Entrepreneurs and start-ups need business intelligence to grow in turbulent times.
Business Intelligence (BI) plays a central role in enabling entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses to grow into thriving, profitable organizations.
For any organization to thrive, it requires the type of business intelligence that it can use to make strategic business decisions with confidence. That’s what Business Intelligence delivers. BI technology gives organizations the ability to track, understand, and manage its information. BI is taking on an increasingly strategic role as more organizations are looking for ways to tap into the valuable data stored in their operational systems.
Real-time information on market trends, information on vendors, consumer trends, customer purchase behavior, import/export considerations, shipping/delivery cycles, new product development sales by region…all fuel a small business’s ability to make the right kinds of decisions at the right time, especially with respect to allocating scarce resources.
But what exactly is business intelligence and how can you implement it within your organization?
According to Webopedia, the term Business Intelligence (BI) represents the tools and systems that play a key role in the strategic planning process of the corporation. These systems allow a company to gather, store, access and analyze corporate data to aid in decision-making. Generally these systems will illustrate business intelligence in the areas of customer profiling, customer support, market research, market segmentation, product profitability, statistical analysis, and inventory and distribution analysis to name a few.
According to Wikipedia, BI is a set of theories, methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information for business purposes. BI can handle large amounts of information to help identify and develop new opportunities. Making use of new opportunities and implementing an effective strategy can provide a competitive market advantage and long-term stability. [source]
BI technologies provide historical, current and predictive views of business operations. Common functions of business intelligence technologies are reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, data mining, process mining, complex event processing, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining, predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics.
Though the term business intelligence is sometimes a synonym for competitive intelligence (because they both support decision making), BI uses technologies, processes, and applications to analyze mostly internal, structured data and business processes while competitive intelligence gathers, analyzes and disseminates information with a topical focus on company competitors.
To build a BI infrastructure, start with your customer as the central cornerstone. Design a CRM/contact management system that allows you to capture all sorts of relevant prospect information. As you move a prospect through the lead qualification process, you will gather all sorts of information on them. At the point that you convert a qualified lead to a first time customer, you can obtain even more information on that new client.
As you migrate your client up your lifetime value ladder, keep integrating other components across you business into the CRM, from email systems to your blog, your website contact lead generation forms, your social media accounts, your client past purchase information, and then the systems, processes, and software that are embedded into your operations, from your customer care/call center, your phone support, Video and web conferencing…all the times you “TOUCH” a client can and must be captured to build a thoroughly complete picture of your clients, ESPECIALLY your most profitable clients who contribute most of your business (the 80/20 rule “Pareto principle.”)
Every time you can gather a little more information on your potential customers, and for every sale you make, you are increasing the amount of data that your business can leverage to perform even better, by improving your operations. For many companies, the challenge isn’t obtaining the data but rather in weeding through it all to find information it can use. While all of this is happening in your back office, on the front end you and your staff will need a dashboard view your key customer information so you can make actionable decisions in response to events as they happen, with greater confidence.
Most of the data that companies collect is useless! Why? Because they don’t have the resources to make sense of it all. Worse yet, their information is captured/stored in many different tools and is never brought together, so the organization can’t capture a complete picture of a situation and thus cannot make informed decisions. That leads to failure. With the proliferation in IT technology and Internet advances, BI isn’t just for huge corporations anymore.
In years past, incorporating Business Intelligence (BI) software was an act done only by big companies because it cost so much money to buy and deploy; not to mention, you would also have to hire programmers and developers to take care of scripting, mapping, and other high-level tasks in order to get value from the software. But now, there are many BI options out there for small and medium-sized business owners to implement and begin analysis of the data resulting from day-to-day operations. Most of them are free or low-cost, and are as simply to operate as a drag-and-drop function.
Great BI Tools for Entrepreneurs, Start-ups, and Small Businesses.
Tableau Desktop: allows users to visualize data through its interactive dashboards created from dragging, dropping, and connecting selected data points. By being able to look at this information graphically, you can easily spot trends. It can be run on a laptop, and has an engine powerful enough to analyze even large amounts of data, negating the need to sample.
