As the CEO of JCurve Solutions, a company that’s focused on empowering growth for small businesses through technology, Stephen Canning has heard a lot of advice. He reveals the worst that he’s received to help you steer clear of it.
The Worst Advice I’ve Heard About Business Strategy
Developing your business strategy is a lot like being an early explorer aiming to discover the next postulated continent. You start out with a map detailing what you know right now. As you build your business plan to include financial requirements, resource planning and ROI, the blank spaces on that map are filled in. You can then begin charting your course towards the direction of your business goals.
Just like the early explorers, opinions and advice are sure to be volunteered from sources aplenty. The right advice will help you navigate the unknown and make it a memorable journey. The wrong advice can be like rough waters encountered along the way, obstructing or slowing down the course towards your objective. Knowing the difference can often be as simple as considering how the advice aligns with your business strategy and plan.
Here are some of the worst pieces of advice that I’ve encountered on my journey as a CEO. I hope these can serve as warning signs on your business maps and steer you away from dangerous waters.
“Just follow your passion.”
Passion is certainly an important part of the mix. But creating a profitable business is all about your customers. Passion for your business is something will provide personal fulfilment but will that alone meet your customers’ needs? Not likely. Customers buy products and services to meet their own needs. The wiser investment for that passion is to use it to deliver an awesome experience to customers. That’s what they’ll remember and what will keep them coming back to your business.
“It is not what you know; it’s who you know.”
There’s no doubt that personal connections can be very useful when creating a business. But just because you aren’t well connected doesn’t mean you can’t build and run a great business. Build the connections as you go.
In the digital age, networking and building long-lasting business relationships have become more accessible than ever. Social networking services like LinkedIn can help you find and connect with complimentary and like-minded businesses, and services like Meetup and Eventbrite can connect you with people at industry and similar-interest events.
“Offer the lowest prices.”
Many new businesses fall into the trap of differentiating themselves by offering the lowest prices. But that’s rarely sustainable. It can severely reduce your profit, devalue the products or services you’re selling, and can have a negative impact on your reputation over time.
There will always be another company prepared to undercut you to win business. Instead, focus on how to deliver the best value and the best experience to your customers. Whatever you’re selling, the quality of your communication, your staff, and the overall service that goes towards making those sales should not be underestimated as a key differentiator.
“Social media is the trend, so you need to be online now.”
Social media is indeed the trend today, and most businesses are making an investment to establish a strong social media presence. In fact, many companies are using social media to leverage trending topics and garner more attention through carefully tailored content. However, diving into social media without considering your wider marketing, PR, and communication strategies can lead to more harm than good.
Is your message consistent with your marketing strategy? Is it reflecting your company values and objectives and tone? How will your staff handle online feedback, especially if it’s not positive? There’s an art to managing online feedback that can either improve your company image when handled well or rock the boat when mishandled.
Make sure you’re equipped for what social media can bring and consider starting with one channel at a time until you have a well-oiled social media machine in place. Also, focus on the platforms with which your audience is most likely to be engaged. Are your potential customers spending their time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn? Concentrate on the right ones, and you’ll be far more likely to see success.
“Wing it until something sticks.”
This is like going out into the vast ocean without a map or a direction. Not having a strategy, not planning for the right headcount, or not formulating a game plan when it comes to the year ahead, can set you up for failure.
Vague and ambiguous business goals like “being different” or “aim to become the best in the business” are ambiguous terms that don’t serve to inform staff or customers about the underlying business proposition.
Develop a strong story – why does your business exist and what problems does it solve for customers? Be clear about what your company stands for, what it aims to achieve, and identify SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely) business goals.
“Don’t research the market. Build it and they will come.”
That’s kind of like saying “Build a ship and you’ll discover new land”. You need some navigational skill to arrive at your destination safely, and that’s what researching the market will give you. If you don’t know where your potential customers are, or who they are, how will you sell to them? Understanding the market means understanding what will feed your income, grow your business, and ultimately keep your doors open.
“Leave your personal goals out of the equation.”
Top-performing athletes and successful entrepreneurs from many fields set personal goals for themselves. Why shouldn’t you? Your personal goals likely played a part to why you went into business and can be a strong driver for seeing success in business.
Your personal goals can keep you motivated and enthusiastic about your business. And, in turn, they can help motivate those working with you. Therefore, you should include them in your business plan. Remember, you’re not just setting goals for personal success but also goals that will translate into the success of the business.
And there you have it. Some of the worst pieces of advice I’ve heard. Whether you’re just starting to map things out or have already cast your sails, you’ve likely received advice that’s needed some consideration. Be sure to think about how that advice aligns with your business strategy and plan. That can be the key to knowing which advice to listen to and which may lead you into treacherous waters.