The 7 Business Critical Success Factors

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Every business has a unique mix of goals, target markets, geographic reach, range of products and services, people, and culture. While many combinations of these can support a business, a few elements remain critical to success.

Here, we examine The Seven Business Critical Success Factors, and what happens when they’re ignored (spoiler – one impact is the downfall of bigger brands than you might expect)!

  1. A clear focus

You need a clear goal of what you want your company to be in the next five to 10 years, including what it will be known for. This goal should inform everything you do: your objectives, the products and services you provide, what quality and – therefore – which market segment you target, geographic regions, the culture and feel of what you do and how you do it.

  1. Know your customer

Ultimately, any business exists to serve its customers. Even the best products or services that are not understood, wanted by or purchased by customers lead to failure.

Having established the market segment(s) to focus on, it is important to understand what are customers looking for from your services or products. Tailoring to meet the customers’ needs can make the difference in how you stand out, how much demand you will need to satisfy, and how much customers are willing to pay.

  1. Stay ahead

As popular as any product or service may become, things do not sit still. Customer preferences evolve, and the competitive landscape changes.

You may have heard the stories of big names that disappeared from markets they dominated: Think Nokia – which dominated mobile telephones, and Blockbuster – the world number 1 for home entertainment.

Keeping in touch with customers’ wants and needs, and an eye on what competitors are doing is crucial, but it’s still not enough! You must use these insights to innovate and offer new or enhanced products or services.

  1. Investment in people

Attracting the best people for the most critical parts of your business – the area that drives your success – can’t be overlooked. The areas often include product development or other business-critical activities.

Don’t forget the importance of the coal face jobs where the numbers are larger and often market salaries are lower – these are where the real business happens. If you don’t have happy motivated people who are skilled in what you need them to do, you won’t have happy customers either.

We have all had experiences with unnamed delivery companies whose team members throw our purchase over the fence or leave it in an unsecured location! Nextdoor for one is full of these experiences. It’s a solid example of organisations not putting a significant enough focus on its coal face, whether its own staff or partners and suppliers it selects. After all, they are the face of your company’s products or services.

  1. Lean operations

There’s a misconception that low-cost operations do things on the cheap to maximise margins. In fact, with such an approach, the frequency with which failures occur is much higher, and each failure creates both waste and repeated work.

The total cost of such an operation can often be significantly higher, and the customer experience is worse. A lean operation is one in which the aim is to do things, quickly, efficiently, AND right the first time. Limiting handover errors or failures requires clearly defined processes with clear responsibilities aligned with your desired outcomes.

  1. Be prepared

Be thorough with your risk assessment.

With risks that can break your business, no matter how remote they are, build resilience and test business continuity plans so you know how to deal with unexacted eventualities.

All customers know that unexpected events happen – what’s important to them is how you handle them. Think about extreme weather events closing airports and disrupting trains as an example. When this has affected you, have you been left alone, stranded with no communication? Or have you been informed and given support?

These events bring customer inconvenience and loss of revenue, yet the companies that have prepared to handle situations most effectively will find their customers confidently repurchasing. They will also let others know about their experience and will become loyal. Building a reputation like that will deliver long-term success. And these measures do not cost the earth to put in place.

  1. Cashflow

Have you heard the saying cash is king? For a business to be sustainable and succeed in the long run, it is a golden rule!

Although viable and successful in many ways, countless businesses of all sizes have closed down because of cashflow problems that resulted in an inability to service their commitments on time. This scenario is why investors look at cashflow statements as much as, if not more than, profitability.

A business can be profitable on paper because certain payments can be capitalised and depreciated over time. Yet, the same business may not have enough actual cash to renew aging equipment or invest in new products or services to keep the cash coming in.

Keeping an eye out for not just cash in the bank but what future costs are coming up to keep your business fresh and relevant is key to securing sustainable success.

About the Author
A Change and Programme Management professional with international experience in business transformation, from strategy definition to implementation and covering all dimensions of change: sourcing, contracts, policy, process, IT, infrastructure, behavioural, organisational. John is a Fellow of the Institute of Consulting, a Change Management Practitioner, and MBA qualified who has delivered change and integration of customer facing, commercial, operational and back office capabilities in various organisations.

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