PivotLink: specializes in cloud computing, allowing users to analyze data that’s been transported from on-premises to the cloud for storage and processing. Many analysts firms project more companies will begin to utilize the cloud, so this is a definite vendor to take a look at.
Yurbi: offers real-time access to data. For instance, rather than manually scheduling the next step in the process after data comes in, the system automatically knows to kick off the next step, allowing for a seamless integration of all of your data. With no hold-ups, you get access to, and are able to analyze your data faster.
Square: many small business owners are familiar with Square, allowing staff to swipe and process credit card payments on a phone or tablet device. Square also has built in analytics capabilities so you can instantly measure hour-by-hour sales, and know which of your products are best-sellers.
The bottom line for all productive BI tools is, they must deliver business owners real-time data access at their fingertips.
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach
All Successful Entrepreneurs Share the Same Characteristics.
Since I teach Entrepreneurship, have given lectures to thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs and coach hundreds of entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses, I have developed a fairly keen sense of who will (and WON’T) succeed at planning and launching a successful business.
I have developed a list of the traits that ALL successful entrepreneurs possess when it comes to planning, launching and then growing a viable (SUCCESSFUL) business. The qualities all successful serial entrepreneurs possess are:
1. Dogged Determination:
Successful entrepreneurs do not let failures slow them down. They keep going, and going, and going…like the Energizer bunny! They keep plugging along as they say to themselves: “I think I can, I think I can…” until they actually “DO!”
The people who ultimately succeed in launching their business are not afraid to fail. In fact, they overcome a fear of failure by planning meticulously while believing that if they are destimed to fail they will strive to fail GREATLY and learn from their mistakes so they are more likely to succeed in their next entrepreneurial pursuit…and the one after that, and the one after that…
3. Dare to Change The World:
These rebels, these radical thinkers are never happy with the STATUS QUO. They just aren’t happy with the world the way it is, and they want to change things for the better.
4. Love Setting/Meeting Deadlines:
These people hold themselves accountable for accomplishing tasks they face within the time frame they set for themselves. They don’t accept excuses from themselves, and they certainly don’t tolerate excuses from others.
5. Are Really Committed to Leaving Their Day Job:
For these people that are currently working in a day job while they plan their new business, they set dates for themselves that they will leave that job. It is their own personal EXIT STRATEGY from the daily grind of working for others, which leads to the next quality entrepreneurs all possess.
6. Hate Working for Others:
These are the people that have a burning, insatiable appetite to be their own bosses . They do not plan on working for others their entire careers, and are moving aggressively to create opportunities to go into business for themselves, by acquiring an existing business, buying a franchise, or launching their own business.
7. Pay Meticulous Attention to Detail:
These entrepreneurs have conducted exhaustive research by developing a customer development framework model, and they also have developed a comprehensive business plan with prototypes of the minimum product they will sell services they will offer.
8. Ask LOTS of Questions:
They’re naturally curious people always asking others to explain things they don’t understand. they’re naturally curious and tend to ask “Why” and “What If” a LOT!
9. Keep Their Eyes on the Future:
You can spot these folks a MILE away. They’re the ones who spot trends before others, they can connect seemingly unrelated events, facts, or issues into a BIG picture. They have a sixth sense to spot up and coming industries or the next hugely popular trend. They are also constantly focused on the “around the corner” and planning for what comes next. They naturally practice contingency planning by having fall back options, whether it’s pursuing other vendors/suppliers, defining more than one ideal target segment, having other products in development or are ready to deliver additional services. They are hardly ever unprepared for any unexpected event.
10. Embrace Their Weaknesses:
These folks are honest in their self-appraisals, they know what their strengths are and they play to their skills, while simultaneously aligning themselves with others whose own skills compliment theirs.
