Women leading women

How to overcome lack of clarity in your business

Tortured, confused, unfocused, overwhelmed, frustrated.  This is how I felt on January 4, 2012.  Why?  Lack of clarity.

I knew that I wanted to change some things in the way that I was working and the things that I was doing.  In fact, it has been all I’ve been thinking about for the last 2 months.  But all the things that I was coming up with didn’t feel right.

I was trudging through treacle.  In my head, I was going round and round in circles with no way out.  I was desperate for someone to tell me the answer as I didn’t seem able to discover it myself.  Thankfully good advice,  a lot of writing  and a plan of action has sorted me out – but if you are in that tortured place, here are some questions to help guide you through.

20/20 Vision

Without clarity, your business moves from place to place like a ship without a rudder. You drift from one thing to another, without a plan to hold it together. But with clarity, you are focused on specific results or actions, you run your business “on purpose” and you can create amazing results — both for you and for your customers!

Why, Who, What, How

Starting with your why is  critical  to personal and business success.  What is your why?  Why are you a small business owner rather than working for someone else?  Why have you made this choice (because let’s face it, there are easier ways to earn a living!) over other choices.  What is driving your decision to be an entrepreneur?

Being clear on your why will make sure that you are chasing a dream that fits with the reality of the life that you desire.  When I started Women Unlimited in 2008 I had visions of creating a million pound company, of changing the face of entrepreneurship in the UK forever (AND make it more female!) and of creating a national company that had meetings and networks all over the country.

What I have discovered after running Women Unlimited for 3 years, is that I actually want a lifestyle business.  A profitable one, and one that brings me a significant personal income, but a lifestyle business none the less.  I have realised that I want to build a business that fits my life, rather than a business that drives my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have aspirations to grow Women Unlimited and am absolutely passionate about helping women to create more successful businesses but I want to do it in a way that supports me and my personal objectives as well as my business objectives.

Quick Tip: Write down your Personal Why on a piece of paper and post it where you will see it every day.   Put it on your smart phone and set a reminder to read it every morning before you start your day.  This will keep you on track and keep your motivation up!

Your Business Why

Simon Sinek has a fantastic book “Start with Why” which is where he shares his perspective on what makes great companies great.   People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.   You can also watch his TED video here on why great leaders inspire action to give you a head start.

Your Who

Who are you doing this for?  One of the mistakes that many people make in their business is lack of clarity on who their target market’s are and end up trying to sell to anyone that will buy their product – and unfortunately saying that your target market is anyone who will buy your products isn’t sufficient.

Being clear on specific customer segments will make everything within your business easier; from your marketing strategy, your marketing communication and your market channels.  Even better, your customer will be able to identify themselves within your communications and relate to your products and services straight away.

Your What

Once you have your customer identified it will be much easier to identify products and services that will particularly suit their needs.  What keeps them awake at night? (I love that question…) What are their passions, their challenges, their needs, their deepest desires.  If you can tap into these things, your customer can’t help but connect with you.  If you are able to be the go to person for them, they will inevitably want to spend money with you.

What products can you, do you, should you offer to thrive in this market?  What will they pay for?  What will they beat down your door to get?  What solutions can you offer that will make them shout from the rooftops that your business, services, products are the answer they have been looking for.

Your How

The above questions are your roadmap.  They are the destination and your guidance system.  Your how is your mode of transport.  Your how has flexibility built in.  You set a plan, identify your channels, identify what you need to do and as you follow that plan you’ll discover what works.

Write it all down

Once you have written down the answers to the above questions, I recommend having a really good (and honest) look at your business.  Have the activities that you have been doing in your business been supporting these questions?   Where are the gaps?  What is going to make you and your business stand out a crowd?  What is going to inspire your customer?

Every day

One of the challenges of running a small business is getting so caught up fire-fighting in your business that you don’t build in strategy time – thinking time.  The habit that really successful entrepreneurs have, is that they schedule this in.  Every week take time out to review where you are against your why, who, what and how and make sure that you are on track.  Has anything changed?  Have new market factors come into play that you need to consider?  Building in this reflection time into your diary will really help you keep on track and help your business realise it’s potential.

What is your why?  We’d love to hear your stories and thoughts in the comments below.

 

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12 Comments
  1. Ann Hawkins says

    Great post Julie and thanks to Bernie J Mitchell for flagging it up on Twitter.

