Over the past two weeks we have been blogging around our “Holiday Hangover” theme, introducing the concept of what it means for a business to be ‘sick’ or ‘hungover’, how to self-diagnose your business’ health, and discussed the issue of business health in light of a real-world case study.
In these articles, VL hopes that your business’ health care – the ongoing minding and tuning up of your business’ systems to ensure maximum functionality – is hopefully now an item on your radar. In this blog post, we’ve furthered our venture down the diagnosis tunnel with outlining some common things that can adversely affect your business’ health over the long run. ‘
Over the many years that Dr. VL has been transforming data, connecting business, and improving the health for the long-run for clients’ businesses through our data integration services, we have seen a number of reoccurring themes that have led these ‘patients’ into the poor health they came to us in.
Based on our experience and expertise, here are Dr. VL’s top 10 mechanisms that result in the failing health of a business over the long term. We start this list with number ten and work to number one, based on the importance of each item is to a business’ health for the long term.
Number ten on Dr. VL’s list of mechanisms leading to poor health in businesses is education.
Much of our efforts at VL are centered around education – both educating our valued blog readers, clients, partners, subscribers, and internet researchers, but also being open to accepting new ideas and approaches from outside parties as well.
Education is a continuous endeavor that we should all pursue both personally and professionally: it’s the only way to keep on the cutting edge of information, after all! Dr. VL cannot stress how important education is to maintaining a healthy business. Seek out new information, devour as much of it as you can, and then make educated decisions on how this new information affects your business!
9. Goal Setting
Trying to run a business without goals is like trying to navigate a pitch-black room without any expectation of ever finding the door out – you’ll bump into a lot of things, and never get very far or have much of anything to show for it.
Setting goals that are attainable for your business at realistic intervals of time (at months, years, and decades even), coupled with the ever-important continual education that will keep you well-informed on trends and industry movement, will set a rough road map of achievement for your business to follow. With goals, you can track progress, adjust your strategies, and ultimately keep your business on-track and healthy at a high level. Without goals, you might be able to survive, but anything beyond survival is impossible to track because you haven’t set up any metrics to evaluate yourself!
8. Strategy & Planning
Strategy goes hand-in-hand with planning: how are you going to reach your business’ goals and turn them into reality, and what to you need to do to get there? Strategy and planning take your goals and map them into a laundry-list of to-do’s to get there – they add two more dimensions to your goal setting.
Without planning, the mechanisms whereby your business is going to achieve its goals, you’ll find yourself still stuck in that pitch-black room again stumbling around. Asking yourself periodically and regularly how and what you need to achieve (and surpass!) your goals is one key to achieving and maintaining fantastic health for your business. Not sure how and what you need to achieve your goals? Skip to number 1 — or better yet, keep reading!
Scalability is something every business should inherently plan for if growth is one of your business’ goals. Don’t we all want to grow? However, scalability should be something you plan for even if growth isn’t explicitly one of your business’ goals!
How so? It’s part of best-practice mentality to plan for unexpected circumstances. For example, you might not be explicitly planning for growth, and therefore aren’t putting scalability contingency measures in place. But then your widget goes viral, and suddenly you have thousands of consumers lined up to fork over their money in exchange for your product or service, If you haven’t planned to scale to accommodate this situation, you might as well say ‘bye-bye’ to the money your customers were willing to hand over – and to the good will and positive sentiments out there in the wider world for your company.
But if you’re planning for scalability – the ability to scale to take on sudden (and sometimes unexpected) growth opportunities – you’re laughing all the way to the bank! So, you see, scalability doesn’t always mean planning to build an empire from of your business in x years; it means being prepared to capitalize on your company’s strength in planning and any opportunities that may come your way. And keeping your business healthy and nimble!