11. Thrive in Chaos: They inherently know how to roll with the punches, and deal with unforeseen circumstances. They do well in undefined roles, and know how to navigate through uncharted waters with very little structure and even less supervision. They are not afraid to set a course and go at it alone. The unknown does not affect them; in fact they seem to embrace the challenge of succeeding when chaos surrounds them.
12. Lifelong Learners: The most successful entrepreneurs are constantly looking to learn from every opportunity as a way to improve their products and services, offer better customer care, deliver greater value to investors/shareholders. They see their personal mission in life as seeking new opportunities to learn and they greedily consume as much knowledge as they can not for profit necessarily but for knowledge sake.
13. Problem-Solvers and Puzzle Doers: Funny thing about people that thrive as entrepreneurs is, they love facing problems and finding solutions. They don’t see the challenge as a burden, but rather a way to beat conventional thinking by taking approaches the rest of us just don’t see. they are obsessive about finding answers where none seem to exist. As children, they loved making models, doing crossword puzzles, and jigsaw puzzles, math problems, Rubik cubes, sudoku…anything that gave them an intellectual workout.
What do you think? Do YOU possess these characteristics? Are there any I missed that you would have added?
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach
Have you created a succession plan to ensure your future business continuity and survival?
Does your business have a succession plan in place, in case your leader is unable to lead? What happens if your current President/CEO, owner leaves or is unable to lead your business? Do you have a succession plan (a formal written document) that defines a specific course of action, should your CEO leave, become incapacitated, retire or pass away?
With the increased complexity of running a business due to constant technological advances, rapidly evolving industry trends and technologies, and the global nature of business competition, you need to have a plan in place to guide you in transitioning your leadership, whether its a single owner/CEO, partners, or an entire management team.
Do you have a succession plan in place already? If so, when was the last time you revisited it, to ensure that it’s still relevant and accurately reflects your current business situation? If not, you are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette by hoping you don’t need one.
If something happened to your leader, you won’t have the time required to develop a succession plan to guide you through identifying the ideal candidates from outside your organization through recruiting, then interviewing and hiring your new leader. the time it takes to develop a plan on the fly will likely prevent you from successfully navigating through the crisis and your business will likely suffer tremendously if not fold outright due to the lack of continuity in leadership.
So, what’s a succession plan, you ask?
Having a succession plan will enable you to identify employees who are capable of taking over upper and senior management positions. Most succession plans begin by creating a list of qualified candidates and narrowing the list down, until the right person (people) has been chosen. According to Marshall Goldsmith, a well-developed succession plan should emphasize/include the following four elements/considerations:
1.Change the name of the process from Succession Planning to Succession Development: Plans do not develop anyone — only development experiences develop people. We see many companies put more effort and attention into the planning process than they do into the development process. Succession planning processes should develop individuals you identify as possessing the requisite background, experience, values and desire to take over.
2. Measures your desired outcomes, not the process: This change of emphasis is important for several reasons. First, executives pay attention to what gets measured and what gets rewarded. If leadership development is not enough of a priority for the company to establish goals and track progress against those goals, it will be difficult to make any succession planning process work. Second, the act of engaging with senior executives to establish these goals will build support for succession planning and ownership for leadership development. Third, these results will help guide future efforts and mid-course corrections.
The metrics a company could establish for Succession Development might include goals like the percent of executive level vacancies that are actually filled with an internal promotion vs. an external hire, or the percent of promotions that actually come from the high-potential pool. Too often, we find companies measure only the percent of managers that had completed succession plans in place.
3. Keep it simple: We sometimes find companies adding excessively complex assessment criteria to the succession planning process in an effort to improve the quality of the assessment. Some of these criteria are challenging even for behavioral scientists to assess, much less the average line manager. Since the planning process is only a precursor to focus the development, it doesn’t need to be perfect. More sophisticated assessments can be built into the development process and administered by a competent coach.
4. Stay realistic: While development plans and succession charts aren’t promises, they are often communicated as such and can lead to frustration if they aren’t realistic. The bottom line is, don’t jerk around high performing leaders with unrealistic development expectations. Only extend the promise of succession IF there is a realistic chance that they will be chosen.
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach