3 keys to a strong business foundation

Feature | 4 November 2020

Starting a business isn’t much like hanging up a shingle and waiting for the customers to come pouring in. (If only it were!) Instead, it’s more like building a house. Hard, sweaty work where you’re bound to smash a finger or two. And like building a house, building your business needs to start with a strong foundation.

There are thousands of articles out there about the keys to a strong business foundation. These run the gamut from business essentials – such as insurance and technology – to marketing – such as building a professional website and having a customer focused content strategy. 

Look, we agree that all of these things are important. But from our perspective, there are three keys that are absolutely vital for a strong business foundation.

3 keys to a strong business foundation

Planning

At MATE, we have weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly plans in place. These plans set out our goals and the steps that we need to take to get there. Every business will have its own needs when it comes to the timing of their planning, but it’s essential that you do the work and make the plans, whether you’re a sole trader or a large corporation.

Tips for making your planning more successful

Focus: You may have dozens of ideas for your business – from marketing campaigns to systems operations. It’s really important that you focus on what’s most important. 

Evaluate: Evaluate your ideas. Ensure they’re achievable, measurable and timely. Prioritise the most important and outline what resources you’ll need in order to bring them to fruition. Make sure that your team is in the know and onboard as well.

Learn: Once you’ve put some of your ideas and plans into action, learn from them. Think about what worked… and what didn’t. Write down those learnings so you can reference them going forward.

Process

Planning is getting your ideas out of your head and onto the paper (or spreadsheet!). Process is turning those plans into action. 

Process sounds boring. But a process is the lifeline of your business. It’s through a process that you streamline individual activities and make sure that your resources are put to optimal use. It’s the action that drives your ultimate success.

The 5 steps of the business process.

  1. Set actions and assign stakeholders – your plan has already been determined. Now you need to identify the tasks each member of your team needs to take on in order to get the plan going.
  2. Test the process – run the process on a small scale. See how it performs. Make any adjustments necessary to make it seamless and effective.
  3. Implement the process – start running the process in your business. Make sure you’re always communicating with the team and other external stakeholders.
  4. Monitor the results – don’t forget to review the process and analyse the patterns and the outcomes.
  5. Repeat – when the process works well, repeat it. Replicating it for the future helps build efficiencies into your business.

Communication

The third key element of a strong business foundation is communication. For MATE, this is a two-pronged approach. We focus on our communications in-house, and our communications with our customers. And both are essential for our business.

For your customers

We’ve always worked hard to be the ‘mate’ on the ground for our customers. And part of how we do that is by reaching out to our customers where they are. In our case, that’s online. So, you’ll never see us on giant billboards, or running expensive TV marketing campaigns. But you will see us communicating with our clients via social media (and right here on LinkedIn!).

Communicating well with your customers is all about building relationships and listening. It’s about meeting them where they are and responding to their needs. The dialogue needs to be two-way, rather than one-way, which is why social media platforms are such a great way to interact (rather than just talk at).

For your team

Communicating with your team isn’t that much different than communicating with your customers. It’s still all about relationships. At MATE we continuously work to create a family atmosphere among our team members. We have a ‘family’ lunch together each day (cooked by our Aunty), we support and celebrate each other’s successes and we even have a team gym. This creates a receptive atmosphere where people feel open to communicating.

In your business, finding out how and where to best communicate with your team is essential to building a strong business foundation. Maybe formal meetings work best. Or maybe it’s better to grab a coffee every few days.

As long as you are allowing open communication with your team, you’ll be on your way to building a successful business.

‘The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.’ – Peter F. Drucker

Takeaway

At MATE we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had some great success. In 2016, we had 1,214 customers. In 2020, we have more than 100 times that number and our revenue is heading towards the $100 million mark. And in the last six months, we’ve had 100% sales growth.

Having success is fantastic. But you can’t get there by just building a website (hanging up a virtual shingle) and hoping people will come. The foundational work for your business – for any business – can be hard. You might smash a few fingers. And you’ll probably need a beer or two after you’re done. But by focussing first and foremost on planning, process and communications, you’ll be off to an excellent start.