Whether you’re a business owner, entrepreneur, or manager, you have to pay attention to the business landscape and your place in it if you want to be successful. You don’t want to get caught languishing by the side of the road as the rest of the marketplace rushes by you. It’s important to assess where you are now and how you can maintain, regain, or create a competitive edge over the crowd.

What You Need to Consider

1. Branding

What do you do and what sets you apart?

Branding is the buzzword of the day, maybe the decade. Though possibly overused, the concept is still an important one. Branding is far more than a memorable tag-line, catchy logo, or impressive elevator speech. The primary value of branding is in clarifying precisely what makes you different, what you have to offer that makes you stand out from the bulk of competitors in the marketplace. Branding is the cornerstone of any successful marketing plan.

2. Relationships

What do people care about and what needs do they have?

Getting to know and understand people is vital. The key is to focus on quality over quantity. Masses of social media connections matter less than relationships with people who can directly influence the success or failure of the business. Current and prospective customers, as well as employees and professional connections have the most relevant opinions and useful feedback to offer. It’s imperative to communicate, listen, and build relationships with those who can impact the future of your business.

3. Leveraging

What are your areas of efficiency and areas of weakness?

Small businesses and entrepreneurs tend to be resource poor. It’s just the nature of not having a large cash flow at their disposal. The most successful excel at squeezing the maximum value out of available time, money, and talent. Their strategy is to do what they do best and delegate or outsource the rest. Essentially, they know how to Do More with Less.

They spend their time on activities that provide more value, those activities that increase revenue or help the company to grow. What they don’t do is waste their time on activities that provide little or no value. While it may seem counter-intuitive to pay others to do tasks that could be done in house, it’s often more efficient and profitable in the long run. Leveraging unproductive activities saves time and money, by increasing the focus on the most valuable tasks.

4. Growth

Where are the opportunities for growth?

Complacency and stagnation are red flags that portend a grim outlook for future success. The danger lies in placing so much of our focus on digging in, completing current projects and managing small crises that we forget to be open to change and creative innovation. Unfortunately, this negatively affects our position in the business market and diminishes our competitive advantage.

It’s critical to keep one eye focused on growth, evolution, and innovation. If you don’t, you will fade into the crowd while other more forward thinking businesses surge ahead, leaving you in their dust. This sounds overwhelming and somewhat intimidating when you barely have enough time and energy to focus on current needs, but it doesn’t have to be. All that’s really required is that you stay open to new opportunities and consistently take steps — even small ones — to keep growing and moving forward.

Growth takes many forms. It might be revising an existing process, updating skills, investing in new equipment or learning a new technology. It also might take the form of more significant changes such as shifting careers or business models, or launching a new product or service.

5. Balance

What do you need? What are you neglecting? What would make you work and life more enjoyable?

Balancing priorities and the different aspects of our life is the foundation for building a successful and personally fulfilling career or business. Modern society is buzzing with the work-life balance conversation, but often we misconstrue the meaning of balance, or at least the real world application of the concept. It’s not about trying to allot equal portions of attention, time, and energy to the separate parts or even making one a priority over the other. It’s more about discovering that right combination of shifting importance and focus that can meet the ever-changing demands of work life and personal life while still leaving us feeling happy and fulfilled, and not on society’s terms, but on our own.

Success and fulfillment requires that we pay attention to where we are, how we’re doing, and where we’d like to be. If we can figure out what sets us apart, how we need to grow and what we need to do to keep moving forward, then we can begin to apply our focus and resources – namely time, energy and money – in a way that allows us to continue to thrive.

(Photo credit: Businessman Moving Chess Pieces via Shutterstock)

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