Management Basics - The 7 Core Essentials

Part 2 of Gary Hart's series of articles discussing basic management techniques. The 7 core essentials of a successful business. Can you answer yes to his questions?

By Gary Hart

There are no magic wands, special potions or over the counter products that are going to help you fix your business. You are not going to wake up tomorrow to find better pricing options or the networks gone for good. The issues in the AGRR industry are here to stay. You are going to have to change the way you do business.

Chances are, you have been deep in the trenches of your business since day one and have never taken the time to really assess it from a distance. Business owners from profitable and flourishing businesses will tell you that they can trace their success back to a few fundamentals--a clear sense of direction and purpose, making good decisions at the right time, keeping their customers first and learning from their own mistakes. These fundamentals beg the following question of you: Have you given any clear thought and taken action to take back your business or are you still waiting for the magic cure?

Let's start with identifying the areas you will need to examine and take action on. There are seven areas in all businesses that make up the "core essentials." They are: strategy, customer, process, people, relationships, learning and alignment. These core essentials are the foundation from which you will build and maintain a successful business. Most severe business issues can be traced back to an imbalance of these essentials.

Regardless of the industry or size of the company, lackluster performance is an indicator of one or more missing essentials, whether weak or ineffectively applied. In taking a look at each core essential, you should be able to identify the areas in which you will need to take action. Given the size of this article, I will stick to the high level objectives of each.

Strategy - Establishes and sets the overall objective for the business as well as how it will be accomplished. The day-to-day grind can draw attention away from your long-term intentions, so it is crucial that you establish a clear strategy you can refer back to time and time again. Can you answer "yes" to each of the following?

  • Our business has a clear strategy (i.e. mission, vision, goals, and approach).
  • We operate our business against a well-defined business plan.
  • Planning is done and investments are made to overcome barriers and outpace our competitors.
  • We grow our business by leveraging technology (e.g. Internet, e-commerce).

Customer - Understanding of the customer drives the business, from defining the products and services you offer to how they will be sold and marketed. The best companies strive not only to understand their customers, but they partner with them and involve the customer in critical business decisions to help mold and shape the core business processes. Can you answer "yes" to each of the following?

  • Our business understands our industry and how we target and resell to our customers (and how our competitors target our customers).
  • Our negotiations produce a win-win-win for our customers, our suppliers and us.
  • We know what our customers think about us and about what we provide to them.
  • We use technology effectively to reach our customers.

Process - "The way the work gets done!" Processes that are essential to the business in its delivery of products and services are understood by all involved. Process is about engineering how work is managed and how it is accomplished, keeping quality under control and continually improving performance by reducing or eliminating waste and redundancies. Your company's processes are a business asset. Can you answer "yes" to each of the following?

  • Our core business processes are understood by those who manage and perform them.
  • We improve processes by eliminating inefficiencies such as wasted time, effort, costs (e.g. automating manual
  • paper" processes).
  • Our business processes produce predictable results that meet business needs.
  • We have developed and follow clearly defined operating guidelines that help us manage the day-to-day operations.

People - How you manage and lead your people determines their ability to succeed. People do the work that makes your business either succeed or fail. Can you answer "yes" to each of the following?

  • Our people understand our business goals and priorities.
  • We define positions to meet our business objectives.
  • We assign people to positions to leverage their skills, talents and interests.
  • Our employees can say "I understand what is expected of me."

Relationships - The outcome of business decisions most often is influenced and determined by the quality of the relationships you develop. One of the single most important determinants of personal and professional success is the ability to build, manage and maintain key relationships that strategically affect the perception of our value. Can you answer "yes" to each of the following?

  • We leverage business relationships with vendors and partners to grow our business and deliver better value for our customers.
  • Our employees would say our company fosters a sense of teamwork.
  • Our employees can say that they can easily communicate their ideas, challenges and issues and be heard by management.
  • We effectively manage problem employees.

Learning - Learning from customer feedback, self-assessment and exploration of the best practices in your industry leads to the continual improvement and success of your business. Can you answer "yes" to each of the following?

  • We diagnose recurring problems and take action to prevent future problems.
  • We learn through sharing insights and best practices with other businesses in our industry.
  • We take what we've learned and are able to make the changes needed in how we run our business.

Alignment - Alignment captures and pulls together the previous six essentials to maximize their potential toward your business' mission, strategic intentions and goals. Aligning work decisions to the company's strategy transforms expenses into incremental investments that accumulate to meet the strategic objectives. Can you answer "yes" to each of the following?

  • Understanding of customers' needs drives our business strategy.
  • Employees know our business strategy and have individual goals that relate to it.
  • Employees are fully committed to driving the success of our company.

Phew! That was a lot to take in but by now you should be drawing the conclusion that there is a lot of ground to cover and there is much work to be done to get on the right track. Success certainly depends on hard work and if you take the time to work in each one of the areas I've discussed, you will see measurable improvement in your overall business. Small changes make some of the most dramatic statements.

Next Friday we'll go through part 3.

No reproduction, in print, electronic or any form without the expressed written permission of
Key Communications Inc. 540-720-5584.