When you are small, you can run and grow your business in your head. In the early days, it’s hard to think that you play many different roles because you do different jobs yourself. You can be the salesperson, accountant, marketer, product development manager, HR administrator and many other roles without calling these out as you move from task to task.
But, when your demand grows, you can’t do it all. You need more people to help grow the business and make your customers happy.
If you are under $1M, most of your effort should be on selling. If you are past $1M, you have to make the business work. Either way, your business is about knowledge. How things get done to create a customer and deliver your product or service consistently becomes harder when you scale up.
A knowledge base is a place that organizes the knowledge that’s in your head. It helps everyone on your team understand how to do their job clearly and interact with other people doing their respective jobs.
Furthermore, a knowledge base has the following benefits to growing a business:
1. Facilitates Onboarding and Training
It is a systematic way to help a new person get started and be productive in their hired job. It also provides professionalism, job satisfaction and clarity for new employees that could otherwise be disoriented, overwhelmed and frustrated in a new role.
2. Makes Information Sharing Efficient:
A place that is structured and searchable makes it easy for your team members to get what they need, when they need it. If you have to keep answering the same question many times, rather than allowing people to find answers for themselves, you are the bottleneck in your business. It’s not a great use of time. Document it once and let it be consumed many times.
3. Increases the Value of Your Business
If you want to sell your business, what will you sell? Having systems that are clear and a methodology for growing easily and rapidly is extreme value to a buyer who wants to know how to operate the business. If you don’t have a knowledge base, then the information required to execute consistently is in your head. You can’t step out. You are the business.
4. Forces Clarity
How you do things now may change later. Having a system that is continually living and updated helps everyone stay clear for their own job. And information that is documented and does not make sense in context of your business goals or handoffs to other jobs can be debated, clarified and updated. You can push on refining your methodology as new realities emerge during business growth.
5. Helps You Lead
A large complaint of employees is that they see dysfunction from management or ineptitude. You can lead with clarity and conviction when your team sees commitment to systems, process and order. Furthermore, you can open up ideas and ways of doing things through continuous improvement to a knowledge base that should welcome better ideas and ways of executing from the people doing the work. Your leadership can center around knowledge rather than charisma. It takes the pressure off you and focuses it on business systems, where it should be.
Growing Your Business
The more people you get involved the more complexity you have to manage in your business. Clarity becomes a bottleneck to growing your business because you have to take time to explain, manage and oversee how things get done.
Furthermore, the jobs that have to get done are continually changing. You want the best ideas and approaches available and clear for everyone in a system that is repeatable and continually improving.
“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson
The great thing about business is that you can test ideas quickly to see if what you think or want to do is valuable. Small tests done quickly to get feedback from customers will go a long way towards pursuing or developing an idea further.
Yes, make a plan. Then try it out quickly to see if it resonates and creates interest and engagement.
Most things we see today are needed and businesses exist to give people what are known established needs. Things such as:
There is historical demand among the millions of people out there consuming such products and services.
If you are innovating on a new type of product or extending a concept, think about how to test your idea quickly by proposing and putting it in front of real customers. You can find out quickly via feedback how to further develop your idea or abandon it altogether.
Yes, you could have done that after you have seen it done. We get that benefit today watching how people put together solutions by benchmarking what others do first.
The Egg of Columbus story where Columbus challenges his mocking critics to make an egg stand on its end highlights the perception of others’ success.
If you discover something and share it or bring a solution that was not readily apparent, it becomes common, likely underappreciated, knowledge.
I think humility all around helps a great deal. We benefit from seeing something done and using it in our work and life. Watch a Youtube video, research a topic or simply ask a neighbor how they did something. The insights can save you pain and time.
At the same time, you are contributing when you figure out and share your knowledge. Others can take a look at your creativity or determination and integrate it towards their pursuits.
Learning and sharing can save a great deal of cost when we are trying to do hard things. We should simply appreciate those that make the egg stand.
“It is more productive to convert an opportunity into results than to solve a problem – Which only restores the equilibrium of yesterday.” ~ Peter Drucker
I am a sucker for solving problems. And I have to take heed to the wisdom in this quote. Which one makes more impact? A new opportunity or an old problem?
If my goal is to contribute, be useful and make an impact, then making space in my life for opportunities to present themselves and be acted upon is the priority. Busywork, noise, outdated commitments – these have to be pruned out decisively. Otherwise, like weeds, they clutter the landscape and opportunity for new growth.
Creating value for others comes down to solving the right problems. And the right problems tend to be coupled with timeliness.
Perhaps you have a lot of balls in the air as well. Simply cutting out what doesn’t make sense creates space for the new.
Maybe you’re measuring success by how busy you are rather than how much free time you have. The latter can be an indicator of your capacity for taking on new opportunities.
I have found that there are plenty of opportunities that cross one’s path. But working on old problems allows no space for those to be recognized, entertained and acted upon.
