History is punctuated by the names of great explorers.
We all know Livingstone, Columbus, Amundsen, and Armstrong. But for every Leif Erikson, Marco Polo, and Lewis & Clark who struck out on a journey of discovery, there were many more who were happy to stay exactly where they were. We don’t know those people’s names.
And it’s the same in the business world. We don’t know Richard Branson’s name because he’s super-rich – there are plenty of super-rich people who aren’t household names. We know Branson because he became super-rich pushing boundaries.
Plotting your course
Of course, being a brave explorer isn’t always enough to curry fortune’s favour. If you’re not familiar with their stories, google Burke & Wills, Shackleton, and/or Percy Fawcett.
And it’s the same in the business world. Sorry Clive Sinclair.
Except for our oceans, there’s very little of the planet still to explore – did you know you can Google Street View parts of the Amazon – so where do our history books get their next legendary explorers? Elon Musk is a reasonable bet.
But you don’t need billions to be intrepid.
Whatever your business, whatever its size, you can take it on a journey to glory. You just need to plot the right course.
Here’s how you do that:
Plot a graph with four quadrants (a big cross), where the vertical axis goes from same amount of profit/output to greater amount of profit/output, and the horizontal axis goes from doing same stuff, to doing different stuff.
Then imagine this graph is a map. In which direction are you going to take your business?
Bottom left: Similar Results for Similar Activity
In this quadrant, you continue to do the same work and achieve the same profits; similar results for similar activity. You’re coasting around familiar territory, pretty much going nowhere. Boring.
Sure, you’re not moving backwards, but is this lack of forward motion really satisfying? Don’t you have more ambition than this? Yes, you have your own ship, but it’s hardly the Endeavour. More like a cruise ship. Hope you like shuffleboard.
Bottom right: Similar Results but doing Different Activity
Moving into this quadrant means that you’ve recognised the need for innovation, but you’re merely achieving similar results with different activity, pivoting more than a Donald Trump surrogate. While you’re trying new ideas and you’re releasing new products and services, you’re not committed to a clear direction.
Each new course change provides new scenery, so you’re getting a taste of excitement and fun, but as you’re working at about the same level and your profits are remaining steady, where’s the real achievement?
It’s easy to feel satisfied here—it can feel like a good place to be—but you’re not exploring your potential. It’s as though you’re distracting yourself away from a path towards increased success.
If this is where you find yourself, but it’s not where you really want to be, a proper business plan will help you navigate away from mere diversion towards a more challenging venture. But remember that plotting a new course isn’t where the hard work ends. Your plan requires consist attention and regular reviews (preferably quarterly). Ensure that trying something new doesn’t result in replacing the things that are working and bringing you profit; you’re looking for additional not just different.
Top left: Greater Results with Similar Activity
If you’re in this next quadrant, your output has started to increase. Perhaps more leads suddenly poured in and your business now has lots of new customers. It’s likely that you’re working harder—maybe even longer—in order to keep up. But the increased workload comes with a boost in profits, so this seems like a good place to be … right?
But is it?
Think of this situation this way: You run a ferry. Then (for whatever reason) more people want to use your service. So you increase the number of sailings you do per day. You’re doing the same thing, more often, and receiving more money for it. But you’re not expanding your horizons.
If you’re here, you need to focus on how to systemise. Create processes to streamline, automate, or delegate, so you can move on to opening new channels, products and markets.
Top right: Different Activity and Greater Results
This is where the great entrepreneurial explorers head for. Here, not only are you seeing your profits and results increasing, but you’re also changing or expanding the way you do your business. It’s a wonderful combination of both increasing your impact, and having fun while you’re doing it.
At an SME level, this might be evident in that you are finally building a marketing funnel; or choosing your niche and marketing avatar; or creating clear inbound marketing strategies; or developing a clear sales process. These are changes where you are systemising and moving forward with your business and if combined with increasing profits, then it is a clear indication that you are stretching and progressing.
In larger businesses, this might be evident in opening up more marketing activation strategies; creating of entirely new teams (and better management of those teams); creating parallel marketing funnels for multiple niches and avatars; refining your referral strategies and filling up the upper tiers of your loyalty ladder; or it might even be the creation of new products or services in order to service new markets.
Whatever your business, be an explorer. Stretch yourself and your ambitions. Try different, and exciting things, but also keeping an eye on your output to ensure you are also progressing in impact and profit as well? Who knows where well-planned expeditions will take you.
After all, Columbus thought he was going to India.
About the author:
Shweta Jhajharia is Principal Coach and founder of The London Coaching Group, an ActionCOACH company. Shweta is a multi-award-winning business coach, and a popular keynote speaker. She has been recognised both by external bodies and the industry awards panels as the top coach in the UK, and the Number 1 ActionCOACH from over 1200 worldwide. She has also been invited to speak at large business events such as the bi-annual Business Show.