What’s Your Business’s Secret Recipe?
Running an online business is not like organizing a cheese tray. You might think Joe can bring the Gouda, Bob brings the Cheddar, Jan’s got the grapes, and if Tommy forgets the nuts no one will notice.
You’re not just arranging some ingredients on a platter. Running an online business is more like making a cake. The flour should be sifted before being whisked together with the other dry ingredients. You add the eggs in one at a time while you’re mixing together the wet ingredients. There is a recipe to follow.
Your Business Needs a Recipe
In baking, a recipe is a complex process that has to be followed in detail. First, there is the prep work – the “Mise en place”. Once you start baking, the ingredients go through chemical changes to fuse together. Missing a single ingredient can ruin all the other hard work. Bakers also have to work in unison to keep the process moving smoothly from gathering ingredients all the way through decorating the cake.
Do you want to treat your business like an experimental cake recipe? Of course not; especially if you’re promising Black Forest Cake because you might end up delivering fruit cake. Also, you can’t set it and forget it. What happens when you leave a cake in the oven and forget it? Don’t let your business get burned!
If your business doesn’t have a recipe for success, it’s time to make one!
The Blank Recipe Card
Where to start? We’re going to pretend like we’re filling in a blank recipe card. Step one; fill in the name on that recipe. I’m going with “Top Secret Sauce” for mine. Feel free to give yours a spunky name or something more down to earth like “Business Action Plan”.
Now, fill in the Serves box. Normally, this would be the total number of servings or the yield of your recipe. However, I want you to instead focus on who your recipe serves. Who is your target audience?
Pay attention to the next three blanks, but we’re not going to fill these in right now. You’re going to want to go back and do this after you’ve identified all your ingredients and written your directions. That’s because we need to understand the full recipe and maybe even give it a trial run before we can determine the Prep Time and Total Time.
Your Prep Time is going to be the amount of time you spend doing research. If you’re not making your business decisions based off of solid data, you’re most likely wasting time, money, and potential. You should be using tools such as Google Analytics or other metrics to measure your performance and to give you insight into your business health. Data-driven decisions are the key to making informed choices with the potential to perform.
Your Total Time is the amount of time you’re allowing for this recipe start to finish. For example, you might outline your recipe with the idea that this is your monthly process. You spend some time at the beginning of each month assessing how the previous month performed and doing research for the next month and that’s how it gets started repeating itself.
Once you have everything else figured out, your Oven Temp is going to be the heat or pressure you’re going to put on your initiatives. You can measure this by setting a monetary budget for your goals, setting a manpower budget, or some other measurements that define the amount of fuel behind your recipe.
It’s All About the Ingredients
Show us what you’re working with. Your ingredients are your business strategies. These are the methods you’re going to use to meet your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). For example, you could list your marketing strategies. That might include things like SEO, pay-per-click advertising, local mailings, email marketing, radio ads, or even events. Your ingredients are specific to your business. Maybe hiring and training employees are important ingredients in your recipe. Whatever it is, make sure it makes the list.
There may be times when you don’t have a lot of time or resources, so you have fewer or more basic ingredients to work with. Don’t let that discourage you. A good cook can make a little into a lot. Make sure when you write out your directions, you do so in a way that’s going to make the most out of your ingredients.
Don’t Burn the Cake
Even the most extensive or expensive ingredient list can be ruined by poor directions. Make sure you are detailed enough in your plans that you accurately describe each step. You should give exact instructions for how each of your ingredients is to be used. You should describe how these ingredients interact with each other and how they need to come together.
Don’t forget to list out any dependencies. If one of your ingredients needs to finish cooking before another one can be added, that’s important information! Be specific when it comes to timelines and milestones. You can even list out how you’re going to track that progress.
The finishing touches are a very important step to include in your directions. These are the details at the end of the recipe that make the finished product perfect. Include quality assurance and testing! Give a clear picture of what the final product should look like.
This Isn’t Grandma’s Recipe
Some of the best recipes are handed down over generations. Unfortunately, the business world changes too much for recipes to go unchanged for generations. Grandma’s special recipe might be a good base to start with, but you need to modify it to meet today’s demands. So, if you’ve got a family-owned business that means you must take the core principles that your forefathers used and adapt those to your situation.
Running an online business takes constant evaluation, improvement, and changes. That’s why it’s important to take time out to review your recipe once in a while to see where it can be adjusted or improved. Any part of your recipe can change.
Maybe you have ingredients that are no longer available or you might just want to add in a few more. There could come a time when your Serves box changes, so you must adapt to your audience. For example, you might have an award-winning Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, but if you’re serving it to a group full of people with nut allergies, you’re not going to be successful.
As you evaluate and learn, it’s also important to improve your directions. If you weren’t clear or specific enough the first time, refine it. If the results were terrible, find the pain point and eliminate it. Don’t be afraid of change. If something isn’t working right, your choice is to take a risk and change with the opportunity to improve or to keep doing what you’re doing (which isn’t working). If you choose not to change, you’re going to continue to sink into a losing position until you no longer have options to improve your situation. There comes a time when your recipe can go so far wrong, you just have to scrap the whole batch.
Hopefully, you have a clear outline of how to make a recipe for your business’s success. If you’re still not sure or you would like some advice, feel free to reach out to us. Also, don’t forget to check out our infographic for notes!
Download the infographic here.