Tip 1 – It’s not about you
Darlene Menzies, Finfind CEO, says, “You may think you run your own business, but that is a perception every entrepreneur should be questioning and challenging. Your business exists to provide a service or satisfy a need to your target market – not to you.
It doesn’t matter whether you run a take-away or a multinational. If you’re not listening to the people who actually keep your business afloat – your clients or customers – success will elude you, and even the mightiest can fall. So, the first thing any entrepreneur should do is remove their ego from the equation and try to get into the target market’s head”.
Consider that not many businesses are unique anymore. There is competition around every corner. So, what exactly makes your business different or better? Step aside and take the consumer journey for yourself to find out where you can make your business better than anyone else’s.
Tip 2 – Stay true to your winning formula
In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company made one of the biggest mistakes in business history. As an answer to declining market share, “New Coke” hit the shelves in July that year. After almost 100 years of Coca-Cola using the same secret formula, they abandoned it. And the decision was not well received by the public, who wanted the Coke they knew back.
Coca-Cola abandoned what they had been good at. Instead of adding a new product in tandem with the old favourite, they lost sight of their original reason for being, and without that, they were destined to fail. Suffice to say, it didn’t take long for the original formula to make a comeback. And when it did, sales took a dramatic upturn again.
By the same token, in any business, success is as simple as identifying exactly what you are best at, and doing that. That doesn’t mean you can’t be inventive, adapt or pursue new ideas because times do change. But every business has one Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Darlene explains, “Innovate, change with the times, move forward, or the world will pass your business by. But innovation doesn’t have to mean throwing out the idea that made your business what it is in the first place. Try not to lose sight of why, and how, your business first came to be.
Coca-Cola’s original formula saw a temporary decline in sales, and instead of standing behind the formula that had made the business a success, company leadership disregarded it. This decision removed the one thing that differentiated the brand from all the others.
So, stay true to your core philosophy and reason for being. Do what you’re good at and enhance it with innovation, rather than allowing the innovation to smother your original idea”.
Tip 3 – Layer your innovation
According to Darlene, “Innovation is a word that is thrown around quite freely in business circles. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. A truly innovative business recognises the many layers of innovation. A business is an organism that keeps evolving. And that evolution is layered from the inside out.
Innovation means paying attention to the finer details in your processes and business practices on the inside first, identifying weaknesses – for example in the supply chain, management and systems – and straightening them out.
The next layer is finding more efficient delivery mechanisms to get your product to market and streamlining your internal delivery processes. After that comes the strength of your product offering. Ask how and where innovation could make it stronger? And finally, the outside layer is your marketing efforts, your customer-facing message and your end-user product experience.
No business can exist in a vacuum. It is made up of several moving parts. The layered innovation approach is a valuable tool that can help the business organism flourish.”
Tip 4 – Keep your vision on track
Most large companies have a vision statement that they live by. This is a formally drafted document that lays out exactly where the company aims to be when it has successfully fulfilled its mission. But Darlene suggests that the practice of drafting a vision statement should not be limited to big companies alone.
“A vision statement is a mantra. And no matter how big or small your company is, it can serve as a constant reminder of your end goal,” says Darlene. “Even if it is handwritten on a piece of paper and stuck on your office or shop wall, a vision statement keeps you mindful of exactly why you do what you do, every day”.
Simply put, a good vision statement is a simple sentence or short paragraph that answers the question: “Where are we going?” Amazon’s vision statement is a great example:
“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Tip 5 – it shouldn’t all be hard work
Most people have no choice but to work. It is the modern equivalent of hunting and gathering that ensures we have food to eat and are able to support our families. But Darlene thinks there’s more to running a business than that.
Darlene says, “Hard work is the key to keeping your business alive. But we must never forget that we aren’t machines. A work-life balance keeps us sane and maintains our perspective on the world. But work-life balance isn’t necessarily limited to keeping home and work in separate spaces.
You can find work-life balance in your office by focusing on the positive aspects of what you do. And if you truly aren’t happy where you work, perhaps you should consider moving on. Why waste your life doing something that is unsatisfying?
Similarly, if you find your mind wandering at home, solving work problems while you have your dinner or spend time with your family, this is not necessarily a negative thing. Your career and business and your personal life are not mutually exclusive. Find ways of embracing that so that the two are less likely to clash.”
Finfind – South Africa’s leading online access to finance solution
Though smaller businesses are the most important contributors to South Africa’s economy, access to finance is still a monumental challenge for the vast majority of them. Finfind was established to address this challenge head-on.
Finfind is a unique online platform that matches SMMEs with the right funders from a database of more than 530 SMME finance options from the public and private sectors in South Africa.
Besides linking SMMEs with funders, Finfind also provides financial education and information tools that address common challenges SMMEs face, including a funding dictionary to help entrepreneurs understand finance terminology.