    Bernie and I and a few others have been having a debate about the Simon Sinek video on the NRG forum on LinkedIn. There’s a bit of confusion about exactly who buys your why.

    Sinek (I could watch him for hours!) is really talking about leadership and getting people to follow your lead. Its about why people ‘buy’ into the idea that a leader is trying to create.

    Our why, as you rightly point out is also our main motivator and a great way to work out how we’re going to do things.

    What its not about is getting more customers. Most customers couldn’t give a rat’s a… about our why. They just want to know if we can satisfy their needs at the right price. All over social media people tell us they are passionate about their businesses. Well, that’s great for them but means nothing to me if they’re not selling what I need.

    1. Julie Hall - Editor says

      Hi Ann… Thanks for your comments. I love Simon’s talk as well – and I think it takes a lot of watching to really get it. For me, I think customers do care about your why (business why, not personal one) but only if it matches their desires, passions, worries. For Women Unlimited our why is all about our audience which is why so many of our articles and workshops resonate for them …. we have built them around our customer rather than asking our customer to fall into our designs.

  2. Eddie Gear says

    Interesting Julie, I just do a swot analysis to get clarity on things. The 20/20 Vision is new to me.

  3. james says

    very interesting
    i agree, simplicity on what you are offering/talking about is key, sometimes sites are so full of info/sections that its just all too much in my opinion
    thanks for the info

    james

  4. Manuel Marino says

    Great post! it’s hard to find the right way for your business. As artist, I can have an “excuse” that I’m not a businessman, but anyway, this 2012 started with many new ideas and goals, for me.

    First of all I redesigned my blog, you can check it, more colour, more artistic (it’s an art blog).

    Then, I’m re-tagging all the articles, I was having too many tags, and it was time for a clean up.

  5. inge woudstra says

    Thanks for sharing Julie. The questions aren’t the hard part for me. But the answers are. Luckily I have found a great business mentor who helps me find the answers and keeps me on track too.

    I like the ‘life style business’ word and idea. I remember a speaker at a women’s business conference saying ‘of course we all want that multi-billion bank account and flashy car’ and I thought: Really? Do we? Is that why most of us are in business?

    Perhaps we are. But I want a life style business too! I also know female entrepreneurs are often not really counted, because most of them are more a ‘hobby’ than providing a full family income. Personally I think they can be much more than that. Running your own business can also be a way to opt-in, work flexible, keep your skills uptodate and yourself sane, and provide some extra income on top!

    1. Julie Hall - Editor says

      Hi Inge – I agree completely! It took me 2 months to answer all my questions 🙂

      I think the statement that we all want million pound businesses is a myth too mainly because most of us don’t want the kind of life that running a multi-million pound business entails (at least we wouldn’t if we really thought about it!). I heard a very successful entrepreneur pooh pooh the idea of the lifestyle entrepreneur and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I am one, and am really happy with that. Just because we are running a lifestyle business doesn’t mean that it has to have a tiny turnover – but chances are there will be a cap on it (but hey, maybe not! Only time will tell).

  6. Sandra says

    Putting “how” in the last helps planning for goals less complicated. The “why” and “who” are questions that provides motivation. I agree on taking time to answer these questions, I could work better when I know why I am doing it, who I am doing it for, what they need and how I can make things happen. I am grateful for the advice and I hope you can visit me at derivative sometimes.

  7. Rochelle says

    It is difficult to work when there are basic questions in your business that we don’t spend time to answer. Answering the Why, Who, What, How, can provide meaning to what we do and let us see the direction our business should go.

  8. Kath Roberts says

    Great post Julie-You’re right of course, clarity is the starting point to everything followed by a vision, then focus, that brings that deep intention because our why is big enough and then we take the action.
    We find the courage when we’re focused on others and our attention is in the right place.

  9. Steve says

    Hello Julie, very good points. I think quiet time or time to think, review and reflect is very helpful in many areas of our life in addition to our business.
    I would also suggest self hypnosis or meditation as a tool.

  10. James says

    Hi Julie,
    I think the ‘why you do it’ is probably key for most businesses. Take the Apple/Microsoft landscape as an example. Sure, Steve Jobs was a great businessman who offered something different to the widely accepted norm (the ‘why’). It always makes me smile when people look at my laptop and say, “Why can’t it be more like Windows?’