How to achieve peak business performance
If you've ever watched a good sports coach work with a top athlete in training, his or her efforts to achieve a great result with the athlete don't just consist of measuring and improving the set plan. For example, "you'll do the 60 in under 6.3 seconds" or "you'll run a half marathon in under 58 minutes." An ambitiously set plan can sound confident and over a period of time can act as a powerful motivator. Over time, however, the effect of a set goal in the form of an aspirational outcome diminishes and no longer works as a motivator, rather the exact opposite.
A sports coach focuses on the process when training an athlete - he or she monitors the consistency of preparation, helps the athlete to remember to breathe properly or to better distribute forces on the track. Top athletes don't only fight with competitors, but especially with themselves, and only working on themselves will lead to results. In addition to focusing on the process, the outcome is still measured, but the cause of improvement is not to dehumanize the athlete for not achieving the numbers. Parameters leading to the desired success are monitored, such as overall health, diet and drinking, weight, breathing, the athlete's mental attitude and motivation, or rest. The corrective measure for an inadequate result is then to adjust the input parameters - i.e. training plan, dietary modification, improved drinking regime, more or less rest, etc.
1. Set achievable goals
Your company and its business success is a far more complex system than the athlete and his performance, as it involves many more factors that can affect the outcome. You and your team need achievable goals, reduced to as many meaningfully measurable factors as possible (we call this appropriate granularity at ATOLLON). Higher granularity of goals and measurable process parameters will lead to easier results, but it must not come at the expense of administration (e.g. adding more awesome excel spreadsheets where every task is written down). We know this effect from our own day - it's more rewarding to complete 10 relatively small tasks than 2-3 large ones, plus the added satisfaction of completing the work more often will contribute to a more relaxed day.
The very act of segmenting an ambitious plan serves to make goals more granular. The coach breaks the athlete's longer course into individual 1 km segments and discusses performance in that segment, which, especially at the beginning of training, fluctuates quite a bit. They can agree that the athlete will not burn out at the beginning, so that he or she does not burn out on later segments of the track. For example, the goal of "increasing the turnover of the whole company" is relatively elusive until it is broken down into more graspable goals made up of segments that make up the total turnover.
A business plan can be segmented, for example, using the following criteria:
- period (year, quarter, month, week)
- area (district, region, Czech Republic, EU, world)
- existing vs newly acquired customers
- product or sector
- source of business (direct, indirect, online, ...)
Results of business activities can be read from the accounting system, more advanced (CRM or ERP) solutions allow to plan and measure them within Business Intelligence tools.
Goal segmentation facilitates the process of verifying the execution of the set plan. This process is called "gap analysis". Gap here represents the difference between the turnover plan and the reality in a given planned segment (e.g. sales of a selected product in UK using an online resource). The information is used to interview the head of the store with the salesperson to find out why the plan is (not) being met in each planned segment.
Gap analysis alone will not be effective if it does not explain the reason for the underperformance.
2. Focus on the process leading to the goal
If you want to improve results, focus on measuring and improving the process.
The reason why an athlete achieves the desired performance in a particular race or track segment typically lies somewhere in the quality of the preparation process. All of the inputs - health, preparation, breath, diet, motivation, mental hygiene - are the cause of a good or bad result. Achieving the company's stated goals - meeting or not meeting the plan in its various segments - is a positive or negative outcome of a well-designed or dysfunctional process. The preparation of a firm and the training of its salespeople, including market testing and argumentation, is also a process that, if consistently followed, leads to consistently better results and the elimination of dead-ends.
Each part of the process has quantitative and qualitative aspects that you need to measure - e.g. did we generate enough leads through the call centre, did we invest enough resources in campaigns? (quantitative) vs. product or the way it is sold appeals to the segment? (qualitative).
In a business that aims to increase company turnover, a key process is tracking the sales pipeline - i.e. the business case stage and the customer lifecycle. Granularization consists in dividing the business case life cycle into multiple phases that are clearly distinguishable from each other. For example, the success of a customer's transition from one phase to another (from initial contact to making a sale) is measured.
Decisions based on measuring process effectiveness can result in the elimination of bottlenecks, which can lead to the rapid elimination of a product or target segment from the portfolio, or decisions to improve salesperson training.
In some industries, the trend is to replace in-house salespeople with experts and technicians equipped with sales skills, who often have higher success rates than a salesperson without specialist skills. In order to use such a valuable resource for sales, it is necessary to have a well-tuned sales process.
You can't get the data to make decisions about each stage of the business case, as a key process in the company, from any accounting system. For that, you need a good CRM platform that allows you to plan the target parameters and then allows you to evaluate the path to achieving them.
3. Leverage the potential of existing clients
Existing customers are a key source of growth for many businesses and need to be looked after carefully. The role of service or customer support is to fight for customer trust in particular, which is the driver of a long-term relationship. From professional and prompt communication, to the quality of service activities, to pro-active care of customer needs.
Modern companies place emphasis on supporting the success of the end customer in relation to the products delivered or serviced. In order for a company to manage proactive customer care at a professional level, it must have a solid background itself. You can hardly take responsibility for your customers' challenges if you don't have order in your processes.
Focus on what you can influence
A top athlete can't directly influence the outcome of their efforts - i.e. whether or not they win the race. She doesn't control all the influences on that, such as the fitness of competitors. But she can influence the process - from preparation, to performance in the race. Your company also cannot influence the outcome directly - i.e., make the customer buy. It does not control all the decisive factors for this, e.g. the financial or personnel condition of a particular customer. But you can influence the processes within your own company that will lead to long-term success.
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