When you’re running a business it’s all too easy to let performance challenges result in an overly internal focus.

Business costs of internal focus

Quick takeaways if you’re in a hurry

  • Dealing with performance problems requires an internal focus, but by developing a game plan you can set a timeline for coming up with some solutions
  • Forgetting about your customers puts your ability to retain them at risk. Any internal focus should not distract from the importance of keeping your customers happy
  • A strategic review will allow you to explore the opportunities to keep your customers happy by better understanding their needs.

Read on: Does your business have an internal focus?

(estimated reading time: 5 minutes)

Knowing your organisation inside and out is essential. How your operation runs; staff productivity; the cost of providing the service you offer – these are all elements that successful business operators know like the back of their hand.

But when the search for internal knowledge creates an overly internal focus, it’s possible to lose sight of the wider opportunity. Your focus can become fixed on running your business and you can forget the market and competitive environment within which you operate. In the worst case scenario the result is that customers get less attention and prospects are lost.

Why do businesses develop an internal focus?

There are a myriad of reasons why a business can get caught in the trap of navel gazing for too long, and often performance, operational costs and cash flow are the leading culprits. Dealing with a crisis can be all consuming and it’s easy to prioritise fixing it (and saving your business) over all other tasks.

A common scenario would be if cash becomes squeezed due to tight margins. If this happens, it’s important to begin immediate close daily management of payments in and payments out, alongside ongoing reviews of operational performance and costs.

Focusing on the details can be all that keeps a business afloat, but it’s a very labour intensive process. Getting into the detail of customer payments; whether staff are performing at an optimum level and opportunities to reduce costs is no small task. It takes time and considerable attention to detail. And businesses often don’t have the resource to support this activity alongside day to day operations.

Develop a game plan

Allowing this process to take over for an extended period of time is perhaps the biggest risk to your business. That’s why it’s important to develop a game plan – a strategic program to cover all areas for consideration with deadlines for completing the review and implementing change.

A game plan will not only ensure that your internal focus has a timeframe, it will also ensure that while you’re carrying it out you can maintain focus on your customers. Your game plan needs to make sure that you can continue business as usual while drilling down into the detail and finding a solution. And your solution needs to consider better ways to do what you do, as well as new ways to make your business succeed.

Look at the opportunities

If you’re carrying out a review of any kind, it’s important to include strategic considerations: to explore the opportunities as well as the costs. This is your chance to put aside time for keeping abreast of your market; reviewing what your competitors are doing; customer experience and the services your prospects are seeking.

This is a real opportunity to refocus your business on the customer. Becoming internally focused can easily result in your business becoming focused on the product or service that you deliver, rather than constantly questioning what the issues and needs of your customers are and how you can deal with them.

Stay focused on the customer

Whether you are undergoing a review of your business or it’s business as usual, here’s a handy question to ask yourself: Does my company spend more time working to understand our products or working to understand the issues facing our best prospects?

Getting ahead of the competition is a process that requires you to understand your customers better than anyone else. By having the best understanding you can identify the optimum product and business model to both meet their needs and your profitability targets.

If you identify that navel gazing may be taking precedence over customer and prospect needs, it might be time for a shift in focus.

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