The New Year is a good time to start forming habits that can benefit your company, whether 2015 marks your second or thirty-second year of business. The first few weeks of a new year is a timely opportunity to reflect on your company’s strengths and weaknesses, to recommit to practices that work well, and to eliminate processes that are not effective. As the CEO of Varsity Tutors, I have found that quite a significant part of my business success has resulted from maximizing and streamlining how my company functions in the following three areas:
1. Integrating digital technologies with physical realities
Technology offers seemingly endless power and potential. However, the appeal of this power and potential can sometimes mask the disconnect between the promise of digital technologies and the realities of the physical world. Enter the need for sophisticated, logistical solutions. For example, when you purchase an Amazon item on December 22nd with guaranteed delivery by December 24th, what physical processes must occur to ensure your package leaves the warehouse and reaches your doorstep in less than 48 hours? There is the product sorting, packaging, and delivery that all has to be in synch, and Amazon has to rely on its carriers like UPS to be able to have that holiday present delivered in time. It was this disconnect that led to a significant percentage of late deliveries during the 2013 holiday season – a mistake that Amazon seems to have avoided during the latest holidays.
Or take Uber, the ride-hailing service. Before it can launch its app in a new city, the company has to meet in person with drivers to pitch its service, certify them, host events to generate public awareness of Uber, and network with local businesses (like bars and restaurants) that might recommend its service to patrons. An entire infrastructure has to be in place so that when someone requests a ride, there will actually be drivers who respond.
In short, the more technological investments your startup makes, the more you have to consider the physical processes behind them. Even the slickest website will be hard pressed to find success if the business model behind it does not include the proper processes to support the physical delivery of a product or service.
2. Committing to a focus on analytics
The increasing use of technology brings with it an increasing amount of valuable business data. The most difficult part, then, is deciding which data to examine and how to act on your findings. Monitoring numbers and creating charts is merely the first step in growing your business; the next step is translating that data into a strategy with specific action items. Sophisticated businesses are increasingly assembling data science teams to help make sense of all the different variables that are measured.
When you view data, try to envision all the metrics available to you as a network, rather than disparate data points. Your various departments – marketing, operations, sales, etc. – do not function in isolation. Instead, the actions of one department can affect your entire company.
Consider this example from science: we once believed that there was a single cancer gene – if we altered this gene, we could alter cancer. Of course, we now know that the human body’s inner workings are affected by our daily habits, diet, genetics, and so on. Likewise, your startup’s sales figures for Product A are not the sole result of your marketing campaign. Data analytics can help you determine the diverse factors – and the connections between those factors – that influence your sales results.
3. Designing and offering holistic experiences
While Amazon debuted its Fire smartphone to great fanfare, it was ultimately unsuccessful. Even though the device’s specifications were on par with other models offered on the Android and iOS platforms, it failed to offer a holistic experience. Fire owners had access to fewer apps than those who shopped in Google Play on Android devices and in iTunes stores on iPhones. In addition, the Amazon phone was only available through limited distribution channels.
It is no longer a sure bet to maximize processor speed, screen size, and storage when competing in the smartphone market, and this same mindset can be applied to almost any business. Companies that offer a great experience through every step of the customer’s journey can easily differentiate themselves from competitors who focus just on the product specifications. Try to envision a complete journey for your average client – from the time he or she is a lead to the moment he or she becomes a former customer. In between, there are many experiences and interactions that a person can have with your product or service. Effectively managing this journey can help your startup shine. The user experience is what will ultimately determine your conversion rates, lifetime value of a client, and referral rates, among other key business drivers.
For instance, consider a home appliance store that delivers and installs washers and dryers. One mindset this company could have is, “We sell washers and dryers.” An alternative mindset could be, “We help people own appliances that make their lives easier.” That second mindset could help the store owners think beyond simply pushing more appliances out the door to the entire customer experience. For example, they could help customers secure financing plans and schedule reasonable delivery times to accommodate normal work hours. They could also offer consultation services as to which specific washers and dryers are the best fits for the family size and house layout. The second business outlook can prompt you to think about everything that must happen for a washer and dryer to reach a home and to truly add value to a customer’s life – in other words, the complete journey.
You can even think of your startup’s growth in 2015 as a journey. While industry, location, and target audience (among other factors) shape each company’s journey, any startup can begin 2015 on a positive note by following these tips for maximizing business success.
Chuck Cohn is the CEO and founder of Varsity Tutors, a technology platform for private academic tutoring and test prep designed to help students at all levels of education achieve academic excellence.
This article was written by Chuck Cohn from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
To learn more about running your business, check out the Business Owner’s Playbook.