In case it doesn’t sink in, remember, you are one of 330M people in the United States. Go to the airport, a concert or any large gathering to get a small glimpse of how minute you are in a sea of people.
The strategy to try and work with everyone is a sure fire way of failure in the marketplace. There’s simply too much competition and it’s hard to understand your offering if you are generalized. It’s the quote,
‘I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.‘ ~ Herbert Bayard Swope
You have to be ok with not making everyone happy or trying to chase every deal. You have to be ok with people that don’t get you.
Ironically, such specificity is a form of abundance. You are thinking how to be the best for the people you want to serve by solving their specific problem you or your company are designed for.
You are not diluting yourself and trying to be all things to all people.
I am about strategy. Many people do not value strategy. But, people that need clarity, business growth or getting rid of pain in their business know what I offer. I try to stay in my lane and not overreach to areas I don’t have passion, expertise or bandwidth for. I have a network of friends I try to share generously with instead in those cases.
So, maybe it would be a powerful time if you could think about, “Things I don’t do.” It could give you conviction around the things you do well and want to specialize in.
Then be clear with your marketing, networking and outreach to make sure that is understood by those that can do business with you or know people that want to do business with you.
Who do you only want to work with and what do you only want to offer?
When we think about a problem, we like to solve it. Our brains are suckers for the open loop and we want to close it. If you are asking how to make something cheaper, you get solutions and thoughts on cost-cutting or quality cutting. And those that are super efficient at making things cheap have extreme scale to amortize such costs.
If you ask how to make something more expensive, you have to think about value. How do you make something worth more? How do you become worth more?
There are plenty of people that crave better. They can easily get cheap merchandise. But, they can’t always get that exquisite taste, feeling of quality or identity to name a few reasons why we pay more for the things we love.
What if you took the challenge to look at your prices? What would it take to make the value worth double? What would that look like? Can you add a thoughtful gift? What if you followed up with custom service at the right timing? The extra effort or concierge service could easily increase the value perception if you package your offering with some creativity.
Increase the value before anyone even asks. Sometimes it’s cost. Other times it’s care. Then, if you get traction that is repeatable, you can see if the value warrants an increase in price.
In a crowded marketplace with so many options for cheaper options, it would be hard to compete in categories that have people thinking about the low-cost option.
Become more expensive. It’s a fantastic way to differentiate and push yourself to be desired more. It’s not free. But it’s worth it.
It’s critical to take whatever idea you have and see if it stands up to the rigor and texture of people – customers, partners, critics, etc – in the real world. That’s honest design.
Credibility comes from proof that what you conceived can actually work repeatedly in the world.
I like to move to action and engagement quickly. And here’s what I find works:
Always be engaging the world and gathering ideas
Write those ideas down. I keep a list.
Think fast and hard about a next step – reaching out to a friend, posting a thought, starting a project
Watch the reaction. And if there’s positive results, build momentum with another action. If not, kill your darlings.
Clarity comes through engagement. It’s partly why I don’t think professional writers who are in these magazine content farms are necessarily helpful if they haven’t actually done things like build businesses, drive revenue or worked with teams. They are researching and writing.
Where’s the rejection? How do they know where the land mines are and tune for the chaos?
Look for the credibility with people that move to action and push until results happen. Otherwise, you can have a lot of misinformation from feel good content when what you really need are results.
When we are buried in the details of our work, it’s hard to look around and see connections to worlds outside ourselves. We can be talking to the same people within our crowd, read the same blogs, and look at the world through a myopic lens.
Some of the big ideas of today such as taking software platforms, connectivity, mobile and cars can produce inventions like Lyft.
A company like Stripe took their expertise in coding and made connections into financial tech and banking. It was daunting, but rewarding as they brought their lateral thinking to the problem of making online payments easier.
If you straddle different worlds, know the culture and nuances of different segments, you can powerfully introduce solutions that connect the dots that might escape a specialist’s trained mind. Lateral thinking is value add in this increasingly complex and polarized world. There’s extreme efficiency and speed occurring on one end of the spectrum. On the other end, there’s high complexity which requires creative, consultative solutions.
Bringing outside, fresh perspectives can change the way a problem is solved. If you are a lateral thinker, you can open up the conversation to new possibilities.
You can notice and exercise a few approaches in your work and interactions:
Be sure to play in different worlds deeply rather than invest fully into one area of work day in and day out.
Meet new and interesting people that think about their fields intensely. Ask great questions and learn.
Keep great notes and think of how new perspectives create new solutions for your problems. Test them out and see what comes of trying different approaches. Then share them to help others.
If you can connect the dots you become valuable to others that are conventional in their practice. Your contribution increases.
Think about your domains you invest in. How can they merge or collide in a way to create even more value?
The world is getting more efficient on the whole. But, the creativity and lateral thinking opportunity is there to be applied to multiply those efficiencies.