The world moves fast and customers can be fickle: These are things we know to be true. Staying relevant can be a struggle, but managing a nimble business is possible.
From mindset to execution, the following strategies can help you stay top-of-mind with your clients and colleagues.
1. Maintain constant customer contact.
One of the best ways I've found to stay in touch with the changing needs and wants of my customers is to encourage frequent, meaningful contact. I've tried a number of methods, and have found that all of these have worked for me, but pick a communication method that suits you best.
- set up virtual Q&A sessions on Facebook or Skype, in which customers can ask questions or make suggestions.
- host educational seminars and invite customers to attend and share their feedback with you.
- create surveys that give clients a chance to share their thoughts.
- provide community outreach opportunities. (I love these because it gives me a chance to mingle with my neighbors and learn what matters to them.)
The point is that managing a nimble business can be much easier when you have customer input to respond to.
2. Prioritize your to-do list.
I'm a list maker. It keeps me organized and focused, and it feels good to cross things off that list.
But not all lists are created equal. If you're a slave to your list—mechanically working through each item, line by line without any regard for priorities—then you're probably not managing a nimble business.
When I make my list, I use little symbols to help me know which tasks I should tackle first. Things that bring in revenue get a $. Things that matter to important clients get a smiley face (☺). And things that help me streamline work and create systems get an infinity symbol (∞).
When I work through my list, I start with items that have more than one symbol because they have the greatest impact on my business.
Since managing a nimble business relies on assessing immediate needs, prioritizing my list keeps me both productive and flexible.
3. Get (and trust) good data.
Being nimble/lean/agile/flexible/responsive sounds good. But that's not the point.
Managing a nimble business effectively means assessing the results of your actions. Too much pivoting can be bad, and trying to cater to ever-changing whims can both wear you out and water down the power of your brand.
So what do you do?
You get good data. You find ways to measure the effectiveness of your initiatives. Do leads increase? Are those leads good ones? Did more prospects convert? Is my ROI satisfactory? Are my margins healthy?
It's fine to make decisions and even take chances now and then, but I always, always take a step back and determine if my decision had the desired result. Don't just rely on your gut. Get good data.
4. Make downtime a habit.
This strategy is more about mindset than execution. Managing a nimble business means being at your best, and that can be exhausting. Moving quickly and responding to new information requires focus, perceptiveness and stamina… all qualities it's impossible to sustain forever. Your body and your mind need a break in order to perform at peak levels.
Of course, carving out downtime when you're busy can be stressful in and of itself. That's why I recommend making it a habit. Whatever you do for yourself, put it on the calendar. Guard that downtime and protect it from all the demands that compete for your time and attention.
For me, I set aside time for regular exercise, even when I'm on the road (which is a lot!). I've learned that if I don't get regular exercise, I'm not my best self.
I set aside time for regular reading—quiet time when I turn off my phone, step away from email and spend time with a book. And I also schedule time away with my family. All the money and all the clients in the world don't mean anything if I don't have time to spend with the people I love.
It may feel silly at first to put reading time or a visit to the gym on your calendar, but trust me on this one. I believe prioritizing downtime makes you better, sharper and more productive—all important elements when it comes down to managing a nimble business requires.
Managing a nimble business is demanding, but with the right mindset and the right priorities, it can be rewarding. Delivering ever-better products and service to serve your clients sets you up for growth and success.
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