When you become aware of a problem in your business, it’s usually not long until you also realize it’s a symptom of a larger issue. If you decide to make some changes, it’s critical to look at the bigger picture: why you think change is warranted, what factors are behind how things are now, and what will happen if things stay the same over time. It’s complicated to disassemble and rebuild how you do things, and it might just feel easier to resign yourself to the status quo.
Instead of living with a nagging sense that things could be better, it helps to view your problems as opportunities to drive the evolution of your business – to adapt to your environment so you’ll thrive. Here at Acadia, we’ve dove into this process, focusing on these four components of lasting change:
1. Brand identity, vision, and mission
No matter what kind of business you have, from manufacturing to developing precision equipment to providing technical services, you must have a clear brand identity. It’s at the heart of the why, what, and how of everything you do. Brand identity should inform all of the business decisions you make from the projects you take on, to organizational structure, to how you define roles within your staff, to how and when you approach growth.
With a clear brand identity you can develop a meaningful mission and vision to guide operations. This is not the place for fuzzy or poorly defined ideas. You need to articulate in precise language what you are all about, and what sets you apart from your competition.
As you put your ideas into words, don’t rely on grand and virtuous language alone. Ask yourself what you’re unwilling to compromise and what you truly believe in. Brand identity, vision, and mission need to be in “real” words everyone can grasp, employees can act on, and clients and customers can expect from you.
For example, at Acadia we’ve spent time reflecting on our core values and goals and developed these vision and mission statements:
Vision: Provide peace of mind to our employees and clients that comes with clarity and direction essential for growth.
Mission: Equip forward-thinking sales and marketing leaders with sales enablement and marketing processes that are scalable and repeatable.
2. Culture and operations
Do your brand identity, vision, and mission match what’s currently going on? They need to be ingrained in your overall culture and day-to-day operations if they’re going to have a measurable impact on your business. Those in leadership and management need to create an environment that supports staff in times of change. They also need to reflect on what they see happening, and listen closely to feedback and questions, and make refinements when necessary.
Leadership has a large role in identifying and defining core values, but the rest of the team members are the ones to develop the processes, steps, procedures, and decision-making tools to carry them out. These are sometimes called the praxes, or practical applications, habits, and customs an organization follows to bring its values to life.
View business opportunities, new and existing, in light of staying true to your defined brand identity, vision, and mission. In some cases, you’ll just know when there’s a mismatch. In others, you may need to create an evaluation tool, such as a list of core questions or a checklist or flowchart, to help make the call. Remember you’re not just looking at opportunities in monetary terms – you need to decide if they truly fit with your brand identity. Look at opportunities against your business now and follow them to their logical extension.
At Acadia our inbound and outbound marketing teams have studied, tested, and refined procedures that we use with every client including:
- A standard list of “discovery” questions designed to learn about a client’s products and services, their goals, special needs, and concerns
- A standard process for kicking off new campaigns that includes staff training and time for questions and answers
- A procedure for reporting metrics for gathering and distributing KPIs and other critical information at regular intervals
3. Your Market and Clients
Your extended team may be aligned and have a shared understanding of your brand identity, core values, and processes, but what about your market and your clients? A sure way to fail in your efforts to create change is to create a mismatch between your brand identity and the image of you that clients and potential customers have. For example, if you picture your company as an agile and aggressive tiger but your market wants and needs a thoughtful and reliable golden retriever, you might not understand them as well as you think.
Brand identity, vision, and mission should be apparent in everything you do, and clients quickly notice when they aren’t. Ideally, brand identity will enable creative thinking on the part of your team to make changes and take on new opportunities while staying true to the values your market and clients expect.
At Acadia, we focus on B2B clients in the manufacturing and industrial space, often working closely with engineers and expert sales representatives. Over the years we’ve learned what they value and what they need from us:
- Clear and measurable data
- Content that provides prospects with accurate technical information
- Tools and techniques to identify likely prospects for their products and services
Our vision and mission set an expectation for thoughtful and comprehensive data and procedures that enable sales, and that’s what we deliver consistently.
4. Commitment and accountability
Everyone in the company has a responsibility to hold themselves accountable to brand identity and its practical applications. One of the best ways to encourage accountability is for leadership to actively model and support the values it helped define. Ideas include distributing vision and mission statements to staff and online, reviewing processes to make sure they’re still working as planned, and fostering a culture of open communication and questions.
Another key to success in making changes stick is for leadership to avoid undermining decisions and plans they’ve asked their teams to make. This means giving teams real authority to develop systems and implement procedures. Not only does this build trust, it shows that those at the top of the organizational chart are invested in brand identity values and the team’s competency.
Everyone at Acadia places a high value on teamwork and meeting client expectations. As a result, we routinely:
- spend time making sure team members know how to use the tools and systems our business relies on
- post our vision and mission statements throughout our office
- reinforce success with new methods and tools by celebrating accomplishments at all staff levels
- encourage each other to ask questions when we don’t understand
The evolution of a business takes time and there may be more than one iteration along the way. Start by developing a strong and specific brand identity, and use that as a framework for business decisions, market connections, and company culture. And then, stick with it! It’s worked for us at Acadia, and we’d be happy to share more of our experience with you – please contact us.