by technology, resulting in an ever-increasing demand for personalisation and instant gratification.
Think about how you can put processes or technology in place that will ensure you become closer to your customer.
When they are going through a state of disruption, you must be flexible and responsive to their fluctuating wants and needs.
Think also about how and what you are marketing to them and tap into the mood – what is of value to them right now?
5. Sell your value, not your sell
I believe the age-old proposition of ensuring you have a unique selling point (USP) as the core element of a sales transaction is not entirely accurate anymore.
It’s essential that what you’re really ‘selling’ has a unique value proposition (UVP), allowing customers to make their own emotional choice to buy, based upon their own self-justification of the value that you’re creating for them.
To achieve this, your prospective customer must have validated that your product or service is something they feel will meet their need.
This can be achieved through a multitude of ways such as the use of surveys, online focus groups or free trial pilot among other routes.
This value proposition approach will also enable your customers to justify the future value of your proposition, way past any transactional relationship with you.
This can also help to ensure you have a repeatable customer, which always helps.
Having an agile strategy that’s underpinned by diverse innovation must be led by entrepreneurial leaders.
But as a collective team and business in these challenging times, it’s even more important to see the world through your customers’ eyes, so you can truly understand the value that you are providing, both now and in the future.