Time to get your guiding principles for your business in order.
Read the books, they’ll all say the same thing: a business needs a direction and a destination. Short term, long term… whatever. Just make sure you’ve got a clear track in sight and in mind.
Many people think of their SME and think either ‘my baby!’ or ‘I’m gonna be a millionaaaire!’ But interestingly, you need both mindsets. Financial AND emotional. The track has to be pointing in a healthy direction for both.
Guiding principles for SMEs
Running a business that’s doing well is a bit like holding the tail of a charging elephant; it’s hard to stay in control. So now you’ve signed up for this ride, you’ll need something to keep you on track during the day-to-day: what I call guiding principles, statements or pillars. These principles will usually be short sentences; prisms through which you can filter all activity and scenarios – no matter how complex – to keep your business on track.
Sometimes you can be bang on target regarding your principles (preferable); other times only loosely in the ballpark (forgivable) but these simple pillars allow you to remain confident that things are, on the whole, pulling in the right direction.
I want to share with you a guiding principle I used when my business began to turn over big numbers. (Because, by the way, money can really turn your head).
We all took to the wilds of the New Forest to come up with a suitable plan. I was aware of the pitfalls of ‘doing well’ and the main guiding principle we settled on – one that was designed to keep us ahead of the customer experience and which came to define how we did business over the next five years – was:
“Is it as good as it can be?”
These eight little words saved us from selling our souls to the devil for a bit of the green stuff. It kept us focussed on our true priority: our customers’ happiness. It allowed us to maintain some level of control. It kept us on course with our wider vision and destination and weaved its way into every nook and cranny of the business in record time.
Because it could be applied to everything, literally everything.
Invariably most things were not “as good as it can be”. The maxim was, in reality, an unreachable goal but it allowed us to maintain standards and keep striving for customer-experience excellence. It instilled a process of continual review and, interestingly, a barometer. Sometimes we’d discover that things in a certain area WERE as good as they can be. They became a non-issue and we could place our eye elsewhere.
Everyone was saying it around the office: “Is it as good as it can be?” It was hypnotic; effective. It also crucially stopped us all moaning for the sake of moaning. “I’ve got an issue with the booking process!” “Well, does the booking process reflect the fullest capabilities of the current resource? Is it, therefore, as good as it can be? Yes? Then move on.” Man, we nearly had t-shirts printed.
The business evolved. We chose different principles; we evolved, diversified and regrouped around new objectives… but that particular phrase stayed for good. It kept us on track, striving for the elusive outstanding customer experience.
What are your guiding principles?