More than crunching numbers or creating accounting processes for my clients, I am a strategic business advisor. In this advisory role, I’ve heard many questions and seen many issues that could be addressed by pausing to ask ourselves and others about the nature of our professional lives and foundation of the business we are building.
As I see it, there are four parts to each business that are fundamental to success. These parts are like the four legs of a table which form a stable foundation. The four table legs must be equally sturdy to hold up your table and keep your business level. If there is something wrong with one table leg, then the whole table is out of balance.
Leg 1: Operations and Delivery of Your Product or Service
Setting standards for the delivery your product or service ensures your customers are getting what they paid for, even if you’re not around to oversee it. Consider these factors in your delivery standards: time, quality, and expectations.
If you have created procedures, then they include key factors such as how much time it takes to create or provide the product or service. Establishing tests for the accuracy or condition of your product is imperative because that quality reflects your entire business. Does the final product or service meet the expectations of your customer? Aligning these elements means you can feel rest assured that you’re delivering what you said you would.
The strength of this leg is knowing you can go on vacation assured that your service or product is produced to the brand quality standards you have set.
Leg 2: Sales and Marketing
What are you doing if you are not bringing money in the door? If your business is aligned with your passion and your skills, then selling can be easy. However, having a plan in place makes it even easier. Define how you will sell, to whom you are selling, and the pricing in your plan. These are vital questions to answer for successful sales and marketing.
When you begin monetizing something that you’re passionate about, it means you’re bringing in enough profit to cover personal costs, business costs, and allowing room for growth. Don’t be afraid to attach an appropriate price to your product or service. Your price should reflect what the product or service is worth, and not just what you think people may pay.
Beyond covering costs, think about the value you bring to the table. What are the intangible benefits of your product or service? For instance, do you help people sleep better at night because they aren’t worried anymore thanks to your solution? Or does your product or service fill a gap that is unique to your industry?
I highly recommend a couple of clients and resources of mine to help you in this regard:
- Tilted Chair Creative a strategic full service advertising agency
- Beckmann Collaborative for business development and marketing strategy
- Root and River for professional branding
- Art Diva Creative for graphic design
Once that money comes in, the policies and procedures that you develop will help keep everything on track. This leg ensures that you have a strategic way of earning income for yourself and your business.
Leg 3: Financial and Administrative
This leg is my specialty as it is core to my own service offerings. Entrepreneurs sometimes confuse administrative tasks as busy-work versus necessary, essential work that needs to be learned and mastered (i.e. core business tasks). Mastery of finances and streamlined processes and procedures will get you on the path to profit and to fulfilling your higher purpose.
The first step is in setting SMART goals and objectives for your business to keep you and your team on the same page and accountable. Setting a specific strategy before you start implementation is key. Otherwise, you end up doing busy-work that is often costly and time-consuming in the long run.
Next, create measurable processes, policies, and procedures to define how you will achieve those goals – step by step. These policies and procedures support your ongoing growth. For instance, hiring a knowledgeable professional to support you with setting up your books and records properly, versus “winging it” on your own, can save you so much time and heartache in the future.
Oftentimes, we see clients who have been “getting by” for years with their finances. These clients come to realize they have little confidence in their numbers and own the fact that their financial records are scattered and disorganized. The relief that is felt when everything is cleaned up and clients are trained properly is palpable.
Also consider those smaller steps and tactics for handling your procedures such as scheduling time on your calendar and your accounting month-end close procedures. You can automate some tasks or delegate work to others. Of course, you should document it all.
Attention and time management have their own set of professionals. A couple of resources I highly recommend include:
- Maura Thomas with Regain your Time
- Lorie Marrero of Clutter Diet with amazing resources to help you create peace from your clutter.
This leg of the table allows you to not only measure results, but also to find areas for improvements in efficiency.
Leg 4: Company Culture and Your People
Whether you have employees, contractors or others supporting your business, there is a culture to each interaction. The culture you create should align with your vision for the business; so be sure to clearly communicate the direction the business is moving toward.
Your big brand vision is the basis for culture in your organization. Once you get clear on what you are building, it is important for your team to be 100% on board. Remember that your team is a representation of your business, not only with customers but out in the community too.
Also, a team with strong company culture works better together. They can help to hold you and each other accountable on the fulfillment of tasks and setting standards aligned with your vision. Beyond accountability, your team can help you to see what you cannot see yourself. They find areas for improvement and company advancement.
I recommend Susan Yenzer with Advancing Performance to help you in this regard.
Your people are the fourth leg holding you and your business up and creating sustainable growth.
Building Your Strong Table Means Planning and Strategizing
- Operations and Delivery of Your Product or Service
- Sales and Marketing
- Financial and Administrative
- Company Culture and Your People
It’s difficult to build a business if it is not anchored to a strong business foundation with all four legs. This issue becomes very apparent when you are in growth mode. Without the strong business foundation, you will have a tough time delivering and sustaining your big vision.
As with most things in life, the key is balance.
As a small business owner, I struggle with the back and forth, push and pull of these four legs in my own business. However, I have learned that I can’t and fortunately don’t have to do it all myself. Hiring help and building a team of both employees and independent contractors who understand my dreams and business plans helps me to balance these four legs. Working a little at a time and building strength in each of these legs is the long-term key to success. A little patience and a whole lot of determination help tremendously too!
As you can tell, this topic of building a strong business foundation is paramount for me and my clients. Together, we look closely at the business’ four legs. Today I invite you to examine these four legs in your own business.
I would love to hear from you! Please share any comments or lessons learned below.