You Are Here
In the era of the GPS, lost isn’t the way it once was, when you were forced to pull over, extricate an old map long squeezed into the glove compartment, and try to find a tertiary road inevitably located in an unreadable crease or obliterated by a tear. Today a well-spoken disembodied lady tells us where and when to turn to find our way to our destination even if we don’t have a clue where we are.
The GPS is a wonderful tool, but it can only fulfill its mission because it knows exactly where we are at every moment. And knowing where you are is the essential first step to knowing how to get where you want to go. It’s the digital equivalent of being in front of one of those big maps in malls or theme parks where a crucial “You Are Here” dot orients you to your next move to get to the giraffe parking lot.
Unfortunately, there’s no automatic GPS for your business, no handy gadget that can tell you which way to go and when to make a move to achieve your desired destination. The closest thing your company has to a GPS is your business plan. Your plan can point your business in the right direction, but, like your GPS, it only works if you know two things: where you are and where you want to go.
If you are in Newark, Delaware, trying to get to Philadelphia, and your GPS thinks you are in Newark, New Jersey, you may find yourself deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains before ever coming close to the City of Brotherly Love when you discover you should have been going north rather than south. But if you know exact location and your destination, all the rest is just a matter of developing a logical route for connecting the dots. The journey, not the starting or ending point, is the issue.
The problem with business planning is that, more often than not, you set off on your journey without knowing one or more of those coordinates exactly. You want to achieve success―perhaps you even have a sales figure in mind as a goal―and you begin your journey again each business day. But how can you go forth to reach that goal if you don’t know your starting-off point. Where are you? Where is your business? Where do you stand with your customers? What is your position vis-à-vis your competitors? How prepared are you to meet current―let alone, new―customer needs or prospects’ demands? You don’t really know where you are until you can answer those questions and more.
As to your destination, you may have a sales figure in mind, but are sure that you can achieve that number with your present offerings? Equipment? Services? Staff? Resources? If your goal is just an arbitrary number, perhaps some percentage above your current sales that seems to look good on paper, that goal is just a hope, not a logical end point.
If you say your goal is to increase sales 10% over 2014, but your approach to doing so is to say you will make more sales calls or be more motivated, your chances of finding your way to your destination are slim indeed. If you have identified your customers’ new needs, determined that you have the resources to add a skilled employee and the required equipment to meet them, and set up a plan to train your sales staff in how to sell those services effectively, your destination is to increase sales 10% with a viable plan.
How to determine where you are? A good starting place is a SWOT (strengths/weaknesses-opportunities/threats) analysis of your company. That will give you a good idea of what’s going on inside. If you can gather enough information and perform a basic SWOT analysis about your competitors, you will also have a view of the environment in which you exist.
One more perspective is necessary: an analysis of your customers and how you interact with them. An effective tool for this part of the process is the NAPL eKG Competitive Edge Profile,™ a proprietary survey tool that measures how your customers perceive you, how they rate you against your competitors, and how they judge you in those areas they consider most important to them.
Looking at your company, its environment, and its relationship with its all-important customers, will tell you exactly where you are right now. Armed with that knowledge, you can start creating a strategic and tactical plan that will take you where you want to go.