Business owners are faced with difficult, complex decisions each day. They become juggling masters, managing an ever-growing amount of tasks. Many owners focus on growing, building, and bringing in higher revenues. While this may seem logical, they often find themselves in over their heads, trying to accomplish too much with limited resources, far from their original aims.
Entrepreneurs often make the fatal mistake of expanding too fast. There are countless ways to grow businesses, but one that’s often forgotten is simplicity. Taking the time to refocus energy and reevaluate performance can lead to an entirely new era of success.
To understand business simplicity, we first need to discuss what it truly means to “grow” a business. This does not always mean increased revenues. Sometimes, it means trimming out unnecessary processes or products so your company can return and be loyal to the original passions from which it began. Take a look at some areas businesses can use simplicity to grow their passions, products, and processes:
The first step in simplifying is to create a set of clear and focused goals. Take the story of 37Signals for example. At the height of revenue, CEO and founder Jason Fried decided to do something drastic. He and his partners made the decision to cut out nine high-performing software products to focus on one: Basecamp.
They had come to an impasse. To grow revenues, they would have to hire more employees. For a team that had always been small and remote, this was something they were not willing to do. They were passionate about innovative groups made up of few people- it was how they worked best, so they reevaluated their position and simplified. Now 37Signals is known as Basecamp. It’s “Basecamp the Company, Basecamp the Product” (Fried 2014). Simple.
To simplify your goals, see which product or service is making you the most money. Businesses only run as long as their bottom line is met, so begin there. After that, look at your audience. Determine if your best product is being designed for your largest consumer group. If not, consider altering it or refocusing marketing to reach them. Last, remember your passions. Sticking to your original values will not only encourage current revenues, but will also guide you into the future.
Another area businesses can simplify is marketing. Consumers today see an estimated 5,000 ads per day. There is simply too much noise. So if you’re trying to appeal to someone who’s reading their email while listening to music and riding the train, it’s unlikely that you’ll be noticed. So what can you do?
Researchers from Corporate Executive Board published a study exploring how consumers are responding to ads today. It found that consumers are so overwhelmed by ads that they are shopping differently. Due to an overload of marketing, nearly 30% of consumers today skip research and brand comparison and simply go for the brand that is most familiar to them. Researchers suggest that familiarity stems from how easy a brand makes it for the customer to decide.
They gave participant brands in the study “decision simplicity” scores based on how easy it was for consumers to gather information about a product, how trustworthy that information was, and how that information enabled them to make a purchase decision. For example, take Canon Inc., the top digital camera company in the 2014 EquiTrend rankings. When you view a product on Canon’s website, you immediately see a customer “star” rating, the price of the product, and links to comments. By giving these three pieces of data upfront, Canon is offering their customers easily-digestible information and trustworthy reviews that allow them to make a decision.
The choices businesses makes with technology are and will continue to be major factors in success. Since some companies now have 40% of their workforce performing their duties remotely, it’s becoming increasingly more important for the communication they use to be efficient and simple. Web-based planners and mobile apps can facilitate this change.
Simplifying technology can also mean eliminating unnecessary hardware. For example, some companies lose significant time on company-wide, standardized hardware. Having to take the time to train each employee on a mobile phone upon hiring can greatly slow down the training process. With 65% smartphone penetration in the US in 2013, it’s likely your employees already have the technology they need. Freeing up the time your managers spend training employees on hardware allows them to focus on more important things like sales and revenues.
Simple Isn’t Easy
Many owners are tempted to add “just one more feature” or hire “just a few more employees.” But to truly grow your company, it is essential to perfect what you already have. It requires a clear set of goals, a customer-friendly marketing strategy, and simplified technological processes. When you put these three concepts together, your business will be on its way to both immediate progress and sustainable growth into the future.
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