5 Business Building Blocks I Use and Recommend
My definition of a solid business is a business that has all the hallmarks of a Cathedral.
A cathedral stands the test of time, see the Notre Dame for example, because it has been built on solid ground, with solid materials, structure and management.
Even a devastating fire could not fully destroy it.
I believe that a business that aspires to grow consistently, grow profitably and stand the test of time needs to be built on solid ground with a solid structure.
Here are 5 building blocks that I use for my businesses and use with client's businesses.
As we say at WorldWide Local Connect, "An Idea Is Not a Business!". An idea is something floating in the wind, or in case of "Crazy Chef" delusion, an idea in the clouds. Once the idea becomes encapsulated by structure, it will be on its way to becoming a business.
"Corporate Governance" is merely the structure that holds everything together and on the straight and narrow. Although the word "Corporate Governance" seems to indicate this structure is only for larger corporations, it couldn't be further from the truth that startups and small businesses don't need structure like larger organizations.
I will go into more detail on this concept in future articles, but for now here is my list of Corporate Governance blocks:
- Board of Directors and Committees (depends on type and size of company)
- Legal and Regulatory Structure and Framework
- Policies and Procedures
- Organizational Hierarchy
- Transparency and Accountability
- Monitoring (Feedback) and Internal Control
It is easy, while you are driving to grow a startup at breakneck speed, to leave a trail of debris behind in the form of a leaky organization, subpar bookkeeping/accounting, and barely legal and/or irresponsible financial decisions. All of which could bite you in the proverbial behind when you think you've made it.
It would be better to create a solid Corporate Governance environment from the get-go enabling you to be able to weather ups and downs and (market) storms or other interruptions.
The challenge with every company that sells a product or service is always what we call "The Shoe Salesman in the Sahara" conundrum. While selling shoes in the Sahara, the salesperson does not see anyone wearing shoes. Is it because nobody ever sold shoes, and the potential customers never thought about wearing shoes? Thus a market gap?! Or is it because there is no market for shoes, people simply don't want to wear shoes?!
Any business is trying to "match the round peg with the round hole". Remember that childhood game? You probably grew up with it. Simply use the same concept for marketing your product or service.
If you have a product or service, find the right target group. If they don't want your product or service, change target group and/or change the product or service.
Or change anything else in the 4 P's one of the basic concepts of marketing.
- 1. Product
- 1. Price
- 1. promotion
- 1. Physical Distribution The fundamentals of marketing, digitally or otherwise.
Whatever product or service you are trying to sell, the first question you should ask, is "What is my USP". What is my Unique Selling Proposition"? In other words, am I selling something new, nobody else is selling the same, something similar? Or is someone already selling the same, something similar or a very acceptable alternative?
If someone is already selling the same or something similar, or even an alternative, how does your product (and its features) as well as the rest of the 4 P's stack up against them. Is your distribution channel different from the competition and/or faster or better?
Also, don't forget, there is almost always competition whether direct or indirect.
The Product and Service Checklist I always go back to.
- The 4 P's - See above
- The USP and Competitive Edge Principle
- The Market Gap Principle - See shoe salesman above
- The Target Group Principle - See round peg, round hole concept above Remember, it does not matter what product or service you sell, what price it's at, what promotional efforts or distribution channels you employ, if you are aiming at the wrong target group, all those efforts are in the wind and for naught ! I'll further expand in future articles.
The online universe is, even for experienced (digital) marketers a "Black Box". Even for them, promoting or selling anything is a matter of testing input, review output and tweaking input and systems/platforms until the output matches the required results, aka the set objectives.
My List of Online Presence and Activities is as Follows:
- Website - Sales/Marketing efforts bring people to your site. Having a professional looking website keeps those visitors on your site.
- Communication with visitors - Setting up your site to be able to communicate with visitors, creating relationships is key.
- Feedback and Analysis - Knowing what works and what not, how things work, who comes to your site from where and how is part of the learning curve and part of "demystifying" the online "Black Box".
- Digital Marketing - Digital marketing is aimed at getting people to your site and to convert. Your site is your "Shop" or "Shop Window" trying to entice the visitor to buy something.
