(Time to read this article is about 2 minutes)

As I work with clients around the world to rethink and refocus their business, I’ve found that there are four clear steps to the process of fixing what needs fixing.  Here they are…

Step #1 – Awareness:  “Awareness” is simply knowing that some part of your business isn’t “right” yet. You’re not yet where you want to be, or need to be, to be a profitable market leader, to be a sustainable business in a fast-changing market, or to become your Vision for the business in 3 to 5 years.  The opposite to awareness is denial…and that’s a killer in any business.

Perhaps your products or services aren’t the best they could be. Or, you’re falling short on delivering the customer experience that you’ve promised. Perhaps you’ve not created the internal business environment required to attract and keep the best people at every level of your organization. Perhaps you’re falling short in planning and budgeting, control, accountability, profitability or implementation and follow-up.  Your shortfall could be in technology, systems,  communication or culture. It could be that you’ve not yet met your commitments to your community or the environment.

Are you aware of the specific areas in your business that aren’t “right” yet?  Can you list them and prioritize them?  Without “awareness”, there will be no improvement.  But “awareness” alone will get you nowhere!  Which brings us to…

Step #2 – A passionate commitment to fix it:  Many businesses know that something’s wrong …but they really don’t give a damn. They’re tired or burnt out; they’ve lost their passion and they’re not prepared to do the work required to fix what needs fixing.

Years ago my father had a Jaguar XJ6 with the world’s most unreliable windshield wipers (which he thought a bit odd given that it rains most of the time where Jaguars are produced).  By chance, father met the Chairman of Jaguar at some big-shot business event and when he mentioned that he was a Jag owner the Chairman enquired, “And how do you like your Jag?”

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to go right to the top with his problem, father told him about his huge frustration with the wipers. To which the Chairman of Jaguar offhandedly replied, “Oh Jack, we don’t seem to have that one quite right yet, do we!”

Clearly, the Chairman was aware of the problem.  He had arrived at Step #1.  But, judging by his offhand remark, there was no passionate commitment to fix it. Are you passionately committed to fixing the things that need fixing in your business?

Step #3 – Analysis / Creativity / Decision / and a Plan:  Here’s where the real work starts. For each thing that you’re committed to fixing or creating in your business, work through the stages of analysis / creativity / decision making / and documenting an Action Plan.

a)     Analysis:  Get the facts!  Remember, the beginning of wisdom is the recognition of reality.  If it’s a problem you’re solving, get to the real root cause.  If it’s an opportunity you’re pursuing, make sure that you have all the important facts. Either way, if your ‘size up’ is wrong, your action will likely be wrong…and your outcome will be wrong.

b)  Creativity:  Encourage creativity within your organization and know when to ‘rent’ creativity from the outside.  Ask your team, your suppliers and your customers what they think.  Find out who the real experts are on what you’re trying to fix or create.  The good ones will save you a bundle and the bad ones will cost you a fortune.

Don’t try to ‘reinvent the wheel’.  What are other successful businesses doing about this problem or opportunity…and then figure out how to do it even better!

Ask ‘the wonderful question’ which is, “What would be the most wonderful thing that we could do here?”   In our famous Alive & Well lady’s fashion store in Markham, Ontario, back in the 1990s, we came up with ‘wonderful’ in the form of a choice of seven free beverages, four hooks in the change rooms, electric massage chairs for husbands, a pirate ship play area for kids, free diapers, diaper wipes and cream on the change tables, instant birthday parties for customers and an invitation to “Please take as many items in the change room as you wish!”.  We also had a big sign just inside the front door saying, “Our staff are not on commission.  They treat you this well because they love what they do.”

No other retailer in the world did any of this stuff.   It takes creativity and courage…and asking ‘the wonderful question’.   There’s lots of talk about innovation and creativity in business today …but very little conversation about ‘courage’.  There’s no point in being creative if you’re not also courageous because you’ll never have the guts to implement the extraordinary creative stuff that you come up with.

So, get creative and be courageous.  Look for possibilities and ‘BIG IDEAS’.  BIG IDEAS grab your target customers, clearly differentiate you from your competitors, make you famous and grow your bottom line.  Remember, mediocrity is no longer an option.

What has never been done?   What ideas, when implemented, would blow your customers away or give you an operational advantage that would transform your bottom line?  Finally, what are the costs and the benefits of each of your ideas?

1.      Decision:  Don’t analyze and create forever. Commit to a course of action in a reasonable time.  There’s more money lost through indecision than wrong decision.  Nike’s slogan is NOT, “Just talk it to death!”

2.      The Action Plan:  For each decision that’s taken and every action that’s agreed on, document specifically what will be done, by whom, by when, at what cost, measured how and rewarded how.  Involve all those whose support you need in the implementation process and get their commitment to specific deadlines. Communicate the Action Plan to everyone involved. Make sure that they know the purpose, objectives, deadlines and expected results.  Make sure that they know why their roll is important and get their commitment to specific outcomes.

Determine from your team what additional information or resources they’ll need to be successful, and make sure that they get what they need.

Step #4 – Effective implementation and follow up:  Get it done!  Businesses don’t die from a single shot to the head…they die, slowly but surely, from a thousand uncompleted tasks!  Effective implementation is one of the biggest challenges in most business today.  Here’s the simple solution.  Every time you assign a task, agree on a specific date by which it will be completed, document that commitment and always follow up.  The world is run by those who follow up.

Bonus tip:  The 10 simple words, “By when can we agree that this will be completed?” change everything.  They ensure commitment, urgency and accountability.  Then, celebrate success, reward performance and deal firmly but quickly with non-performance.

So, there they are…four simple but powerful steps to fix what needs fixing in your business.  Where are you in the process?  First, are you aware of what needs fixing or doing, or are you in denial?  Are you passionately committed to getting on with it?  Is it the analysis, creativity, decision making or planning where you need more focus?   Or, is it implementation and follow up that needs improvement?  How will you use these insights to fix what needs fixing in your business in order to create a more extraordinary and profitable future?

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