The discussion focused on the top five things businesses that fail have in common:
1) Lack a clear vision
2) Don’t really understand their target audience
3) Don’t know how to differentiate from competition
4) Lack leadership
5) Unprofitable business model
Create a Clear Vision
Alan Wallner started the discussion by asking each panelist to describe what vision is and what it means for a business.
“The vision statement should capture your passion,” said Rajiv Tandon. “It should have a picture of the future of your company. It could articulate your hopes and dreams, but it’s not a business plan. It’s not a substitute for good execution. It’s a rough road map without specific milestones. And it should be able to change.”
“It’s a general overview and trying to hit some big buckets for the different aspects, culture, people, partners, how what your purpose is,” added Alan. “It doesn’t get into the how’s.”
“I think how to really stand out in the crowd is by being very specific,” said Rosemary Davies-Janes. “Because if you try to appeal to too many people on too many levels, you just end up with a vanilla vision that doesn’t inspire you, your partners, your staff, or your customers.”
Mark Coronna added, “I think a 10-year vision in today’s world is not worthwhile, to be honest. How many companies in 2019 on their risk chart for 2020 had a virus-related economic?”
Understand Your Target Audience
When discussing a business’ target audience, Rosemary stated, “Everybody wants to appeal to the most people. Everybody wants to keep everything very general, but the more specific you are these days, you cut through the clutter, you stand out in the crowd and the people who you are really targeting, recognize you and recognize that what you’re offering is what they want.”
Alan agreed and said, “A lot of companies are out there just trying to sell, sell, sell, sell to someone, but not really taking a moment to slow down. And it’s really thinking about how they made someone feel. So understanding how you make your customer feel is quite important to all of this.”
Mark added, “What we’re really talking about is how do you connect your value proposition with that ideal customer or client who is the best fit for what you offer? Marketing isn’t trying to do everything for everybody. That’s the antithesis of marketing. So you have to be willing to take the risk and take the time to understand who are those customers or those prospects that you’d like to invest time and energy into, and that you bring value to.”
“I’ll come from a directly opposite end,” said Rajiv, “Who’s going to buy it? You can go to a customer and say, what is missing? You are already buying, you’ve got a supplier. What is it that you need that is missing? And can I provide that missing link? That’s the way you get into an established market.”
Differentiate from Your Competitors
The discussion shifted to competitors, and Mark added his insight, “In a chief outsiders model we start with four kinds of insights: insights about your customers, insights about your competitors, insights about the markets you’re in, and insights about your own business performance,” he explained, “because a lot of small and midsize businesses don’t have the discipline to understand which markets they’re in, if they’re actually making money in which kinds of customers are profitable.”
Alan added, “A lot of times companies just really hit at a very high level of their competition and don’t really go into that deeper in-depth view, brand perspective.”
“If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur,” added Rajiv, “don’t think that you have something so unique that the world has never seen anything like this before; you could, but I’ve yet to find that person. So take competitive analysis more seriously than most entrepreneurs take.”
“Competitive analysis is probably the thing,” said Rosemary. “Most of my clients resist target market profiling and nobody wants to do competitive analysis. I’ve had all kinds of feedback: it’s overwhelming, it makes me feel that there’s no reason for me to start my business, there’s no time for it. So, number one for me is just do it.”
Alan opened up the discussion on leadership. “A lot of small business owners might think I’m a solopreneur; what does leadership have to do with my company?” he said. “Leadership is more important now than ever because of the way things are going and things are becoming more digital. How should businesses reframe their attitude and their thinking toward leadership?”
“You’re serving your customers,” answered Rosemary. “People want you to come across as confident and certain, they want consistency in messaging. They want to know what to count on when they interact with your business, interact with you.”
Rajiv, added simply, “Leadership is all about taking charge, and your customers expect you to take charge of their problem and solve it for them. If you hire some people they expect to provide the leadership to point out what they are supposed to do. Without leadership, you are just a blob doing nothing.”
“You learn that 90% of success is getting people aligned, all working on the right thing,” stated Mark. “I like to say it’s all about people, in the end, because good people will fix a bad plan, but bad people will ruin a good plan. The point is that one has to reinterpret what leadership means in today’s world. We think about who’s on the executive team. I think you have to think about leadership as being anybody who is a trusted advisor or a trusted partner who you can rely on for guidance, expertise or advice.”
Create a Business Model
As the discussion turned to creating a business model, Mark weighed in. “When you’ve got a great idea and you go to launch it, . . . don’t get too stuck or too passionate about what it is you think you’re introducing. Because your chances of getting it right on version one are pretty slim.”
Rosemary added, “I completely agree, your business model will evolve, especially in the early days, some things will work. Some things won’t work. But I think that a couple of points that are really important is that nothing performs like persistence, like determination. If you’re going to check out a specific channel, check it out thoroughly and pick your marketing channels.”
“The vision is going to be a little more organic and it’s going to move and shift and change. It’s the same way with your business model,” said Alan. “Even the revenue streams may shift. So don’t count on just having one revenue stream, because what happens if that goes away. So how do you build some sustainability into your business if things were to change?”
“I’m going to come a little bit from an academic perspective,” added Rajiv. “A business model is a fancy way of saying, how will you make money? It’s a very simple thing. What’s your method of making money?”
Alan wrapped up the hour-long discussion encouraging participants to send any follow-up questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. “And remember to create your world,” he said. “So believe in your vision, drive it with purpose and take action and, above all, go out there and be remarkable.”
It’s a Bold New World!
Small business owners can either be defeated or harness the energy to make us and our businesses stronger and more determined. As small business owners, this is our time to direct this energy and create lasting change, speed along the transition and have a greater impact.
All Thrive!cast episodes focus on leading business owners to discover ways to create success for them and their businesses in this bold new world.
To hear more from the panelists on this and other Thrive!cast episodes, click below.