Your Biggest Challenge (and Opportunity) is in the Data

Alexander Ford

Published: 8 June 2014

Our ability to grow our businesses depends on how efficiently and effectively we can organize our resources.

In fact, leadership is defined as the ability to organize groups of people and inspire them to take action towards achieving a common goal.

My mentor once taught me that a short pencil is much wiser than a long memory. Another mentor inspired me with the framework that authorship reveals authority.

So, working with the resources we have at hand, our responsibility as leaders is to define a meaningful end in mind, reveal our capacity to lead by authoring the plan others believe in,  and build systems to execute the strategy.

Sounds great, right?

The thing is, though, that this is just the beginning.

As human beings, we began this process of organization the first time we took a breath, and began experimenting with and responding to the environment around us. This is how we adapt.

Whether you’ve realized it or not, every single physical object that exists in the material world first originated in the mind of some field of intelligence, and is a tool designed to fulfill a meaningful purpose or outcome.

Whether we are observing the enzyme reactions taking place at the cellular level in your body right now, or the movements of the celestial bodies in the universe that surrounds us, it is difficult not to become humbled to the mysterious but seemingly intelligent nature of it all.

I truly believe that the quality of our lives and our businesses depends upon the quality of the questions we ask.

By collecting data, we can ask higher quality questions about how efficient our business systems really are in achieving our goals.

Without data, though, it’s easy to react to single moments or challenges and respond too quickly to a threat that doesn’t exist, or jump on an opportunity that doesn’t make sense.

Breaking your business down into it’s specific systems and strategies is a great way to start. I’ve organized a series of tools which I collectively call The Small Business Master Planning Framework, and I’ll share the first step with you now.

On a blank piece of paper, draw the following five columns. The columns should span the entire height of the paper, and you may require multiple sheets.

[table id=1 /]

In each column, create a box for each system or strategy that currently exists or that you would like to exist in the future.

Marketing – Marketing Systems or Strategies are also commonly called Marketing Campaign Sequences. These are ways that prospects can raise their hands and ask for more information about one of your products or services (for example, an opt-in form on your blog, a landing page opt-in form, or a phone number posted on a billboard). Campaign Sequences are defined by their ability to capture the name, email, and (occasionally) the phone number of a prospect. Do not confuse this column with Media Properties, which are simply locations where a Campaign Sequence may occupy space (think of a website as a property, and the opt-in form as a Campaign Sequence which is occupying the property as a tenant).

Sales – Sales Systems or Strategies are the process by which you use the collected contact information obtained via a Marketing Campaign to take action towards a prospect as an effort to convert them into a customer. In Step 2 of The Small Business Master Planning Framework, we author a Sales Funnel so that we can build a Sales System or Strategy for each and every product your business sells.

Fulfillment – These are the systems or strategies you execute in order to deliver your service or product to the customer.

Finance – Building systems to invoice your clients and collect payments is critical to ensuring your success and longevity. Businesses who don’t collect payments efficiently and effectively suffocate from lack of capital.

Internal – These systems and strategies are performed internally as part of your day-to-day business operations. Whereas each previous column was dedicated outward towards the marketplace, any system facing inward can be included here.

Once you’ve broken your business down into all of your strategies and systems, please understand that you can really only ever do one of four things to “work on your business” instead of “in your business”:

  1. Delete a system that is no longer useful
  2. Build a system that doesn’t yet exist
  3. Refine a system that could run more efficiently
  4. Rip-and-replace a system that has depreciated due to new concepts or technologies

By focusing on one system or strategy at a time, you can measurably make (and recognize) improvement one small bite at a time.

Once you’ve made your changes, start collecting data. Each system and strategy can be measured according to their uniquely defined purpose and set of expected results. Then, next time you sit down and ask which of the above four actions to take, you can look at the information you’ve organized.

Work on one system at a time and monitor your results and I can guarantee a totally different level of authority will emerge as your certainty continues to grow. That’s the magic of authorship.

Let me know what you discover and learn in the comment section below!

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