January 15, 2016
By Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager

Jacki HartIt’s a new year…Time for fresh ideas, new energy, renewed hope, refreshed goals. After 10 years of writing this column, I spent some time last fall reviewing highlights from each year’s articles, and the feedback I’ve received. Hands down, what seems to resonate the most are checklists and steps I’ve shared over the years. All were directed at making improvements and moving toward Prosperity in business.

So, now that 2016 is upon us and a new season is on the horizon, I offer you my prioritized list of business improvement steps. In my experience from mentoring hundreds of business owners, these steps represent the most direct route to sustained improvement for our Prosperity Partners members:

Clarify culture

Who is your company? This is not to be confused with what your company does or offers — see my column from Jan. 2013, featuring Start with WHY by Simon Sinek. What are the non-negotiable values in your business? What do believe in? What is unique about what happens behind the scenes, between staff and customers?

This is about defining your foundation; your culture. It’s a particularly crucial step to take if you’re having trouble attracting right-fit people, which is something you simply can’t do if you don’t have a clear definition of what right fit is.

Establish strategic focus

Why does your business exist, and what are you ultimately trying to create by being in business? Where is the company headed, and with which service and/or product offerings? By taking this step, you are setting the context for your business. This becomes the filter through which vast information you take in (online offerings or information) is either discarded or adopted. Context is the way we process the information overload we wade through every time we go online to source resources, and become absorbed in irrelevant content. Time is money, and without intentionally defining your strategic focus, you may find yourself wasting many valuable hours of desk time trying to figure out what’s relevant and what’s not.

Create structure

Strategic focus will support and drive your strategy, not the other way around: Strategy drives structure. Strategy determines what fits (including people and positions) and what doesn’t. Structure is the implementation plan for your strategy. Be careful not to create business strategies around personalities, or the talents (or lack thereof) of various employees. The template we call structure is used to determine what positions to create and people to fill them (corporate structure), which should be driven primarily by your strategic focus. A plan or corporate structure may also extend past human resources to include facilities specifications, equipment complement, administrative planning, etc.

Align people

One of the most effective ways to increase productivity (and profit) is to reduce or eliminate unproductive friction. Use the Prosperity Partners planning work that you do as a result of our workshops, to establish your core values, company purpose and corporate vision, your strategy and its resulting structure. It’s invaluable in helping you to seamlessly maintain and fuel alignment of people and purpose, and to engage the highest potential of individual passion and talent.

Improve productivity

Clarity and alignment, combined with the addition of accountability, will launch productivity to new heights. In order to maximize productivity, it’s human nature to know what is considered good, bad and outstanding. By setting clear targets, goals and benchmarks, you can establish better team collaboration, alignment, and productivity. Make sure that your culture insists everyone checks their ego at the door, and watch them soar. Productivity can be remarkably improved when the company culture supports accountability, where people know when to step up and when to step back, when to own their mistakes, and their victories.

Attract right fit business

When you engage your valuable resources in wrong fit contracts, customers, markets, etc., you run the risk of wasted efforts which not only contribute to increased costs, but distract people and materials from more profitable work and potential. You will best gain forward momentum by engaging your team (and company advocates, which includes loyal customers, subtrades, suppliers, etc.) in a collaborative culture for mutual improvement and success. Get really clear on what right fit is, and go for it. Ignore wrong fit. It took me years to learn to stand my ground so to speak, and realize that some work would turn out more profitable if not acquired at all. There have been memorable occasions in my career, when I’ve realized (and on occasion, articulated to a client) that the company would make more profit if it were to send staff and equipment home rather than engage with the customer’s project on their unreasonable terms. Know what you do really well, who you sell to that appreciates your offering, and do what you promise to, and when. That’s the right fit. And it’s profitable.

By considering an intentional plan for moving your business through these six important foundational phases of business improvement, it sets the stage for solid momentum to Prosperity, improved profit and growth.

If you’re looking for guidance on how to get started, email prosperity@landscapeontario.com. We’d love to sign you up for our next session, and get you started (or re-started) on your road to prosperity.