7 secrets of fabulous businesses


I am often asked what characterises a successful business versus an unsuccessful one. 
Despite the plethora of books on the subject, not to mention a gazillion blogs from self proclaimed guru’s, the reality is that there are as many different answers as there are people willing to offer them.
However, over the years I have come to realise that, whatever the number or complexity of the variables that are at play in any business, there are some pretty sure-fire ways to increase the likelihood of a business being successful. 
I thought I would share seven of those characteristics with you. These are not the seven secrets of fabulous businesses – they are just seven of the secrets, of which the total number is, well, goodness knows how many.

1. A compelling and meaningful vision. If a business does not have a vision, it does not have a dream. Any venture, from a business to an assault on Everest, needs a dream to provide direction, to keep it alive, to motivate those involved through the tough bits.
Go lie in the bath, stick your toe up the tap and think BIG thoughts about your business; what you dream about it becoming, what you dream about it doing for its customers, what you dream about it contributing to the future of its stakeholders. And when you’ve cracked that one, set about making it come alive in everything that you think, say and do in, around, for and to, your business.

2. A market orientation. If there is only one place that the money comes from (and there is – it comes from customers) then it makes a certain irrefutable sense to orientate everything that a business is toward the market, ‘cos that’s where the customer is. A market oriented business is designed from the customer up. A market oriented business makes what it can sell (others sell what they can make – that’s a production orientation). A market oriented business thinks, breathes and acts with its radar firmly pointed toward the market which it allows to be the primary (not the only) driving force.

3. A sound marketing plan. No real mystery here and no MBA required. A sound marketing plan is nothing more than a navigational plan that is prepared under three broad headings – Where am I now? Where do I want to be? What do I have to do to get there? 
As a business becomes more complex then the navigation gets a bit more complex but the core structure of the plan doesn’t change. Frankly, a single sheet of loo-paper that addresses these three broad headings properly will constitute a better plan than either the non-existent ones or the overly complex ones you will find in many business that should know better. 

4. An instrument panel. Imagine what navigating a ship or an aircraft would be like if, despite the existence of a navigational plan, there were no instruments to tell you where you were, what course you were on, how high you were above the ground, what your speed was and how much fuel you had left. Got that mental picture? Then you now know pretty much.

5. Nurture your baby. Your baby is your brand and even “Bill Smith Plumbing” is a brand. Your brand is where the relationship exists with customers and potential customers and it needs to be meticulously managed, nurtured and nourished. Decide how you want the market to perceive your brand and set about ensuring that you deliver that in every tiny detail of everything your business does.

6. Understand added value. Offer a better hamburger and the guy across the street will match it in an instant. Find some way of adding real value for a customer and you will build sustainable competitive advantage. Take the trouble to research the concept of added value and work hard to find ways to apply the concept in a manner appropriate to your business and your customers.

7. Only hire fabulous people. Your business is too important for you to hire ordinary staff – to do so increases the risk of failure, exponentially. Make sure that every member of your staff, irrespective of their role, is a microcosm of your brand. 
Apply the three non-negotiables of hiring fabulous people – they must be mature (not necessarily a chronological measure!), they must exhibit social skills (i.e. the ability to interact well with other human beings) and they must have a tolerance for contact with other human beings. You can tell if these characteristics are present in about five minutes – or less! Anything less will not do – don’t bother with a second interview!

I can’t promise that if you do all of these things outstandingly well that your business will survive and thrive but I can and will say that the chances of that happening will go through the roof. Go do it. And good luck!
Brian Meredith is CEO of The Marketing Bureau (www.themarketingbureau.co.nz). Email brian@themartketingbureau.co.nz