One of the things I see many entrepreneurs struggling with is how to fix or improve the outcomes from their business. The main reason why I see this happening is because entrepreneurs think of their business as one thing. In reality, every business is a collection of smaller components that make up the business.
It’s easily understandable why this happens since most entrepreneurs start their business and it’s just themselves. They do everything from start to finish and the business is just them. From the beginning, the mindset is that my business is one thing. But as the business grows, and things get more complex, the mindset tends to not change.
Your business is like the human body
It’s comparable to thinking about the human body. We all started as a single cell; one thing that developed over time into a complicated collection of systems each with a specific function. You have a respiratory system that takes in oxygen. Your cardiovascular system pumps blood around your body. You have a digestive system that creates the energy your muscles need to move. It takes many other pieces, all working together doing specific functions, but with a common goal of keeping you alive and helping you thrive.
Your business is no different. Even if you started by yourself and thought of your business is one thing, you were doing many different things to make your business survive and thrive. Your working on generating traffic to a website or a physical store. You’re trying to increase the quality leads you get so you can build relationships and eventually convert them into sales. You are delivering products to your customers and supporting those products when they have problems.
You improve your business the same way we improve our health
When you set out to improve your business outcomes think about how you would fix a problem with your body. You don’t go to just one doctor that can fix any and every part of your body. If you’re having heart problems, you go see a cardiologist. If you have problems with your teeth, you go see a dentist. There’s a different type of doctor for every body part you have.
If you go to a doctor because you’re not feeling well, he or she is going to start asking you questions to isolate which part of your body isn’t working. When the generalist is unable to solve your problem completely, you’ll get a recommendation to go see a specialist.
If you went to the doctor and said, “my body doesn’t feel right” and the doctor tried to fix that, there’s little to no chance that you’re going to get better. It takes understanding the root cause of the issue to properly treat it. Part of understanding the root cause is being able to identify the piece that isn’t working correctly.
You need to start thinking about your business like we think about the body. If you have a problem in a certain part of your business, you need to think about the pieces of your business, the relationship between the different pieces, and how those pieces might manifest in the problems you are trying to solve.
Smaller thinking for bigger results
By thinking of your business in pieces you will be able to more quickly diagnose inefficiencies and problems that are fixable which will give you better outcomes. It allows you to better understand where the problems are, why they’re happening, and what you can do to fix them.
It also helps you find the right kind of specialist should you need to go for additional help. By being able to understand the nuances between different parts of your business, you’ll better know if you need a Facebook ads expert or a copywriting expert to get you better leads. You will be able to better address problems customers are having with your products if you can differentiate between product delivery issues versus product support issues.
I’m not suggesting you need to go and hire a bunch of different specialists to run a successful business. Many solo entrepreneurs can be very successful on their own, but thinking about your business in pieces will help an individual better improve the outcomes his or her business is getting. This will also make growing and hiring easier once that comes into play.
How to start thinking about your business differently
Start thinking about the different activities your business performs. One way to start thinking about this is to break your business down into very large buckets. These initial buckets are the same for every company.
You have a sales cycle that includes all of your marketing, advertising, and sales activities. Think about how you are generating traffic today and how you are moving that traffic through a process to convert them into sales.
You have a product cycle that covers topics like product development, product delivery, and product support. Even if you only have one product and you’ve gone through some of these steps only one time, they are there, and you will probably have to go through them again as very few companies are successful in the long term with only one product.
Understanding the journey
For both of these cycles think about the journey that happens from start to finish. For your sales cycle think about your customer. What are you doing to get their initial attention? Once you have their attention how are you getting them interested in buying your product? Maybe you are building a longer-term relationship with them at this point. How are you doing that? How do you continually work to convert leads into sales? Once a person has bought one product how are you helping them understand other products that you sell? These are all questions you want to answer to understand how your sales cycle works.
For your product cycle think about how you develop your products. How do you define the features your products should have? How do you incorporate feedback from customers and potential customers into your products? Once you’ve developed a new product how do you go about testing that product to make sure it actually works? How do you deliver your product to your customers? Once your customers have the product what support do you provide them? These are the types of questions you want to answer to better understand the journey of your product lifecycle.
There are two other buckets that all companies have whether they acknowledge it or not. This includes operations as well as culture. There is a third bucket that applies to any company that is more than just one founder-people.
Operations includes things like knowledge management, process management, and task management to name a few. You do things in your business to help facilitate your sales and product cycles. For example, when gathering feedback from customers, you need to be able to one, keep track of the different features customers are asking for and two, prioritize features based on many variables. Operations, specifically task and priority management, help you answer the question of how you track and prioritize feedback from the customer.
Culture defines the values, beliefs, and rules that ultimately impact how you and, if you have them, your employees work. Culture includes things like mission statements, vision statements, leadership principles, company history, documents and templates, and a whole host of other artifacts that will formulate how you and your employees think and operate. If you are working solo, culture is still relevant to you as it can help you define how you want to operate. It also lays the foundation for being able to bring in additional staff when the time is right.
The third, optional bucket is people management. If you run a solo operation and nobody else works in or for your business except you, you can skip this paragraph for now and come back and read it before you’re ready to hire. If you have staff today which includes full-time employees, virtual assistants, contractors, third-party vendors, or anybody else working in any capacity with your business, you need to have consideration for people. This includes things like hiring, employee development, vendor management, and many other areas related to managing others.
Align your activities to these buckets
Think about each of these areas and identify the core activities that your business is doing in which of these buckets they fall in. If you’re running paid ads, running a YouTube channel to generate leads, and writing weekly articles, those are all activities that would go in your sales cycle. Some activities might fall into both the sales and product cycle at first glance, but you should get specific about breaking it up into the sales piece and the product piece. For example, if you are managing a Facebook group, you might be doing that in part because it generates new leads for your business, and in part, because that’s one of the ways you provide support for your product that you sell.
Keep it simple
It’s easy to become overwhelmed or to go crazy making a complex list of cycles, processes, activities, and many other things. Keep the documentation light, and don’t stress if you’re having trouble classifying a particular activity. Ultimately, there’s no one exact right answer for how a business should be broken up. It will be different based on your markets, your products, your philosophies on business, and many other variables. Plus, you can always update this later if you look at things differently in the future.
To help you do this we have a sample template that is based on our business and how we operate. You can download this and other tools at no cost by going to resources.optimizeforoutcomes.com. Look for the Optimize For Outcomes Toolkit.
My book, Optimize For Outcomes, also provides guidance on how to start thinking about your business in a simple yet effective manner. It covers additional systems thinking topics on how to improve the different areas of y our business that need the most work.
- Improve your business outcomes by understanding the pieces that make up your business
- Think about your business like the human body-separate systems with individual goals working in unison to achieve a common outcome
- Understand the journey a customer takes through your sales cycle
- Understand the journey a product takes through your product cycle
- Any business can be broken up into five main buckets
- Identify the activities your business is involved then and drop them into one of the five buckets
Actions for you to take
- Define your Sales and Product Cycles
- Customer Journey through your Sales Cycle
- Product Journey through your Product Cycle
- Download our Optimize For Outcomes Toolkit from our Free Tools Library and start breaking down your business into core activities
- Read my book, Optimize For Outcomes, available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle formats
- Identify an area to improve and make it happen!
Here’s an additional article you can read on microproductivity – https://blog.trello.com/microproductivity-break-tasks-into-smaller-steps