By Mariel Devesa, Head of Product Innovation, Farmers Insurance®
As businesses fight to grow and survive, leaders often become overburdened by the multitude of responsibilities they bear. Nearly two thirds of small business owners surveyed by the National Federation of Independent Business said they need to delegate more responsibilities to improve productivity.
The pressures of owning a company or managing a major product line aren't going to magically vanish. However, the following steps can help break major strategic goals into bite-sized initiatives:
1. Visualization isn't just for athletes
Take the time to visualize where you want to take your company, as well as how your products and services can best serve your customer base. Spending even a few minutes visualizing the future can help break overarching goals down into more achievable projects with specific milestones that become easier to reach. This may be as easy as committing to action, as nearly two out of every three small businesses owners believe visualization can help them map and develop plans for the future.
2. Keep your eyes on the prize
It's easy to get distracted with the next "shiny new thing." At some point, you'll face limitations with time, money, and/or resources. It's important to stay focused on your core business, especially when your resources are limited. Ask yourself if this glittery object advances your mission. If it doesn't, pass. Being mercilessly true to your mission can help prevent your organization from getting stretched too thin, bogged down in tasks that may not align with or support your growth, or just aimlessly following the latest trend.
3. Commit to continuous learning
Studies have shown that lifelong learning can positively impact a variety of aspects of our lives, including our health, finances and social lives...so why not extend that same approach to your business? Devoting the time to deeply understanding competitors' offerings and how leaders in similar or adjacent industries are excelling is critical, whether you're looking to create a new business from scratch or grow an existing business's product line. To truly differentiate yourself, carefully study and identify gaps in the marketplace; then use that knowledge to create your own unique offering that capitalizes on previously unrecognized opportunity.
Partnering with adjacent industry stakeholders (who don't directly compete with you) can create "win-win" opportunities in many cases and returns beyond your organization's independent capacity. Based on ongoing marketplace research, are there other stakeholders whose customer bases overlap with yours? Could marketing your product through a partner's channels help diversify the offerings to its customers or boost its revenue? If so, spend time cultivating these partnerships to maximize the impact of your investments and actions.
5. Measure, measure and measure some more
You've committed to being a lifelong learner, built fruitful partnerships and created a roadmap to success through visualization and achievable goals. All of this work is for naught if you don't institute the appropriate metrics and measures to serve as key performance indicators. It's not just about measuring something--you must measure the right metrics for your organization to make a difference. For instance, a pilot program that may not generate meaningful revenue in its first year or two may not be best measured by revenue growth--but rather, by the access it provides to valuable information about specific customer sets that you hadn't otherwise been able to quantify, or increased interaction with your customer.
Many of today's greatest staples were ridiculed when first rolled out. (Remember the Internet? It was only for academics!) Don't be afraid to take risks and try something new, especially if you think it will satisfy a well-researched, unmet need for your customers or gap in the marketplace. While leaders must be willing to stomach some calculated risk to spur innovation and ensure disruptors don't pass them by, they can put themselves in the best position to manage these risks by gaining confidence.