Finding focus for your small business

A reoccurring problem that my partner and I have encountered while setting up our businesses is defining a clear focus. This has led to countless conversations that seem to go round in circles because we didn’t start out with a clear idea about the business’s purpose.

Without defining this essential aspect, it is easy to lose direction and get bogged down in minor details. This is a problem for your internal operations, but is also confusing for your customers. How can you expect people to connect with you when you are transmitting mixed messages about what your business represents?

A business’s purpose defines its personality, its vision, and its strategies. It should be consistent throughout every single element of how you operate. From customer service, to internal processes, and even financial elements. Your purpose is what sets you apart and drives you forward.

So how can you find focus by defining your business’s purpose?

Brainstorm

Get those wild thoughts down on paper! A brainstorming session is a great way to find a little more clarity about what your business should be focusing on. Use a white board or a big piece of butcher’s paper and just blurt out all the ideas running around in your head. As you progress, hopefully you start seeing natural links between thoughts, or reoccurring themes. For example, ask yourself –

‘How do I want to run my business?’

You might think of 50 things, or you might think of just 1. But if you can hone in on what you believe to be most important, then – voila! You have just defined a focus! It might be that you want to run a sustainable business, or an innovative business, or a highly efficient business. You may see all these things to be equally as important. That’s ok too! As long as you give yourself something to strive for, and more importantly, serve as the foundations of your business strategy.

Use your purpose as a foundation for strategy

Ever thought about why McDonalds is so successful? Whether you love em or hate em, they are one of the most successful companies of all time. They have defined exactly who they are and have very successfully communicated these elements to the world.

Consider their core values, as found on their website (www.mcdonalds.com.au/about-us/our-story):

–          We place the customer experience at the core of all we do

–          We are committed to our people

–          We believe in the McDonald’s System

–          We operate our business ethically

–          We give back to our communities

–          We grow our business profitably

–          We strive continuously to improve

At first glance, these values might sound airy and subjective. However, when you think about how McDonalds operates, you can relate every single business strategy back to one of these values. It provides a solid foundation for the way in which they run their business. And more importantly, it helps customers know what to expect every time they walk through their doors.

When beginning a business, you often have a vision in your head of how it will eventually operate. This vision might be particularly clear, or it may be a single amazing idea with a lot of hazy details that you hope will more or less be worked out along the way. Many people jump straight into setting up the business without thinking through these details, which needless to say, creates problems fairly quickly.

Instead, if you can use your purpose as a guideline, then it helps develop the strategies you will use to run your business.

It is essential for you, as the business manager, to define the business’s purpose from the outset and make sure that it is implemented across the board.

Clearly communicate your purpose to employees

If you have employees, often a major source of frustration is that they may not complete their work in the way that you want. It may be that it is below the standard that you expect, or it is completely and utterly different to what you asked them in the first place. But before you start reprimanding them or quietly looking around for replacements, ask yourself – have I communicated the business’s purpose clearly enough? Do my employees understand the way I want to run my business and how I want it to be perceived by customers?

More often than not, employee/employer issues are a simple break-down of communication. If you run a painting business, for example, your core business focus may be to deliver quality, no matter how long it takes. If you hire a guy who does a slap-dash job and rushes through his work, you are likely to feel incredibly frustrated.

Before you start yelling profanities, ask yourself – have you have been clear with him about your expectations? Does he realise that the business’s focus is on quality? It may be that he previously worked for someone who was more focused on delivering the finished product in record time. So unless you are clear from the outset what it is that the business represents, these communication break-downs are likely to occur.

Once your employees understand what you want to achieve, they can much more effectively portray that to your clients.

Remember, speak up! No one can read your mind.

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So my advice is to get busy! Brainstorm your ideas and get some solid points down on paper. Define your focus and outline your business objectives. Create something that you can keep coming back to if you ever lose your direction. Print it and keep it above your desk. Distribute copies among your employees. Put it up on your website. Scribble them all over your office walls. Whatever it takes.

Remember, strategies may change, but a business’s purpose should be consistent. It is the one thing that keeps you motivated, genuine, and most importantly, focused!