In a rapidly changing, fast-paced, highly charged, competitive business world, the necessity for change comes with little warning and a great deal of importance. To be nimble enough to re-scope and possibly re-scale a business requires a business model that enables an organization to virtually re-invent itself overnight; this transformation must occur with little disruption in delivery of products or services while employing the same employees and maintaining the physical and fiscal resources on hand. So who needs a business model, and anyway it can't be done with out a genie in a bottle?! The business model isn't sophisticated so it doesn't take as much magic as might be imagined. But it requires a lot of upfront planning and a lot of knowledge of the business and the people implementing it.
Whether you're a sole proprietor or a small company with a successful track record that has 50 or more employees, your starting point for preparing for a major change is the same. That point begins with answers to these questions:
1. What is your core business?
2. How have you demonstrated that you were successful in your core business in your first three years in business, and, if you haven't been in business three years, why do you think are successful presently?
3. Who are your international competitors and how well could you compete in world-wide markets?
When you started the business you were geared up to apply your knowledge, skills, and resources for achieving success. You were focused, knew your strengths for operating in your chosen business space, and had a good business plan. To demonstrate to yourself and others that you were successful, you associated with successful people whether or not they were in your business space. You had the correct attitude and approach â€“ but did you create an adequate business structure sufficient to re-invent itself overnight if required?
What most small businesses lack is a formal structure with documentation of key business components â€“ components that involve intimate knowledge and careful management of day-to-day activities, an intimate understanding of corporate capability, clear identification of current and future training needs, and identification of the organization's level of compliance with government regulations and industry standards. If you are like most small business owners you most likely contend that establishing a formal business structure involves too much overhead, prevents you from being flexible, and keeps you from responding to business opportunities that may be just outside your current business capability â€“ you can always hire quickly if you need to. If this is what you believe, take another look at how you can stay in business without relying on new loans, new employees and government intervention when you need to re-invent your business.
It's true that structure and documentation may place constraints on your business venture; but business formality is more about discipline than it is about constraints. Business discipline reflects business acumen. What is required is monitoring your progress against a business baseline that you should document when you start the business. And, if you don't put your goals, activities, and results in black and white, how are you going to know where the real problems and real successes lie? You may think you know this answer by taking a quick look at your bottom line, but a superficial analysis may lead you in the wrong direction. You can not always identify the "gotchas" lurking around the corner if you aren't watching performance and status metrics constantly. How else are you going to spot a problematic trend, or fully evaluate the impact of a particular risk that you had been hoping would just work its self out?
Take the time to look at the following key business building blocks that take you beyond what you can see in the accounting ledger and profit and loss reports; the following baseline building blocks will help you take a systematic and comprehensive look at your business:
1. Conduct business intelligence by identifying and tracking the health of your business practices. Identify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of each of your core process activities. KPIs can help you decide if specific causes of process variation are within acceptable limits that you set.
2. Identify and characterize employee capabilities in terms of their bases of knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs). Correlate their KSAs with their capabilities to function in your business processes, and determine what other job functions those KSAs can support.
3. Determine the level of compliance with local, state, and federal regulations affecting what goods and services you provide, where your facilities are located and how you use them, how well can you respond to emergencies related to natural disasters as well as man made problems and mistakes such as fire and safety/health injuries and illnesses, and how well you handle special wastes generated by your business.
4. Employ sound business management practices to control and grow personnel and fiscal resources.
5. Keep up with what your competition is doing, including the status of their latest technological advances, sales and marketing hits, and who's on their customer base.
The instrument of change is a thoroughly researched, written, and socialized document called a Change Management Plan (CMP). The CMP becomes the focal point for documenting innovations and methods of controlling the type and scope of change needed to plan, prepare, and implement new business processes in the organization. It documents what, why, and how changes are to be made, what training will be conducted to bridge gaps between old and new processes, and how the organization will evolve to accommodate the new changes.
Be sure to visit my blog, "Energizing Small Business for Change." It contains links to other topics that identify major disciplines such as business process management; industrial and organizational training; compliance; quality assurance and control, project/program controls, finance, marketing, and sales.