It is not just how fast you ran, but whether you finally won the marathon! | Daily News
From crisis to sustenance – Part 09

It is not just how fast you ran, but whether you finally won the marathon!

Unless you use modern techniques, it is not easy to tackle the tough decisions in today’s high-pressure business environment and deliver the results your company needs for sustained growth. Most of the modern high-profiled companies follow proven principles to meet the increasing demands (especially in times of crisis) to do more, deliver more and increase more – while keeping stress low and morale high.

Chuck Martin, New York Times Business Best Selling author, offers 7 good tips.

1. Use clear and frequent communication to align those who execute strategies with those who create them.

2. Prioritize the results, identify actions needed to achieve them, and building consensus on what it will take to get the job done,

3. Make the tough decisions in a timely and constructive manner,

4. Change direction at a moment’s notice in order to keep pace with changing customer and company needs,

5. Become an indispensable asset by aligning more closely with company values,

6. Foster teamwork, total information sharing and learning culture,

7. Reward good work and giving people everything they need to do their best.

Let us move on a bit further.

In today’s business, the SMART model of decision-making is an important tool for drawing conclusions. The model relies on several steps that lead to setting goals and making decisions. The “S” in SMART is for specific or significant information, the “M” is for measurable or meaningful data, the “A” is for agreed-upon or actionable intelligence, as well as achievable standards, the “R” is for relevant information, as well as realistic goals, and the “T” is for time, as in the amount of time needed to make decisions and reach goals. Clearly, one of the most important elements of making any well-informed business decision is actionable data. So, what should you do?

1. Set clear objectives

Using the SMART mentality, you should be able to set clear business goals and objectives. An example of a business goal may be in the marketing department: to increase audience engagement. You’ll need to consider what this means and how to accomplish your objective.

First, you need to be specific and determine how you’re going to measure success. What does audience engagement mean? Is it the amount of time a visitor spends on a specific page, the number of return visits, or whether they sign up for membership or follow you on social media, for example?

Next you need to consider actions you can take to reach your goal of increased engagement, such as revamping your website or your marketing campaigns to increase interest. From there you’ll have to gather relevant information through testing, surveys, and metrics to see if your efforts are having the desired result.

Finally, you need to set a time frame for action, data collection, and review. Setting clear objectives, including gathering applicable data, is the overall best way to make smart business decisions consistently.

2. Rely on evidence

Making smart decisions requires that you have as full an understanding of a given situation as possible. In most scenarios, this means collecting data from a variety of sources. Returning to the objective of increasing audience engagement, gathering evidence on what isn’t working may be your first step. Experts in marketing and sales may provide information on why the copy or layout of a web page or an ad isn’t engaging audiences as anticipated. Metrics analysts can spot trends over time to pinpoint which efforts aren’t working and potentially why they’re falling short of expectations. This information is essential to making decisions about your strategy moving forward.

3. Understand your audience

Communication is an important part of any decision, whether you’re communicating with coworkers or with an audience. Of course, opening a dialogue with your audience is much more difficult than carrying on a conversation with coworkers.

In order to speak to your audience in a meaningful and productive way, you have to first understand them. There are several ways to go about accomplishing this goal. If at all possible, it’s always best to go right to the source and speak with audience members directly, which is why focus groups, commentary, and reviews are so important.

However, you can also track a variety of metrics to get a sense of what your audience likes and dislikes based on their responses. Suppose you see a lot of click-through on targeted ads, but very little follow-through once visitors reach your site.

Your metrics might indicate that the content in your ad doesn’t match up to your landing page, that your landing page isn’t attractive and engaging, or that there is a disconnect between customer expectations and the content you deliver.

This information can help you discover the problem and determine how best to go about fixing it in order to reach your business goals. It will help you interpret audience response and channel it into communication initiatives that speak to your audience. In short, it will help you make smart business decisions surrounding audience engagement.

4. Learn from your mistakes

Every undertaking has a learning curve, but mistakes only become failures if you don’t learn from them. It’s called a “decision-making process” because you will constantly learn and grow, incorporating experience and information into future goals and decisions, honing the process as you go.

5. Create contingency plans

The more you know, the better equipped you are to handle any situation with confidence. This begins with learning the tenets and techniques of proper communication so that you can plan accordingly and prepare for any outcome.

Making smart decisions that lead to success is ideal, but having a backup plan in place is just good business. You can never account for every potential roadblock or setback, but with proper education you have a starting point from which to begin building experience.

Additional advice

Let me add few more guidelines for making business decisions during difficult economic times.

1. Consider your business model

Don't lose sight of your business plan during tough times. Think about how the decisions will fit into the overall business model you have created, regardless of the economic indicators. Consider how you can make the decision cost less or conserve more resource, while continuing to provide a high-quality product or service.

2. Consider your customer base

Before making a decision, consider your customer base and the circumstances they are in. If you wish to introduce a new product, for example, think about whether your customers, will be interested in buying the product. Ultimately, your customers are the driving force behind your business, and you should be sensitive to their economic troubles and consider how each business decision you make can best serve them during the crisis.

3. Act quickly, but not reflexively, and plan contingencies.

Acute anxiety tends to provoke one of two responses - thoughtless activity or deer-in-the-headlights paralysis. Both are understandable but neither is helpful. The challenge is to be both fore-thoughtful about the decisions you will need to make and fearless and daring in implementing them at the appropriate time. Waiting to get specific until the wolf really is at the door will not make the choices any easier, but it will sharply increase the likelihood that the available options will be fewer and more draconian.

4. Identify the people who matter most and keep that group strong.

It’s often said that in good times you need good people; and in tough times you need great people. Every organization has a small group of people who are critical to its success—current and future. If you were to name your strongest performers, who would they be? These are the people who should be receiving the lion’s share of your attention, so that they can feel like allies and partners in keeping the organization focused on its mission and pulling through.

5. Stay very close to your key funders.

The banks and other financial lending organizations that know you best are the ones that are most likely to help you navigate this downturn. Remember that you don’t have to wait for your key funders to call you. You can—and should—use this as an opportunity to pick up the phone and call them: to let them know what you’re seeing and how you plan to respond; to explain the choices you’re making or expect to make; to ask whether they can be equally transparent with you about what they expect their payouts or donations to be over the next six to 18 months

Shape up your organization.

Running the kind of organizational marathon that a downturn triggers requires planning, focus, commitment, and stamina. The necessity for belt-tightening can facilitate hard-to-contemplate changes that could make your operations more efficient and your impact greater. Should you merge positions or programs? For example, could you out-source a provider to lower back-office costs, create economies of scale, or leverage best practices across operations?

Similarly, tough times can be the catalyst for taking advantage of low-cost opportunities to improve internal operations and make it easier for people to work smarter - and not just longer and harder.

Bringing outsider

Finally, it may be the time to think strategically about bringing someone with different skills, or skills you previously might not have been able to access, onto your leadership team. General Manager and Finance Manager are examples. In the face of huge demand for the best-and-brightest management talent, organizations have typically had great difficulty filling these positions. The challenge is to be conscientious about your due diligence, so that if you do make an offer, you’re sure it’s to the right person.

(The writer is a retired company director with over 30 years’ experience in senior business management. Presently he is a freelance journalist and could be contacted on [email protected])


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