6. Islands Of Technology
Think of what an island is: isolated, surrounded by water, and often remote and a challenge to access. Islands of technology work in much the same way: they are any piece of technology that exist as separate, isolated entities unto themselves. An island of technology can be a web store, shipping software on a desktop, or a shipping portal that operates all by itself. These islands may work perfectly when volumes are low, but keeping these technological islands is poor planning and strategy, and neglects scalability.
Keeping your technology portals as islands means you are opening your business up to health issues!
5. True Islands Of Technology
True islands of technology, keeping to the metaphor from #6, mean that your technology pieces are completely isolated from any other of your technology pieces. Your web store doesn’t talk to your ERP, your ERP doesn’t talk to your CRM, your CRM doesn’t talk to your marketing software and so on.
Any truly isolated islands of technology need to be integrated so that manual data entry errors are eliminated as volumes increase. Take a look at our “Is Your EDI Intetgrated” infographic on the cost of manual data entry. Keeping your various technology systems isolated only makes your business more prone to sickness and ill-health.
4. Data Flow
Any and ideally all data within a business should flow seamlessly between applications. Additionally, controls on mandatory data should be set so that errors are captured. Do you know if your business’ data is clean? For example: is the address data valid? Do your addresses need to be cleansed? If your answer is “no” or “I don’t know”, your business may be open and vulnerable to sickness and poor health. Worse yet you may be exposing yourself to fraud.
Supply chain data integration and EDI are very technical. It is important to use best of breed solutions to ensure that data flows properly and that your best of breed applications can talk to each other. At Virtual Logistics, we work with our technology partners to provide you with the best possible solutions and technology to help streamline your business. Want to learn more? Go here.
3. Mapping Out The Customer Experience
One of the most important components of any business is the customer, yet mapping out the customer experience is not always treated as equal or as important as the customer themself. Many businesses never do it.
For a healthy business long term, the customer experience not only needs to be mapped out, but it needs to be mapped out with the data touch points highlighted along the way. What do you want the customer to experience and how does that affect the flow of data between systems? Do the systems have the import and export touch points (via XML, JSON, or CSV) to allow you to integrate the systems?
2. Investing In Your Business
All the proceeding items on this list are implicitly encouraging you to invest in your business – and to invest in your business’ future. Ultimately, it is very unlikely that your business will get and stay healthy without the investment of time, resources, and technology.
Sometimes it’s hard to put the crowbar into your business’ pocketbook and make the leap to spend your business’ hard earned capital – but those who struggle most with investing in their businesses are those who don’t see it as an investment. Under-investment in Canadian businesses is a real economic issue, as we discussed in this blog post. Spending the capital now with a trusted partner (one who you’ve become well educated on) is an investment in your business’ future success.
Under-investing in your business is leaving it prone to bad health!
… and number one on our list is…
1. Surrounding Yourself With Trusted Experts
“I am not the smartest, but I surround myself with competent people.” – Henry Ford
The final item on this list is arguably the most important. No one knows everything, and even the smartest individuals have areas of specialty. Dr. VL’s best advice for getting and keeping your business healthy is to surround yourself with trusted, vetted experts in each specialty area that is important to your business. No one can do it all. Dr. VL is a data integration specialist, and with our expertise and metaphorical toolbox we can help your business with every item on this list for your supply chain data and EDI integration. Helping you integrate your data effectively and efficiently to help make your business healthy for the long run.
Want to learn more about the why, how, and what of Virtual Logistics? Check out this video:
This list is a broad overview of some of the reasons why businesses get ‘sick’ based on the experiences VL has had over the years with clients, partners, prospects, and curious observers. Integrating your systems — no matter if your industry is retail EDI, logistics EDI, grocery EDI, e-commerce integration, marketing automation, distribution, or something else — is becoming increasingly important to the health of any organization as our world becomes increasingly more data centric. The longer you wait to integrate or update your existing integrations, the harder it will be!
If any number of these items on our list sound familiar or like a potential trouble area, we encourage you to reach out to Dr. VL for a checkup, or to continue reading our blog to learn about next steps!
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