Five Essential Steps for Designing Business Success

Whether or not entrepreneurs or business managers realize it, or consciously set out to do it, we design our business successes (and failures).  We set ourselves up for success, or for failure.  At the heart of any great business venture, regardless of complexity or whether your funding is in the thousands or millions, there are five essential steps for designing business success from the outset.

As you read through these five steps you will note a theme of fundamentals building on one another.  Each step is not rocket science requiring advanced theoretical applications of new math and sciences.  The five essentials here are meant for real-world application.  Instead of being theory-driven, they are reality-based and require constant direct application and effort.

1. Express your vision and understand your business environment.

First, you must get your business idea/strategy/concept out of your head and in various formats that help you to share it out (elevator pitch, business plan, solid PowerPoint presentation, etc.).  Building and driving a business requires an effort beyond what you alone can contribute (time, effort, capital, etc.).  You must leverage the minds, energy, and enthusiasm of others and they must be aligned around a common understanding of your vision and of what it is you, as a team, are setting out to accomplish.

Also, it is not enough to know your business alone, you must also be aware at a detailed level of the world in which your business is operating.  From local ordinances, to technology, to shifts in your customers' needs, you need to know your business environment as best as you can (this will be quite important in #4 and #5 below).

2. Find your experts and fully utilize them.

Leveraging others means delegating and trusting.  You must bring talent on board to help you build and grow.  Find people who have a passion and fire for what they do, are great at it, and fill/compliment a gap you, or your team as a whole, may have.  Hire experts and then give them the latitude to use their expertise and do a great job.  Cultivate and support them.  Quite simply, your business will only ever be as good as its people.  If you work hard at #1 then your experts will more easily come together as a team and strive to achieve.

3. Communicate, listen, and align. 

As your vision and business begin to take shape and execute, you will start to learn from your team of experts and from your customers.  Enable communication across your team, and with your customers.  The patterns of successful communication (and the pattern of learning that comes from it) are established in the very beginning.  As the business grows the model of communication built in the beginning will be the template for the larger organization down the road.  Do this part correctly and you open the door for successfully observing and adapting to changes that are coming your way (see #5).

Communication among your experts (who are effectively the founding members of larger teams and eventually departments) is the lubrication that enables the business to run effectively and efficiently.  Keep your channels open, encourage discussion and learning.  Especially at the start of a business, this is where the rubber meets the road and adjustments to nearly every facet of the business have to be made as you transition from written plan to daily execution and long-term goals.  That transition requires refinement of your vision, and re-alignment of your experts through the power of effectively communicating, listening, and aligning.

4. Plan the big picture and the details. 

One of the most important skills of successful entrepreneurs and business managers is the ability to maintain a dual view of the business and business environment.  Being able to see both the Big Picture and the Daily Details is critically important.  Maintaining a view of the big picture is rather like keeping a weather eye on the horizon or having a compass laying on your map.  This is the view of where the business needs to be going and is critical for seeing and making mid- to long-range decisions.

The daily details are just as important because they create the compound effect the builds and drives the business toward its long-term goals.  Sweating the small stuff keeps the road clear for bigger challenges and goals.  Regardless of what your business is about, every sale to every customer matters.  It is in the daily details that those customer needs are first addressed and the business is run efficiently or not.

One view is not more important than the other; they are equally crucial.  A successful manager balances the two views, making both tactical and strategic decisions that maintain that balance between short- and long-term success.  Planning for, and maintaining a view of, the big picture and the daily details an entrepreneur or business manager can better understand and direct the priority of work and actions that the business needs to take in order to successfully navigate daily operations and long-term aspirations.

5. Be prepared to correct your course. 

A business plan is a guide, not a procedure manual.  (I have seen more businesses fail when they have steadfastly adhered to the letter of their business plans instead of following its guiding spirit and adjusted along the way.)

Given the flow of experience from #1 through #4, it will be inevitable that some aspect of your business plan must change, or perhaps even be jettisoned entirely, as you progress.  That's OK, and that's normal!  Work hard at each step above and assimilate what you learn from it all.  Let it all keep you on your toes, not comfortably in your chair.  Use your team of experts to plan course-corrections.  Really successful businesses preemptively course correct instead of suffering through reactionary adjustments.

This essential step is what gives your business the ability to adapt and change along with ever-changing customers, the market place, competition, and all the other aspects of the business environment that affect and impact your business.  Being prepared for change is the conscious act of accepting and engaging with what is coming (whether predicted or not) and is what enables a business's longevity.

Work Hard 

These five essential steps for designing your business success are meant to be worked at every day.  They do make for a snazzy bulleted list, and summarize nicely, but make no mistake, they are hard work, as is anything that is a fundamental or essential thing.

These steps are not sequential, to be worked through once and marked complete.  They are foundational and iterative.  This means that if any of these five essentials is out of line, or not being done effectively, then each and every other business effort that builds off of them will be out of alignment.  Keep these five essential steps in mind and revisit your efforts frequently.