It’s better to GIVE…and improve your business in return
It’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror…to understand your capabilities as a business, and what makes you different…otherwise known as a GIVE analysis!
GIVE is an acronym that comes from these headings: Great, Improve, Vulnerable, Edge. Basically, it’s a chance to be analytical and take a long, hard look in the mirror. Do we as a company understand our capabilities?
…are we GREAT?
…can we IMPROVE?
…are we VULNERABLE?
…is our business EDGE?
It’s a set of important questions that all aim to get to the root of what makes the company offer distinct and special. If a company has aspirations to take business away from others and to grow beyond the market through innovation then, it needs an advantage.
It’s all about the things that make you uniquely attractive to your customers for various reasons – but you really need to know what those points are!!
Many companies shout about the wrong stuff or go after the wrong customers – and often make both mistakes because the two things are connected. Focus on what makes the company different or better. It should be a moment of clarity and insight.
More than self-analysis
One more thing to say is that the use of GIVE should be about more than boardroom self-analysis. In fact this is an opportunity for the board to involve other stakeholders, from workers to shareholders, strategic partners to suppliers. Gathering together inputs from everyone that’s engaged with the business and its performance should be an effort that repays itself with a more rounded understanding of all the business’s capabilities and vulnerabilities.
Anyway, lets get back to GIVE!
G is for GREAT!
The factors that help to make a business great will vary wildly from one to the next – and that can make the challenge of identifying your company’s particular X-factor a harder job than it might at first sound.
It could be:
- A great brand name that sets you apart from the competition. Something that’s widely known, easily remembered and with a strong reputation in the marketplace.
- Your business relationships that help the company to stand apart.
- you’ve a huge number of customers and suppliers within two hours’ travel time, and can access places, and therefore business opportunities, in a way that is enabling the company to be responsive when it needs to be.
- You’ve developed a unique product that’s better than the alternatives in its marketplace and which is protected so it cannot be easily replicated or copied.
What you think makes the company great and what actually sets it apart may not be quite the same thing. Just because the company’s success came one way at one point in its history doesn’t mean that the particular advantage it enjoyed then is what makes it great today.
A review process like this will peel away some of your misguided preconceptions about the business to reveal opportunity, but it should also help you to see how the business can be better organised – and why some of the opportunities identified were missed in the first place.
I is for IMPROVE!
Which bring us onto the next question you should be asking: where can we IMPROVE?
Nearly everything in life and in business can be improved, can’t it? Your company is no different. In fact, we could make a case that the longer the list of potential improvements you can muster the better. It means there is more for you to go at as you look to make a better business.
What you need to do is to narrow it down to the key parts of the business and come up with some specifics: think about things like job roles, accountability, reporting lines, customer service and any other important elements or functions that you need to consider.
One thing that will very likely need to be improved, is your company’s management of its financial information, as this is something that underpins many of the other decisions you need to take as a business.
If you don’t know your costs and profit margins on particular products and services, and if you aren’t on top of your financial planning and sales planning and key account management at every step then the risk is that the business doesn’t have the foundations it needs to be successful.
It’s also likely that somewhere high on this list of areas to improve will be marketing.
Why? Because we find again and again, after some soul-searching, that marketing and communications is a crucial area that many small businesses need to improve. Content is king for today’s businesses in marketing terms, and companies that aren’t delivering something immediately reassuring, interesting and eye-catching to would-be customers – something that grabs someone’s attention and keeps it – are likely to hit trouble sooner rather than later.
V is for VULNERABLE!
The question of where a business is vulnerable could be taken as offering another perspective on where a business might improve. But when considering business vulnerability it’s the particular angle you take here that counts..
Focus on the immediate picture – areas where the business might improve, yes, but also just a chance to take stock of the here and now.
Here are some questions you might need to ask:
- Which of our products and services could realistically be bought by our customers elsewhere?
- Are we in a position to compete in the all the markets where we are active?
- Is our current pricing being led by the dynamics in today’s marketplace or is it informed by some historical practices?
- Are we adding value for our customers that isn’t being reflected in the prices that we are charging?
- If we increased our prices how many customers might realistically want to look elsewhere? (And would price alone be enough on its own for them to jump without even a backwards glance?)
- Are we too reliant on a handful of customers in some of our markets?
If what you find as you start to explore this are some facts that make you feel remotely uncomfortable then you should take things a lot further. You’ll probably want to embrace a detailed and systematic review of your customer mix and customer relationships for the products and services where you feel vulnerable, and in parallel undertake some work on where and how new customers can be secured.
That’s just a beginning, of course, and one approach among many we might have highlighted, but we hope it’s got you thinking.
E is for EDGE!
What gives your company an edge? What helps to differentiate it from others to give you unique advantages?
It’s not about repeating the big things that help to make your business GREAT, but to identify all the details in the business. Many of them could be quite small – that go towards giving you an edge in your markets.
Some of these elements might have to do with:
- Clear internal capabilities and efficiencies that you’ve evolved over time that no competitor could easily replicate
- The invaluable experience and insight and market knowledge you carry within your teams.
- A strategic partnership you’ve fostered over some years that holds the potential to do more or open up new revenue streams.
Just as when seeking out what makes a company GREAT, not everything that gives you an EDGE will be immediately obvious.
S is for SO WHAT?
Sometimes when we embark on this exercise with business owners there’s an extra letter in our acronym, and GIVE becomes GIVES.
The ‘S’ is short for SO WHAT? – and we like to ask this question as a reminder to sense-check the strategy that is starting to take shape.
Do your plans stand up to scrutiny? If strategy is simply an effort to match market opportunity with internal capability to find your company’s sustainable competitive advantage, do the ideas and opportunities and differentiators you’ve come up with work in the real world, or did you go off course along the way?
One useful way of testing your thinking is to ask yourself these critically minded questions:
- Makes my company different?
- Will make my company better?
- Do we want our customers to think?
- Do we want our customers to do?
If everything you’ve pulled together feels like it is helping you answer these questions usefully and in detail, you are surely on the right track. If you feel you would benefit from our support – you can book a FREE business health check here