[037] How to take the next step with your business

7 key success factors

I’ve been working with a number of clients to help them with the process of shifting the direction of their business. Sometimes the transformation they want to achieve is significant, at others it’s more subtle. Of course, even a subtle change will alter the trajectory of the business over time, if it’s maintained, a bit like changing the flight path by just a degree or two.

Some examples of the transformations that my clients have achieved over the last few months include:

  • Moving from paid employment and a nice, “regular salary”, to jumping off and starting their own company.
  • Changing the focus of an existing business that has been trading for some time.
  • Starting a new business to run alongside an existing, successful company.

In this article, and the vlog below, which I filmed at the beautiful Ripon Canal, I share my 7 key success factors for business transformation that apply to any significant change you want to make.

Key Success Factor 1: Clarity is key

You might want to start a different sort of business, progress the way you do business or create a much deeper change. Whatever your plans, the key thing is to have full clarity of your vision. As the famous Stephen Covey wrote, “start with the end in mind.”

Before you even start to do any work on that transition, set out what it is you want to achieve. In previous articles, for example How to start a new growth curve for your business and What drives and motivates you as an entrepreneurial leader,  I have shared techniques, such as having inspirational images where you can see them, doing the ‘wouldn’t it be fantastic if?’ technique, and getting all your aspirations down on post its, and then assimilating them into a clear vision. This works for any change you want to accomplish. When you know exactly what you want you can align and prioritise your actions to help you achieve it.

Key Success Factor 2: Do a realistic assessment of your starting point

Once you have clarity, the next step is do a very realistic assessment of where you are now. An assessment of where you are strong, where you have differentiators, where you have got resources, people, finances and other things that can help you. Make sure you are really clear about them because you are going to need all of those things in order to make the change as efficiently and effectively as possible. Know where you want to go, be super clear about that, and also be really realistic about your starting point.

Key Success Factor 3: Make a plan – even if you don’t know for sure what the steps are

Now all of this sounds beautifully logical doesn’t it? Work out where you want to go.  Start out where you are now, and then build a plan to take you and your business from here to there. A plan is essential, and it needs to focus on those things that are going to make the most significant difference to your progress.

If you don’t know how you are going to move forward, guess. Have a go. Talk to people and find out. Look at people who have done similar things to you, even in a different sector, or different area, and ask yourself what you can learn from. Map out where you think these main focus areas need to be, and then go for it. Find the most achievable next action you can take, then do it. Find the next, then do that. And so on… Create momentum. It works much better than trying to progress in fits and starts.

Key Success Factor 4: Keep focused AND create contingencies

To de-risk your transition, make sure you don’t put all of your hopes and dreams into one thing. Now, focus is really important. I’m not suggesting at all that you change your goal, rather that you have some flexibility and back up plans to make sure you achieve it.

For instance, never, ever over-rely on just one or two customers. Make sure you don’t over rely on just one or two ways of marketing (the recent outage of Facebook and Instagram was a good warning for that).

I have learned from my corporate career, my experience as a business coach, and as a business owner myself, that it is so important to have contingency options. These are alternative actions you can take if your original plans don’t work out the way you’d hoped.

For example, I see some new coaches and consultants over-rely on a single contract or small number of clients when they leave employment and start their own business. They are so concerned that they are not going to make enough money to survive and prosper that they take on a big contract, maybe an interim contract for a client, that pulls them into working more for that client than they would like to. They end up feeling like they have got another job, just with different terms and conditions.

I completely understand that and know that sometimes we have got to do what we have got to do to make the money, to fund just not just everyday life, but also the business that we want to build. I was there when I started my business about 8 years ago. But at the same time, it’s also important to to ask ourselves: “Is this taking us forward? Is this actually de-risking my business, yes or no?”

Creating contingencies is super important to having a healthy business, and also your flexibility as well.

Key Success Factor 5: Make sure that you have a clear value proposition

Clarity is a bit of a theme, isn’t it! I can’t emphasise enough how being able to articulate your new value proposition for your changed or transformed business in a punchy, clear and compelling way will accelerate your success and hone your focus.

Definition of value proposition

Your value proposition is the value that you promise to deliver for your customers in your business. It can be articulated as a business or marketing statement and shows a potential customer that you offer will add more value or better solve a problem for them than other similar offerings will.

Get out there, talk to people, especially, talk to potential customers, test and refine your value proposition. You don’t have to be completely ready with all your proposition. Do some research, find out what customers need and are interested in. When you put your proposition together make sure that you are really close to what your target customers want and need.

Key Success Factor 6: Know that it’s an emotional journey

Any sort of significant change is an emotional journey as well. I think it is really important to bear that in mind. There are ups and downs, moment of elation when you get that big contract win, or something goes your way, you do an amazing presentation, or your product passes all the safety tests, or whatever it is. Those significant milestones, you have moments of elation, and they are wonderful when you are in business.

Then there are times when it is tough. When you think, “well I thought this was a good idea, but is it really? I thought I was good at this, am I really?”

Sometimes business growth and change can challenge your self-confidence.

All of this is really normal, it is part of the journey. So please, if nothing else from this article remember that you are going to get there, and you can do it if you stay focused and keep doing the work. It’s about persistence, tenacity, perseverance. It’s about keeping on trying different things. Be smart about it and learn from your mistakes because very few businesses get everything right first time. I have worked with so many businesses that are really successful, and they get there because they try, they experiment, they learn, and they adapt as they go.

Key Success Factor 7: Get some great, expert support

Whatever stage of the journey you are at, find a great business mentor, or business coach, who can work alongside you. Find the business education that you need, in terms of short courses and online programmes. I would love to explore working with you as your business coach on a one-to-one basis, or inside my very affordable Idea Time Membership, which costs just £42 plus vat per month. Less than half the price of a daily flat white from your favourite coffee shop!

If you do choose to invest in a business coach, please invest in someone (like me! :]) who is qualified, who has a track record, and can help you work through some of the challenges of starting and growing a business, in a way that will absolutely help you.


Get in touch, in confidence

If I can help at all, anything you want to bounce off me, you are thinking of making the jump, or you are thinking of taking your business to the next level, and investing more, and doing more, then do get in touch. I will answer any questions that you have for me. Contact me direct and in confidence at jo@ideatime.co.uk.

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