On Development & Sitting on Fields of Diamonds
I always love the end of one financial year and the start of a new one.
There is the opportunity to review what you have done, what you still have to do and clear out the crap that has been holding you back. In many respects, the opportunity for renewal and reset is welcomed half way through the year.
This also presents for us an opportunity to review how our customers’ businesses have been going and work with them to determine what they are going to continue to do, start doing and stop doing. This high level review is often fogotten as people are just too busy being busy.
Flic and I recently caught up with one of our customers to review their year and plan forward. When we looked back on the year, we found that the strategies we had planned for and implemented at the end of last financial year had worked an absolute treat and delivered on the potential that we identified.
As part of our conversation,we also reviewed the progress of the establishment of a highly specialised business unit within the existing operations. This “new” division is actually work they have been doing for years – we had identified it as an area where there was little competition and significant opportunity for them to be seen to specialise (even though they were already doing it).
The difference between reality and perception is something that many businesses grapple with – often times they kow what they do, but their customers don’t! In this situation, we undertook a branding and communication strategy to highlight the activities the business already did however they haad “hidden their light under a bushel” and not let their expertise be seen by the broader market. By adopting a strategy of getting very specific and targeted in this space, they are already seeing increased activity and higher credibility in the industry they operate in. This leads to more work and buyers feel “safer” going with a specialist. Just to reiterate – this is work they were already doing and had been doing for many, many years.
Reflecting on this, it would seem that nearly every business is sitting on a “field of diamonds” that they don’t exploit because they’re just too busy doing other things.
We have seen a number of situations where businesses have things that they do (and do very well) because they haven’t been able to source another business to supply them with the good/product/service that they need. Necessity then becomes the mother of invention and they develop internally to solution to their problems.
This internal business solution is seen as part of the existing service offering and not often reviewed as a separate business opportunity in its own right. Yep – another cliche – familiarity breeds contempt.
Odds on, if a business has had to internally develop a solution to an issue they have, then it is highly likely that every one of their comeptitors has had to grapple with the same issue. They either do it poorly, half heartedly, not at all or really well. Many of the competitors will not do it well. Imagine then what could happen if you spent some effort to make this opportunity work well and took it to the market? Often times, your competitors will thank you for solving their issue, they will then become your customers and you have expanded your business base to add a new revenue line and profit centre.
We saw this a couple of weeks ago – a customer was having issues with a particular supply for an important part of their business. Most of their comeptitors had the same issue. Every one had done the “cheap and cheerful” solution which allowed them to do the work needed in very basic form but more complex work needed to be outsourced (out of town) which necessitated significantly increased costs, time delays and “brain damage”.
Our customers went through the cost benefit analysis with one of our crew, got very specific about the opportunity and proceeded to invest in the specialised equipment necessary to allow them to offer the full service in town to their competitors. I have been staggered at how well things are going for them with this piece of gear. And they haven’t marketed it properly yet (mind you, given the uptake, they probably won’t have to).
I had a similar experience when presenting to a conference of accountants many years ago. A regional firm was saying that they couldn’t expand any further in their area. When asked about the services they offered, they indicated that there was demand for services that they were providing but they were treating the demand they were getting as more of an interuption to their life rather than deliberately exploiting the opportunities that were apparent. Subsequent to this meeting, they pursued the opportunities that were available and were absolutely knocking them dead!
So, at or around the 1st of July each year, take the time to have a think about the things you want to continue to do, what you want to start doing and what you want to stop doing. Couple this with a really honest review of the things you are doing in the business at the moment – especially with a view to those things that you’re doing and around which significant opportunities revolve.
Chances are, you’re sitting on a field of diamonds and don’t realise it. Growth isn’t that easy, but with planning and effort in the right direction, it can be very rewarding.
Happy New Financial Year!