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7 Ways to grow your business in a harsh economy

I heard a very interesting quote yesterday. ‘There is recession in the land but I refuse to participate’. This caught my attention. Yes, things may not be easy now, but every hard time presents lots of opportunities and it’s only those who are ready that will benefit from it. What will make a difference for organisations in this time and season would be their preparedness in terms of capacity and capability.

As we know, an organisation consists of three very important parties – people, processes and systems. Forward looking organizations leverage one, a combination of two or all three to create value in a sustainable manner. ‘Systems run the business and people run the system’ – Michael Gerber.

Value creation is critical to the success of any organisation and it is not a one-time thing – it must be continuous. Herein lies the enviable position of marketing and innovation in every organisation. The value you create lies with the needs and aspirations of the customer / client. “If customers value consistent quality and timely delivery, then the skills, systems, and processes that produce and deliver quality products and services are highly valuable to the organization. If customers value innovation and high performance, then the skills, systems, and processes that create new products and services with superior functionality take on high value. Consistent alignment of actions and capabilities with the customer value proposition is the core of excellent customer service” – Robert Kaplan & David Norton.

To achieve consistent alignment of actions and capabilities with the value the customer is expecting and being able to deliver it with a considerable margin is what would make an organisation relevant and profitable at this time.

Through some of the business marketing consulting work I have done recently, I discovered seven things organisations have to do to accelerate. You either accelerate on get ready to die. The 7 points are:

  1. Hire the right people and train them. You must look for good people with entrepreneurial skills and passion to deliver value. They may cost you a little more but it pays off at the end of the day.  Having recruited right, the next enabler is training. You should have a plan and process to train them regularly. I advocate that training should be a way of life for every organisation. New things come up every day and the smart organisations get hold of them and leverage same to build and promote their businesses.
  1. Keep and nurture your trusted sources of revenue.  From my customer value development experience across industries, it’s so clear to me that the most effort of the business is put into keeping their existing customers, particularly the high revenue generating ones. They provide the backbone of the organisation and must be nurtured to keep growing while prospecting and acquiring new customers. This calls for effective segment management. Where properly done, customers move from lower to higher levels of revenue contribution. This explains why every organization must adopt Customer Relationship Management CRM to manage their customers no matter how few or many they may be.
  1. Reduce your risks. This is not the time to be careless and take things for granted. Our perceptions usually determine our view of the level of risk posed by an activity. Organisations must adopt processes that ensure the risks attached to their activities are well managed.  Having a good Enterprise Risk Management ERM process would support value creation by enabling management to deal effectively with potential future events that create uncertainty by responding appropriately to reduce the likelihood of downside outcomes and increase the upside.
  1. Be adaptable or flexible. We can’t afford to be rigid if we want to accelerate our organisation. The needs, wants and aspirations of our customers are ever changing. We therefore have to be flexible enough to accommodate them. That is really what value creation is about. Big brands like Guarantee Trust Bank are good with this. I recall the MD, Mr. Agbaje once saying that must of the very impacted decisions they have taken as a business sometimes arise a simple discussion with a customer who may have seen what they are not seeing. Being flexible in the way decisions is very important if we must accelerate our organisation at these trying times.
  1. Ensure quality and consistent customer experience. Businesses must embrace the knowledge-age, align organizational structures to help them reach out, absorb and integrate all the expertise and talent out there, including employees, partners and customers / clients. Nothing beats consistent customer experience. I advocate investing in developing a practical customer experience blueprint (with insights from your customer / clients) and ensure consistent delivery.
  1. Be driven by vision.  Leadership must keep their businesses focused on the vision, always thinking ahead to accelerate the business. Your systems, processes and people will work well when the motivation for being in business is tangible and understood by everyone in the organisation. It must be clear to all that you are in business to make meaning – Improve lives, right the wrong and or prevent the end of something good, according to Guy Kiwasaki
  1. Thinking and evidence based inquiry. Organization should cultivate a culture of reasoned thinking and evidence-based inquiry. Leadership plays a key role here, as much of this is about modeling the desired behaviors as well as encouraging an open, creative, and critical thinking environment. A friend once said to me ‘the head the has the problem, has the solution’. Every member of the organisation has something to contribute if the environment permits it. We must think and work with evidence if we want to accelerate – not a good time for guess work. We must get it right the first time and always.

In conclusion, the importance of people, which is one of the components of any organisation cannot be overemphasized. We need to go beyond just looking for learning opportunities; we must take the next step to provide thoughtful mentoring. We must ensure the rationale behind decisions are understood? Do employees know the “whether and why” beyond the “what, how and when?” Leadership must help others see relevant insights coming through from the customer and the environment, appreciate the efforts from competition and provide direction to guide everyone to deliver what the customer wants.

Ikechukwu Kalu is the CEO / Lead Consultant at Customer Passion Point Limited, a firm of   value creation consulting firm.  We create value through business marketing consulting and training. We facilitate induction programs, retreats, strategy sessions and academic discussions at Pan Atlantic University and Lagos Business School in Lagos, Nigeria. We are committed to building capacity for businesses to enable them understand and leverage the passion points of their customers to create value. We have over 30 years of decent work experience spanning across industries, businesses and cultures.

Ikechukwu Kalu

Ikechukwu.kalu@cppl.com.ng , ikechuk@gmail.com

www.cppl.com.ng Tel: +2348032002458, +2347011962027

Skype ID: ike.kalu1

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