Sometimes there are easy questions without easy answers. For example, say you prepare for your annual planning meeting with this question: “What initiatives can we take to grow our business profitably by 10 per cent in the next year?”
This isn’t an outrageous number — it is above inflation, but not pie-in-the-sky. And it would be a cinch if you happen to be in a high-demand industry or have the good fortune to win a few solid projects.
However, the question is more challenging for most other businesses, because we need to make assumptions and generally it is far easier to project expenses than revenues, especially for new products, services or innovations.
I sense the most effective and least risky approach to answering it — and setting ambitious business development goals — starts with our current clients. What are they purchasing, and what do they want to buy? If you can answer that question with a (I hate this word because it is abused by so many cliche-ridden consultants) “solution” that fits within your existing business rubric and resources, you have an easy answer.
In my experience, I’ve discovered these answers a few times, and they usually are both astoundingly easy and obvious that you wonder why you didn’t see them beforehand.
For example, some years ago, after building our local business in Ottawa, Canada (original publication:Ottawa Construction News), I decided to expand to Toronto. There were plenty of minefields, but we got the thing launched and then discovered a significant number of advertisers wanted to reach both markets — and beyond.
The simple solution: Create Ontario Construction Report (I think someone else had grabbed Ontario Construction News) — and include it as a supplement to both our Ottawa and Toronto publications. There was virtually no incremental expense, and we certainly could charge more for the same size advertisements. It worked. In fact today, sometimes our revenue in the regional publications is very low — but they are sustained by the provincial revenue.
This is an example of almost spontaneous, market-driven innovation. I think that anything else we do (planned rather than reactive initiatives) should start with the clients — or if we come up with a true innovation that our current clients may not recognize — be tested with clients to see how the idea works, and if it has merit, before rolling it out with major investments.
Have you developed innovations and set and achieved challenging goals with a planned process? I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.