The above blocks work in unison, or at least they should be. To "demystify" what works and what doesn't online, the trick is, before you run out of money with zero results, to test, test, test, at low cost.
Until you roughly know what works and what doesn't and how you can achieve results.
Once you see a pattern of success, you repeat what you did to obtain that success and start hitting the accelerator.
I'm sure most of you can guess what the backbone of a company consists of.
Knowing what the backbone of your company should be is one thing, actually making sure it is in place is another.
especially when you are a startup or small business in a crazy rollercoaster growth spurt.
make sure you keep your organization up to par with the sales-marketing efforts and resulting growth.
Here is my list, and I put them in order of potentially critical impact.
- Disaster Plan
- IT Structure and Systems incl. Backups
- Financial Structure and Systems
I don't have to explain how utterly devastating it would be to have a disaster, and not be able to recoup assets, and loss of profits. Insurance is a pain to pay, but when you need it, a major blessing. Provided of course you have the right insurance (company).
A disaster plan prepares you to deal with any disaster quickly and professionally, while keeping the impact, financial or otherwise, to a minimum.
Without an IT structure, you are of course faring blind. Not only towards the external but also towards the internal.
You need IT systems to be able to communicate, to host financial, admin and sales/marketing systems, not to forget to allow financial reporting, a crucial part of being able to know what money comes in and what goes out.
Closely intertwined are the financial systems, built on the IT structure, to capture income, expenses, Capital expenditure and more. And to report results to internal and external parties.
Without the above structure you'd be an oil or container tanker in the middle of the ocean without power, and without rudder. Nowhere to go but towards problems.
As we like to say, "An Idea is Not a Business" and "An Objective Without a Deadline is Merely a Dream". And dreams are great, as long as they stay within your universe. Once you start to look for funding however, investors want to see some solid plans.
Even if a potential investor seems to be unbelievably rich, that he/she must have some "funny money" to spare, i.e money to play with.....on your little dream, don't even think about it.
Not only did the investor not get rich by investing in fluff. They may invest in a dream, but one that has a structure, a plan and an objective as well as an ROI.
Accredited investors usually are looking for proof of concept, or proof of market, in effect something showing the investor that your idea works, has a structure and a solid plan.
Usually plans that are compelling to investors are following at a minimum:
- Business Plan
- (Digital) Marketing Plan
- Financial Plan, Model and/or Budget
- Executive Summary and
- Exit Plan
You may think "I haven't even begun and I need to show an exit plan?!".
Yes, an investor will invest when it can be reasonably expected that his/her investment generates a return, an ROI, not just for you but also for the investor. A solid and well defined exit plan will give the investor the confidence that when he puts his/her money in, it can be taken out and with a healthy return.
No business activity, plan or structure is ever watertight. Does that mean you should ignore even starting? Of course not! Every bit of foundation, structure and plan is like building a complete Cathedral.
It takes time, hard work, blood sweat and tears! But as long as you are laying a solid foundation, like you would when building a real cathedral, you will be fine!
Once the "building", your business, is created, you don't want a little fire, or winter storm to topple the whole structure.
Is the above list complete?
By no means is it complete and/or exhaustive.
But it is a good start.
As we used to say at The Gillette Company and Keurig Inc. "It takes time and effort to Build A Cathedral..!!".
In future blog posts I will expand on each section further.
Digital Artist and Marketer | Business Consultant & Advisor.
Specialties – Business Planning | Web Design | Digital Marketing|
Hans van Putten owner of 40parkLane,llc ran operations of his food manufacturing company for 17+ years building the Carolyn’s Handmade brand under the umbrella of 40ParkLane,llc.
After the successful sale of the food business, he took advantage of the years of business planning, operations management, web design, digital marketing and photography experience , to help startups, small businesses and home businesses and has been involved in a number of start-up ventures since.
Prior to founding 40parkLane,llc Hans worked for the Gillette Company for 10 years in various financial roles of increasingly bigger responsibility, leaving as Director of Business Planning for The International Group at Gillette HQ, Boston. Hans has an MBA (Marketing & International Business) from Aston University, and a BA in Business Administration from IHBO de Maere.