Driving down the road this week, I noticed new potatoes sprouting through the ground. This is great news, as it means the rain we experienced lately is getting our crops off to a good start.
According to my friend Paul Dawson, a potato farmer and successful entrepreneur in Cape Traverse, there is more to creating a successful harvest than just rain. He said, “There are many factors; the more critical ones are to:
- Develop a strategy. Determine what potatoes will be in demand this coming year and your market focus. This forms the basis for everything else you do, including what you buy, the resources you will need and the team required to make it happen.
- Choose the seed piece which is best for a strong plant and will produce the potatoes your customers are looking for.
- Prepare the ground for the type of seed you chose and cultivate it timely to make room for healthy growth.
- Spray the crop to protect it from weeds and diseases when growth starts.
- Prior to harvest, kill the plants to stop growth, ensuring a tough skin to protect it during harvest and shipping.
- After harvest, grade, store, and ship the product to market in a timely and cost-effective fashion.
You can control these six factors, but in the end, you just hope for good weather, strong market demand and good health – over which you have very little control.
What does this have to do with business and management? It is the same process for success in any business as it is to bring potatoes to market. Follow these steps to success:
- Develop a strategy. What markets are you going to focus on? Who is your potential customer and what do they really want? As with the potato farmer, timing is critical. You should ask yourself two questions: “Does my product fill the niche you are attempting to satisfy,” and “do I have the team in place that will enable me to do that?”
- Do product testing. So many businesses in a mature market fail because customers changed their mind. Does anybody remember the disco era? Who woke up one morning and decided “disco sucks!” Check with your customers to see if your assumptions are still correct.
- Prepare your people so they are knowledgeable, motivated, and can grow into new roles. Ensure your team is ready for the new product by providing training.
- When first wins are experienced, recognize and reward people who most helped create that success. It is important that the right people are continually motivated towards high achievement.
- Establish metrics. Set goals, and constantly measure how well your service meets those goals. In extreme cases, don’t be afraid to scrap a product if it isn’t performing. Remember the principle of sunk costs: Just because you’ve already invested time and resources into developing a product, doesn’t mean you should keep trying to sell it. With metrics in place, you can confidently remove people who are not committed to your success and eliminate products which are not profitable or in demand.
- Focus on supply chain management. If supply is not available when it is in demand, your customers will go elsewhere. Or, if you have too much inventory, your overhead costs will increase significantly.
Just like potatoes, there are things over which you have no control. You hope for a strong market demand, positive currency exchange rate, and a strong business climate.
My question for managers this week: “What seeds are you planting in terms of people and products to create success for your organization?”
Change Your Thinking, Change Your Behavior
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