Business Improvement In Practice And Process: How Small Businesses Get Ahead Of Their Competitors

Recently I met some business coaches for a self-run seminar on business improvement. Our aim was to explore how we help SME clients to improve their businesses, contrasting and comparing our approaches. As we shared our client experiences, we noticed there were basic four approaches that we follow with variations to suit a specific small business:

Moore’s Law

Gordan Moore noticed that there are trends in technology: IT hardware performance doubles every two years; the price of technology halves as the cumulative sales double; and the number of World Wide Web pages doubles every nine months.
If you look out for the market trends that will impact your products and services, you can focus your business improvement efforts where the trends will help you to improve what you offer your customers.

Kaizan

Kaizan groups break down your business processes into components that you can monitor for performance. Within the measurements, the group seek instances of best performance that if adopted generally could improve the performance of the whole business.
You could extend this by seeking out best practices not just in your own company by in your suppliers and customers. When you have found how other do a process quicker, cheaper and to a better standard, you apply this benchmark to improve your own performance.

Continuous improvements

Total Quality Management looks for annual improvements using the skills and insights of your whole team. Small groups focus on a specific process, explore how it works, collect ideas to try out and then adopt the changes that improve the process.
Thus you could target specific areas that you want to change this year and encourage your staff to suggest improvements. Each suggestion is treated as an experiment run as a project (with a fixed goal, fixed start and end dates, a cost and effort budget and open reporting). Where the improvement is shown to be effective, it then becomes part of the accepted practice.

Groves corollary

Andy Groves believed “only the paranoid survive” so he created competitive pressures on his company before his competitors did.
In this approach, you watch your competitors constantly, check their performance levels, assess their products and improve before they do. A success is when you recognise new opportunities and develop the capability to exploit it before others do.

The key message that we picked up from our coaching meeting is that to leave your competitors behind, you need to invest effort and energy into improving your business.
The method that suits particular clients will depend on the people involved – whether they prefer to generate their own changes, be inspired by the achievements of others or watch what is happening in other businesses and industries.
So the final question is “How will you go forward?”