The STRUCTURE ‘Assets’ in your business
Can your business run without you?
How does it function when you are not there to answer questions, motivate staff or to check on progress? Do the values and promises of your company exist only in your mind, or are they commonplace throughout your business, saturating every process, procedure and structural element within it?
Daniel Priestley, in his book, 24 Assets, poses a thought-experiment that asks precisely these questions: if you went away for three months on a yacht – with no signal and no internet – what would your business look like when you return?
To ensure that you like what you see when you come back, he explains a need for these twenty-four features. These need to be independent of you, they work without your direct involvement. Without them your business will be exhausting, chaotic and over-reliant on an individual, namely YOU.
These ‘Assets’ form all-important STRUCTURE in your business.
Here’s just a couple of my favourites.
Culture: The Assets that Bring in the Best
When you look at successful businesses, one of the striking features is that they manage to hire and keep the highest performing people. Now, Priestley’s point is that the culture of your business makes it an attractive and rewarding place to work, where people are inspired and driven by passion and purpose – not just the pay check.
The cultural assets are all about how to attract and keep the best – including those better than yourself. They are the documented strategies you use to bring them to you, to interview, select, train and manage them. They are the ways in which you create a work environment in which employees are happy, healthy, enthusiastic, productive, and generally thrive. These include the following:
- Clear descriptions of staff roles and responsibilities
- A clearly communicated business ‘Why’
- Communication strategies, including training videos, ethical foci, or guides.
- Rewards and disciplinary policies.
Do you have written procedures and clearly defined job roles and responsibilities? Does everyone know the ‘Why’ of the business? What is the working environment like in your office? Do your staff thrive?
Brand Assets: How Customers know who you are
Brand isn’t just about having a pretty logo and a catchy name. Brand is that part of the company that sticks in a customer’s mind, that makes a customer choose you over your competitor, and that ultimately ensure success. Remember: people don’t buy WHAT you do, but rather WHY you do it.
Priestley makes the obvious but important point that, because of brand recognition and an association with quality, people are willing to buy underwear for four times the price – just because they are by Calvin Klein.
Value is a perception, not a calculation.
Why might that be? Customers want a familiar face that is reliable and that they can trust. One of the assets Priestley outlines is identity – or the feel or character that customers associate with the product or service a company offers. People know what to expect from you, they trust you, are loyal, and will recommend you to others.
How clear is your brand? What is the perception customers have of your business? What are your values and beliefs and how are these promoted through your marketing?
Product Assets: Creating a Product ‘Ecosystem’
Businesses with just the one product will be limited and less resilient to market changes. Priestley explains that you should ensure your business has an ‘ecosystem’ of products.
But a ‘product’ isn’t exactly what you might expect. He has broken these into four categories: gift, product-for-prospects, core product and product-for-clients.
A gift, in this case, might be online content or a podcast – free ‘gifts’ that promote your business and create an interaction with customers which you can progress onto other products. An example of a core product and a product-for-clients is the Apple iPod. The iPod is Apple’s core product, but customers also need to have an iTunes or Apple iCloud account (product-for-client). The convenience of the iCloud account, encourages the iPod owner to buy an Apple Air, iPad, Watch etc. This ‘ecosystem’ brings the customer back to the business again and again.
Additionally, the business as a whole will be more resilient as each product provides additional income streams.
Whatever your product might be, think about these four product categories. How many products do you have under each category? What is the customer’s journey through the product types, if any?
Management and Administration: A Business’s Hidden Asset
Priestley uses a nice phrase about management: he calls them the ‘enablers of high performance’. Managers and administrators are both the people that translate the wishes of leadership into steps that are actionable, and the people that ensure that everyone has what they need to work most effectively. They are exactly the HOW people I have discussed in many of my articles.
These assets are hidden because they deal rarely with the public, nor do other staff necessarily know of the good work they are doing. But they are key. They facilitate the crucial business operations, and they should be recognised as the great assets that they are. Great businesses ensure there are systems and processes in place to support, reward, and show appreciation for these key players.
What do you do as a business to recognise the contribution of these often-overlooked key players? How are they rewarded, not just financially in the form of bonuses, but, as the business owner, how do you acknowledge their contribution?
Operation Systems: Ensuring Customer Satisfaction
Systems ensure that what the customer wants is delivered smoothly and reliably. But excellent systems deliver this core objective along with a bit of joy too!
You might benefit from thinking about how to improve your customer experience. A great example of this is websites.
I have been planning a new bathroom for my house this week. I will admit I was losing the will to live scouring different sites for tiles, baths, taps, etc. But then I landed on this fantastic site. It allowed me to search easily, it saved my shopping cart for later, suggested relevant similar products, good descriptions and specifications, and gave me an idea of the estimated delivery date as I added items to my cart. I loved it – it was just what I needed – and they will be rewarded by a purchase from me. An example of an excellent operating system geared towards customer satisfaction.
Operation systems needn’t be automated, or digital. But these things provide a straightforward means to ensure that you provide great customer experience every time. Think about how you can ensure high customer satisfaction by adding a bit of joy into all your operations – from the operation of your website and customer service training for your staff, to product packaging and email content.
I love this way of viewing your business from a different perspective. It begins interesting discussions and creates a real focus on the STRUCTURE elements of your business.
Take the time to view your business in this way.
Take a step back and look at all the ‘Assets’ you currently have, those you could improve, and those you need to create.
In my ‘Insights’ phase of the work I do with clients, we review their entire operations to identify and assess key improvement areas within the business structure. Once identified, we work to find changes that lead to really dramatic improvements.
After only a few short weeks, I love seeing how these changes enable them to enjoy a little bit more freedom in their day and get closer to giving the ‘Yacht Test’ a try!!