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Surviving your first year: How clarity is essential to achieve longevity

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 | By Stefan Kazakis

All great businesses start with a great idea. It starts with passion, excitement and fire in the belly. And all of your problems today started out as a great idea!


But let’s not forget, being a small business owner is hard work too. Yes, it’s fun, but you have to have that fire in your belly to want to succeed. The biggest drag on most deadwood businesses is not the lack of knowledge or resources but the lack of direction and determination. Clarity comes when you feel that you are winning.


Clarity is not about dollars and cents and it’s not about how many clients you have. It’s not about your marketing or your cash flow or your balance sheet. All this stuff comes later.


Clarity is about the DNA of your business. It’s about what drives you and the people around you. It’s the heart and soul of why you go into the office every day and the promise you make to your customers. It’s an unshakeable confidence about who you are and why you do what you do for those that you choose to do it for. If you don’t have confidence, trust and self-discipline you can’t expect others to.


You’re enrolled or you’re not, you’re serving a purpose or you’re not, you’re maximising your opportunities or you’re not. You’re at your personal best or you’re not. It’s an ethos and it’s a culture for you and your business.


So what do you do to ensure you maintain this momentum? The quality of the decisions that you strategically make will determine the direction of your business. Get all the information you need and then make confident and clear decisions with your #1 Big Goal in mind.


First decide what your #1 Big Goal is. I suggest you start with a profit goal for the year, and then strategise what you need to do to achieve this.


You also need to have ‘plan B’ thinking. Be prepared for problems before they arise. Anticipate the choke points in your business. Confirm the worst-case scenarios and have a ‘plan B’ for them. You can have focus and discipline because all the strategic thinking has been done.


Breaking it down


Your first year in business is just four 90 day plans. Every 90 days, decide what needs to happen to achieve your #1 Big Goal by breaking this down into smaller goals—and be clear and confident.


Each 90 day plan is 13 weeks. Know where you are now, where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.


Break down the tasks into weekly actions and set to work. Allocate time in your default diary to work on these tasks every day and week. A default diary is where you block out 50% of your time in the week for doing the tasks you’ve identified as being the best use of your time. Those tasks are predominantly in your highest hourly rate categories: your IGAs (income growth activities).


To achieve that profit goal, the best use of your time may be in sales and so this activity will appear often in your default diary. Remember, sales is the only activity that actually puts money into your business. Everything else takes it out.


With this in mind, your default diary will give you 50% structured time that is uninterrupted and highly productive in accordance with the IGAs. Breaking down a bigger task into small bite-size pieces by using your default diary will ensure that you achieve the goals on your 90 day plan with clarity.


Every business goes through ups and downs. Consistent reflection is imperative, as is team meeting rhythm based on open and honest communication with a ‘who’s doing what by when’ outcome. Any new ideas are set aside for the next 90 day plan as the current plan gets executed.


Always ask these three questions:


1. What's working?

2. What's not working?

3. What are we doing about it?


To be certain you are concentrating on the right strategy you need to test and measure daily, weekly and monthly. Business is a fast-changing environment and business owners need to be adaptable.


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Know your target market


Of course, every business is reliant on sales and one of the most important concepts to embrace is delivering a product or service to your chosen target market.


When you decide to go into business you need to be absolutely clear about who will buy your product and why. You need to be able to identify them with great clarity. The skills and tools required to create an idea are very different to those required to grow market share.


If you are in business, or starting a business, you obviously have a product or service that you think others want to buy. But thinking this and knowing how and why it will happen are two very different things. We need to know who our target market is.


Why is this so important? Because if you’re not shaping your business from the foundations up, focusing on how you can serve your target market, you are going to try to be everything to everyone and actually be no good to anybody. From a strategic point of view, your desired target market directs the cut of your business.


So, who are they?


There are six questions you must be able to answer about your target market. If you can’t answer all of these questions you won’t be able to meet the needs of your target market and you’ll be left wondering why the phone never rings.


These six questions are:


Who is the person or organisation you wish to serve? You need to be able to define them in detail.


Where do they congregate in their greatest concentration? Where are they being influenced?


What is their desired #1 Big Outcome? What is the problem you solve for them?


When is their highest level of frustration? When will they say, ‘I need to buy this from you?’


Why will they choose you? Whatever your product or service, your potential ‘A’ clients have other options available to them.


How do you expect them to do business with you? How do you expect them to communicate, contact and correspond with you?


The more you understand the ‘who, where, what, when, why and how’ of your target market the better you’ll be able to shape your business.


If you don’t know your target market and what they want, the only way you can solve their problems is by getting lucky, and luck is not a strategy for success.


Finally, if I can give you my top three tips in your first year of business, and for all your other years in business for that matter, they would be:


1. Go slow to go fast.
2. 50% of something successful is better than 100% of something that’s not.
3. The five R’s – right people, hired for the right roles, who are clear about their responsibilities, getting paid the right money, will deliver the right results.


When you have clarity, confidence follows. And so does a second year and beyond in business!


Stefan Kazakis is a business strategist, sought-after presenter and speaker and author of the new book, From Deadwood to Diamonds (Major Street Publishing, $29.95). For more information please visit www.stefankazakis.com.


This article first appeared on SmartCompany.