Happy New Month! It is March and many businesses are marching on. This is despite the unexpected happenings a year ago. The COVID-19 pandemic affected many aspects of businesses. Being adaptable, coping to win, building resilience, being flexible, holding on to customers and redefining business models is what smart businesses have done in this period. Unfortunately, some businesses were not in a position to meander successfully through the pandemic. Though the pandemic lingers on, the entrepreneurship spirit has not dwindled. Many in business continue on a road never travelled before. This year will be critical in shaping their future. In shaping this future, I believe that businesses will have no choice but to stay lean, obsess about their customers and innovate.
Staying lean in business means utilizing minimum resources to create maximum value for the customers. This requires that businesses focus on efficiency and quality while eliminating waste. Lean thinking is not a new concept. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has required businesses to think about their businesses as a whole as opposed to different parts. Being lean does not necessarily mean having less staff or closing down some branches. The Lean business model has been around for a while. It originated in the manufacturing industry describing the practices of Toyota in the 1980s. In their book “Lean Thinking” Jim Womack and Dan Jones who have advanced the lean movement consider staying lean as key to businesses transformation. In particular, they recommend a focus on the business purpose, the processes and the people involved in those processes. Are you staying lean? Are your businesses activities creating value for the customer? Have you been intentional about eliminating waste along the value creation chain?
I consider 2021 to be the year of customer obsession. More than ever before, it is critical for businesses to preoccupy themselves with meeting the needs of their customers. Every business needs to have clarity on who its current customers are and what their expectations are. Every smart business recognizes the value of creating the best customer experience. Only entrepreneurs and business leaders who commit to a customer-first approach are likely to survive into the future. Who are your customers? What are their expectations? Are you meeting or even exceeding those expectations?
In 2020, many businesses had no option but to innovate. Many businesses built their digital presence, others created new services, new products and processes. Besides, remote working became an option. Today, every business needs to generate creative ideas and search for new opportunities. As a business leader or owner, are you open to new ideas? Does your business have a systematic way of searching for creative ideas throughout the organization? Do your staff freely make suggestions about improvement of products, services and processes? Are their ideas fairly evaluated? Are you seeking customer feedback consistently to get better? Have you been creating in running your business as a whole? The future is bright for those that innovate. To shape this future, businesses must continue innovating, stay lean and obsess about their customers. Keep Marching on!
Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy