Why You Need A Better Business Blueprint

BY Faisal Hoque

Nimble, newer businesses have been thriving across the globe by thinking differently, always innovating and bringing the best customer experience possible. Yet, many businesses constantly struggle to juggle management, sales, marketing, customer service, distribution, and finance.

Along the path to success, businesses are swiftly approaching a cliff they don't anticipate. A growing number of businesses have stopped growing. They were left behind as their landscape transformed and their niche was replaced or reinvented. As the risk takers made a leap ahead, those businesses lost once loyal customers.

The solution is a 360-degree operating blueprint that connects the dots between creating a new concept to growing a sustainable business.

Most businesses are born from curiosity, or even frustration, that fosters continuous innovation.

A successful business is always seeking a better way to do something new, or improve upon something that's essential but could become obsolete. It's that kind of thinking that compelled a blacksmith in Illinois to create a smooth-sided steel plow to replace the wooden and iron ones that were getting stuck and dirty in the rich Midwestern sod. John Deere's 1836 innovation boosted migration into the American Great Plains in the 19th and early 20th century, transforming the region into America's breadbasket and setting the foundation for what has become the world's leading manufacturer of agricultural machinery.

Today's farmers, who still rely on Deere equipment, can communicate across the plains with Beck Ag, a virtual company of employees and contractors working out of their homes. Its Facebook-like network allows American and Canadian farmers to share ideas on reducing production costs, increasing profits, and improving marketing. Beck Ag also connects large agribusiness suppliers and vendors with farmers to alert them to the latest research, news and products, and to exchange opinions on those products.

Create a 360-degree blueprint for building a business.

An examination of a business ecosystem requires an interconnected 360-degree operating blueprint. It requires an end to short-term reactive thinking. In today's increasingly unpredictable business climate, there are a number of operating challenges that must be addressed repeatedly. Some of the most critical are:

•Accurately evaluating growth potential

•Developing sustainable processes to reach or exceed revenue growth goals

•Implementing strategies for building sustainable brand recognition, in concert with building brilliant management teams

•Demonstrating progressive, provable, repeatable results that will sustain a business today and tomorrow.

An operating blueprint provides two strategic enablers:

•360˚ Enterprise Models: the ability to visualize the end-to-end business goals and execution strategies before beginning costly and often irreversible strategy implementations. Whether for process, organization, or technology, these models create the opportunity to ask "what-if" questions and test scenarios that help vet problems and issues early on.

•Impact Analyses and Scenarios: with which to alter factors, create multiple output scenarios, evaluate the end-to-end impact of each scenario, and arrive at the optimal solution.

An operating blueprint allows an organization to work together based on converged intelligence of market opportunities, execution capabilities, and business model differentiations.

No contractor would build a house without blueprints, and the business management operational structure and processes are no different. The old 20th-century methods of guesstimation must be replaced with precise metrics and provable outcomes.

These operating blueprints should include the following set of ongoing analyses:

•Business models and market positioning

•Growth strategy and execution capabilities

•Governance and organizational models

•Process and technology

•Investment allocations

•Business dependencies and scenarios

•Capabilities needed to innovate, change, and efficiently operate against a set of financial indices

Properly implemented, operating blueprints allow businesses to prioritize and guide improved performance, value, and sustainable growth. Clearly, new ideas, strategies, and management tools are essential as the business climate changes. In today's volatile market, the success for an enterprise is often driven by its ability to recognize significant challenges and immediately identify the strategic imperatives necessary to address them.

While nothing new, accomplishing such goals in today's global climate requires new organizational structures, creating and sharing new kinds of business knowledge, understanding and applying emerging socio-economic models, and developing repeatable, reusable transformational processes.

The operating blueprints provide the basis for a predictive, sustainable business plan for managing challenges and opportunities for growth and success in the future.

Creating Your Personal Brand

When people think about you, what comes to mind first? Is it a good thought or is it an unflattering thought? What do they know about you? What’s your personal brand? What do you stand for? You can think of your personal brand as a positioning statement. It can help you open doors, it can get you introduced to people you might not ever have the opportunity to meet, and it can make people want to spend time and money with you.
Consider your personal brand to be a promise of what others will experience from you. When you think of it that way, what comes to mind? 
How do you discover your own personal brand? Dan Schawbel in a 2009 article titled “Personal Branding 101,” said when you think you have discovered your brand, you have to see if your self-impression matches with what others think about you. Then you have to discover how your brand fits into the business landscape. It’s always good to select a niche where you don’t have too many competitors, a place where you can grow your business and your brand. 
What’s your niche for your personal brand? We’re naturally blurring the lines between business and self, and that’s okay because people often see us as our business. Does your personal brand include integrity? Do you show integrity in everything you do both for your business and for your personal life? Just like building a brand for your company can help people know your company, creating a personal brand helps people know what to expect when they deal with you.
If you haven’t thought about a personal brand, it’s something you should consider. Of course, you may have one and you don’t realize it.

How to Turn a Relationship Into a Sale

Sales teams that focus on relationships quickly learn the value of providing personal and professional value to clients rather than focusing solely on the sale.
The impact of relationship building with your customers may surprise you. Ferrazzi Greenlight's study of 16 Global Account Teams (PDF) showed that these strategic, relationship-focused teams grew their accounts at least twice as fast as regular transactionally-focused account teams. This happened despite the fact that the relationship-focused teams worked on the company's largest, most mature accounts — the most difficult to expand rapidly because they were already so large.
Why? People do business with people they know and like. And people like people who focus on their success. That means a sales call is a success if it advances your customers' cause and builds the relationship, not just if it closes a transaction.
This won't be news to most salespeople, who excel at building relationships. What can be hard for many sales people is turning the ongoing conversation of a relationship into a transaction.
The good news is that transactions often happen as a matter of course when sales teams focus on building great relationships with generosity.
Generosity Without Expectations of Tit for Tat
One of the things I advise salespeople to do is to be prepared with five packets of generosity and no expectations. Do the homework required to go into each meeting with a list of five ways to make the person you're meeting successful. That's what's going to arrest people's attention and make them willing to develop a closer relationship with you.
Become a Trusted Advisor.
Essentially, the key is to stay focused on your customer's success. The bottom line is that you have to believe in "the ask." It will be difficult to feel good if you're selling snake oil. But if you believe "the ask" is generous, with low barrier to entry but huge opportunities for return, "the ask" becomes just another piece of generosity.
And Yet, the Path from Relationship to Transaction Can Be Hard.
After so much authentic concern for the success of your customer, sales people can hesitate, reluctant to appear to be capitalizing on the relationship and somehow tarnish it. But if you have truly built a great relationship, you can be exploratory about it. During a lull in the conversation, just ask: "You know what I do. How can I be of service to you?" The open endedness of that question will let you see if the ripeness is there for the transaction. If they reply "Tell me a little bit more," they've opened up the whole dialog about your products. Leaving it open ended gives the client the opportunity to shape the discussion so that they'll never feel pushed. And your relationship earns you the time to go deep, which can be required to differentiate today's complex solutions.
Moving from relationship building to selling boils down to asking two questions:
1. Have I been truly generous to this individual, and earned enough trust that they're ready to listen to my "ask"?
2. Do I 100% believe in the value of the solution I'm offering? If the answer to those two questions is yes, you'll often find a transaction further deepens your relationship with your customer.