Rick Meekins is the Managing Partner at Aepiphanni, a Business Consultancy, an Atlanta, GA based small business consultancy that provides Management Consulting, Implementation and Managed Services to business leaders and entrepreneurs seeking to improve or expand operations.
Leading the Organization That Survives: Prioritizing Business Needs
Every business has needs that must be met in order for the organization to survive. However, identifying those needs is not enough; we, as business leaders, need to understand the business’s priorities. The items that tend to be urgent are not always the ones that are important, and many important tasks are not perceived as urgent, and get overlooked. Prioritizing the needs of the business will help you, the business leader, address the right need at the right time.
The first thing we must understand is where the business is in its lifecycle. Understanding where your business is in its lifecycle is critical to defining the needs of the business as any time, just like people have different needs at different times of their lives. For example, while my four year old would probably consider jumping off of anything at any height, and needs me there to keep him safe, my 16 year old needs to be reminded that he needs to cut the grass, and management to ensure that he does a good job.
As we discussed in the last article – “The Business as a System.” once we begin looking at the business like a system, it becomes relatively easy to identify what needs to be done next, whether that means reviewing some lower-level priorities for the business, or stepping up to the next level of existence for the organization. We call the hierarchy the 6S Model.
The first level is the Existence stage. The business is a baby, just starting to crawl or walk, and completely dependent on your for its survival and safety.
- Survival level needs will include defining a belief system for the business, and an identity- mission, vision and values, leadership, understanding of the markets the business will serve, and the products or services the business will offer. If we were thinking about this like taking a vacation, just saying that you want to take a vacation isn’t enough. You have to decide where you are going to go, how you are going to get there, who you are going to go with, and who is responsible for making sure that everyone gets where they need to be. Intuitively, this is built into your personal belief system. If you are a Christian, for example, your belief system will dictate that there are certain kinds of activities you want to participate in, and others that don’t fit into that system. Survival-level needs for the business are just as foundational.
- Safety level needs are those that serve to protect the business from internal and external problems. Examples of this might include awareness of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, competitor standards, financial position, compliances, having the right advisors and understanding what the businesses capacities and capabilities. There is nothing like getting up and running, delivering your product to shops throughout the area, and finding out that there was some type of compliance issue that you overlooked, or, as what happens with a lot of businesses, you took on high risk that could have been avoided with better understanding of the business’s position.
The second stage in the business lifecycle is the evolutionary stage. This is that period between childhood, where the business needs someone to wipe its mouth and hold its hand, and adulthood, when the business is walking around, proclaiming its existence to the world. These might be the teen years, and like teens, this period is not always predictable, and is where the business will learn a lot.
- Sustainability is the appropriate name for this level of Existence. This is the level where the business leader will put measures in place to ensure that the business can be in business tomorrow. You can start to see what the business is going to look like and what it is going to do when it grows up, but it needs further guidance and growth. Sustainability-level needs include management, Process, systems, required resources, understanding of the sales medium, product or service standards, vendors and a cohesive team. If we return to the trip, we’ve come over the hurdles of planning the trip and making sure that the trip will be safe, this is the part where we have understanding of the vehicle that is going to get us to the destination. Have we ensure that the engine is tuned up? Have we filled it up with gas? Do we have windshield wiper fluid? Who is going to monitor all of these things? While we can plan the trip and get on the road, without some understanding of how to sustain, we won’t get very far.
- Stakeholder relationships are not just friends and family. It takes a village to raise a child. Relationships with customer, vendors, creditors, investors, etc., is critical to the continued growth of your business. They can help mold and strengthen the business by making you aware of any opportunities of threats that could impact your business. If you keep them informed about what is going on in your business, they will be more likely to share this type of information with you.
The third stage we’ll look at is the Emergence stage. This is not when your business is all grown up, settle in its ways and stubborn. This is when your business is seeking to make its way in the world. There will be lots of choices and lots of opportunity. What the business needs at this point, you might liken to a career path and a continuous growth plan.
- Solid Branding is likened to your career path. It is what envelops your company when you walk into the room and announce your presence. It is what speaks for your company when you are not around. It can influence where or not someone will do business with you. When we talk about branding, we look at everything that could impact the way a company or client looks at you, from the atmosphere of your office, to your commitment, involvement, communication style, customer service, expertise, etc. What do you want your company to be known for?
- Sustained Innovation & Growth is the capstone of the 6S model. This, again, is not where we kick up our feet and say “we’ve arrived! We are at the top of the heap!” How many companies have we seen topple to the bottom that once made those claims? How many companies that currently lead the market continue to develop new products and technologies? How many of these companies have created needs that we didn’t even know we had? How can your company tap into that mindset? Needs at this level include vision, an innovation process, an idea platform, strategic planning and strategic forecasting. When built into the company culture, these are drivers to push the company toward emergence from the industry and to stand out in the marketplace.
As a business leader, you are responsible for understanding where your business is in its lifecycle, and what needs you will be addressing at each level. Understand, however, that lower level needs always need to be addressed before upper level needs. What I mean by that is that if you are in the emergence level, and accounting standards change, which would be an existence level need, you must still address it before im plementing the next generation product your company is working to bring to market.
Be passionate about understanding and addressing the business’s needs through the use of 6S. You’ll go further, longer.
Aepiphanni Business Consulting is a Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of business leaders and executives. We specialize in helping people get into business, and stay there. We welcome clients in the personal and professional services industries, including restaurants, catering and event planning. As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts, questions and suggestions. If you are seeking a business assessment, or have further questions about creating your strategy or developing your vision, please give me, Rick Meekins, a call at 678-265-3908, or email us at [email protected].