That can be a tough question and one that can be considered confronting. I use this question when I speak to business owners and leaders all the time. I don’t direct this question to the individual, I direct it to the business. I typically get one of two responses, “of course we do” or a more reflective, “I don’t think we do.” These are characteristics of a business with a strong ‘sense of self’ and its purpose:
- Goals that are communicated and discussed all the time.
- Principles and values that guide all decision making.
- Financial management and tracking against clear objectives.
- Executives and managers who meet regularly to review the business and marketing plans.
- A clear and compelling value proposition for a defined target market [s].
- Frequent conversations with clients.
What are the signals that warn you of a business that has lost its sense of self? These are some of the most common ones that I come across, although there are many more.
- No business or marketing plan linked to execution goals and timelines.
- No defined target market[s].
- Inability to clearly communicate a compelling value proposition.
- Little or no interaction between owners, managers and the people.
- Stagnating or declining sales.
- High levels of client churn.
One of the little gems that I use when I consult with executive teams is asking each one, “what are your top three goals for this [year or quarter]?” I follow up with, “what are the top three goals for the organisation?” The ONE time these were in alignment was in an executive team of three persons.
I think it often takes an existential threat to a business to force it to re-evaluate itself. A business usually begins with clarity about what it does, where it competes and a vision of what it will become. After time this clarity can fade away and as it fades the risks of stagnation, decline and demise increase. The revenue begins to stall and decline. Customers begin to seek alternative suppliers. The market is telling the business that its products and services are lagging the competitors. There is a fork in the path and the leadership will choose one.
- They may choose to believe the decline is due to external factors they have no control over.
- They may choose to face reality and re-think their business and work hard to turn it around.