I used to teach an introductory-level course for an online MBA program. This program introduced MBA students to the role of accounting, basic financial statements, monetary policy, and macro- and microeconomics. In one class, we focused on the Federal Reserve, its role and impact.
I was struck by how unfamiliar virtually all of the students were with the Federal Reserve. Even though many of them were directly affected by the Fed's decisions, they had little or no understanding of what it was or how it functioned. They were disconnected (by unawareness or intentional disinterest) from important information about their world.
The same happens with many companies. They run their business without a true understanding of the world in which they operate. They’re disconnected from meaningful information. And without information about today’s world, it’s difficult to build meaningful success and a sustainability strategy.
As the new year begins, consider reviewing these areas to better know your business and your world, then use the information to develop a sound strategy to be successful in 2012:
- The economy — What's the impact of today’s economy on your business? What is the cost and availability of money? How have your customers’ spending attitudes changed?
- Social trends — What is popular and important to your customers? What are people buying, thinking, and saying? Where are they moving to, or from? How do people buy? What products, services, or trends are important to consumers?
- Technology trends — What new technology is available? What is popular, effective, and attention-getting? What technologies do people want? What technologies will give you a competitive advantage; what technologies will become a threat?
- Workplace trends — How do you hire the best employees, use networks, and inspire loyalty? How do you mentor, develop, and train employees to be exceptional in their roles?
- Customers and service trends — What inspires customer loyalty? Who are the best service providers? Who is the competition and what is their service perspective? Does your service make you stand out?
- Management trends — How do the best managers transform their human capital into financial capital? How is information shared? Are performance expectations established and managed? Is a clear vision and mission defined, shared, and believed?
The best companies constantly gather information. They ask, observe, and assess. They use their employees and their networks to stay in touch with their worlds — to know their worlds as they really are. They then use the information to build a sound strategy, to educate, train, and prepare their employees, and to develop an emotional connection with their customers to advance loyalty. How well do you know your world?
Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user RambergMediaImages.