After years of working with SMB business owners/leaders and their salespeople, I have realized that there are at least six, oftentimes more but we’re going to talk about the prevalent six, critical areas that are neglected entirely or have weak plans and structure. My hope is for you to identify and address any and all of these areas in your business.

1. Go-To-Market strategy – As businesses look to grow they often times have the Field of Dreams syndrome; “Build it and they will come”. This rarely works unless your business is a Starbucks on seemingly any corner in the Loop. Other than that, a strong actionable go-to-market (GTM) strategy is required. You must have specific actions formulated to access and influence your buying market. No matter what your services, from accounting offices to chiropractic practices, every business requires strategy to maintain growth. There are some great GTM examples online, but a word to the wise, make it your GTM strategy. Unless you own it, embrace it and believe in it, it will simply be another document that collects dust in a drawer. Seek the outside perspective that is required and then do it! Try it, track it and then you will know how to change it.

TASK: Read the examples, step away from your business for an afternoon (If you think you can’t do that, you don’t have a business you have an obsession) take the best minds you have from within your business and a few from the outside then start talking long term strategy. You’ll need to set some goals for the strategy but goals without a strategy of achievement are only hopes and wishes.

2. Automate, Delegate, Duplicate – The biggest hurdle that business owners face is the habit of being the COE, Chief of Everything, instead of a CEO. As you build your service offerings and identify how you care for your clients make sure that you document repetitive behaviors. Everything from how you onboard a customer to the follow up that happens with your inbound marketing can be automated, or if automation is not an option you can document the process and delegate it. Make it a full time focus to effectively hand off as many tasks as possible. There are a litany of tools on the market (insightly and mailchimp are my favorite go-to products) that can function as a project management tool, empower your marketing automation and drip marketing campaigns, and integrate with your accounting software.

TASK: Do a time audit to understand where you are investing your time. When you have a solid view of where your hours are going you will be able to assess what truly should be on your plate and what can be handed off. Begin to document how each task is done and create activity sets that can guide a support person through the process. You can find a virtual assistant or on site part timer to help you in the beginning, and then do your level best to touch things once and hand them off!

3. Documented and Disciplined Client Acquisition Process – Each phase in the client acquisition process needs to be documents and measurable. I’ve seen many businesses that simply have fields such as: LEAD<PROSPECT< OPPORTUNITY< CLOSED WON as their funnel. This will not suffice if you take your business development seriously. Here is an example of one I built for a past client. As you can see, there are VERY SPECIFIC qualifications that must be met before the prospective client transitions from Marketing Lead to Sales Lead and then MORE VERY SPECIFIC qualifications that must be met before the salespeople can assign a phase and percentage of probability. With this process, my client could easily identify the marketing effectiveness and where along the process they had the greatest lost rate. WIth this information, I was able to coach, develop and train with laser like focus.

TASK: Move outside of the generic sales funnel fields and assign what makes sense. Then, within each category assign the qualification points that must be met to achieve the threshold. This gives you a true “process” to follow. Think of it like a recipe: step by step, timed accordingly, baked properly, etc. When you omit ingredients or make other mistakes you inevitably get a dismal outcome.

4. Consistent and effective 1:1 meetings with staff and leaders. I already wrote about this topic so I won’t repeat myself. I encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. One addition, few business owners have someone to give them consistent and honest feedback.

TASK: Follow the tips in the article! If you as a business leader don’t have someone, find someone. It’s not that hard these days to find a coach. Your obligation is to find one that fit’s with you but will push you. Oh, and make sure they’re qualified, there are a lot of jokers out there.

5. An understanding of Emotional-Intelligence, Dr. Travis Bradberry’s book is a smart but easy read that is far and away one of the best out there. I will only impress upon you that the world is shifting, carrot/stick is a motivation of the past for most businesses. You must lead with emotional intelligence in this day and age.

TASK: READ THE BOOK!

6. Working toward your exit vs. running in place- This seems to be the big winner! In a May 2016 CNBC story it was sited that almost two-thirds of businesses have no plan for exit. Thus, people run on their hamster wheel day after day and never get to their goal. Simply said, without the goal of exit, it’s rarely achieved.

TASK: This one is more fluid. It depends a lot on from where you are starting. But a few musts are: Timeline goals, financial goals, a decision on what will happen to the business when you exit, strategy to pursue your goals, support to achieve your goals.

So, now what? Take stock, don’t be discouraged and start to make the changes needed to address these Six often neglected areas. Listen, it’s hard! The days fly by and business owners have a few thousand distractions a day. Step back, get perspective and set a plan into action. Let us know if you need help.