growth, customer-centricity, insights, data, measures, performance management, dashboard, planning, advantageous excellence, operational excellence, process, technology, swimmingDo you ever feel like you’re swimming against the current? As we produce this episode of What’s Your Edge?, The World Economic Forum expects the global economy to remain uncertain, citing that over half of chief economists anticipate it to weaken this year. The report mentioned that while many companies have been reengineering, supply chain disruptions will persist and the costs for raw materials will remain inflated throughout the year; and that many businesses will continue to find themselves hard-pressed for human capital.  All of this is spurring the pivot to technology, which takes time. In the face of these and other business waves, you may find pursuing growth for your business akin to swimming upstream. However, five essential tools—customer centricity, advantageous excellence, data-derived insights, performance management, and resilience—serve to empower businesses to not only survive the current but thrive by aligning strategies, optimizing operations, and fostering adaptability.

How to Improve Your Stroke to Master Business Waves

Growth for the sake of growth can lead to reckless paddling against the current, resulting in burnout or stagnation Just as a swimmer must adjust to the ever-changing currents, to achieve sustainable growth and stay ahead of the competition businesses must innovate, evolve, and expand. According to research by McKinsey, 84% of executives agree that innovation is important to their growth strategy. Strategic growth involves mastering business waves—market trends, emerging technologies, or changing customer preferences—and leveraging them to propel your business forward. How? By emphasizing five essential tools.  Let’s dive into each.

  1. Customer Centricity: Just as a swimmer must align their strokes with the flow of the water to make progress, businessesgrowth, customer-centricity, insights, data, measures, performance management, dashboard, planning, advantageous excellence, operational excellence, process, technology, swimming must synchronize their strategies with the needs and desires of their customers. Neglecting to do so is akin to working against a powerful current—exhausting, unsustainable and possibly resulting in drowning. According to a survey conducted by Zendesk in its CX Trends Report, more than 80% of customers believe a favorable experience would influence a choice to make a future purchase. This underscores the critical importance of customer-centricity to growth in today’s competitive landscape.

Improve Your Stroke: Leverage advanced analytics and artificial intelligence tools to gain deeper insights into customer behavior and preferences. For example, companies like Amazon and Netflix use sophisticated algorithms to personalize recommendations and enhance the overall customer experience.

  1. Advantageous Excellence: Operational excellence—the foundation upon which successful businesses navigate turbulent waters—serves as the bedrock of advantageous excellence, which isn’t just for big companies. You may be familiar with the renowned Toyota Production System, which emphasizes waste reduction, standardized processes, and employee empowerment to drive operational excellence across its manufacturing operations. But advantageous excellence also empowers smaller companies by helping them navigate competitive markets with precision and agility. Just as a skilled swimmer relies on efficient strokes and proper growth, customer-centricity, insights, data, measures, performance management, dashboard, planning, advantageous excellence, operational excellence, process, technology, swimming, resiliencetechnique to gain a competitive edge, streamlining processes, eliminating waste, and optimizing resources can maximize your company’s productivity and efficiency.

A prime example is Vendasta, a B2B SaaS company based in Canada that offers a white-label platform to help local businesses market themselves online. Despite being a smaller company, Vendasta places a strong emphasis on operational excellence. By leveraging lean principles and automation technologies, Vendasta has streamlined its internal processes, enhanced product delivery, and improved customer satisfaction.

Improve Your Stroke: Implement lean principles, map key processes to identify areas for improvement, invest in automation technologies, and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

  1. Data-Derived Insights: We live in a data-driven world. Businesses have access to a never-ending supply of data that canfish wrong way, resilience guide decision-making and inform strategic direction. “You have the elements such as wind, temperature, waves, and potential currents and tides in the sea,” says Adam Walker, head coach and founder of Ocean Walker Academy. Skilled swimmers use this data to make sound decisions. As a business leader you must leverage data-driven insights to anticipate market trends and customer needs, identify innovation opportunities, and mitigate risks.

Improve Your Stroke: Invest in advanced analytics platforms, employ data scientists, and cultivate a culture of data-driven decision making to harness the power of insights.  Leverage data to improve the customer experience journey and touch points, outpace competitors, and foster innovation.

  1. Performance Management: Pace, heart rate, and stroke rate data are key measures open water swimmers use to manage and improve performance. Just as swimmers monitor their speed, endurance, and technique, businesses must track key performance indicators (KPIs), measure progress against outcomes, and course correct as needed. Research by Select Software has found companies that embrace continuous performance management outperformed their counterparts by 24%.

Improve Your Stroke: Establish clear performance targets and measures and implement performance management dashboards.

  1. Resilience: Change in the current is inevitable in both swimming and business—and preparation is key to keeping afloat. man rowing boat, resilienceSwimming against the current demands resilience—the ability to persevere in the face of adversity. Business resilience entails weathering storms, overcoming setbacks, and bouncing back stronger than before. Just as a swimmer strengthens their muscles to tackle stronger currents, businesses must fortify their organizational resilience through robust risk management practices, scenario planning, and a culture of adaptability. While 97% of business executives believe business resilience is important, only 47% believe their organization is resilient, according to research by SAS.

Improve Your Stroke: Strategic planning and scenario analysis provide excellent ways to intentionally consider eventualities that could affect your organization. Your customer-centric marketing expert on your board serves as an essential member of your coaching team. Monitor signals and pay attention to patterns to assess potential signs about what might be occurring.

Have some questions about how you can improve your customer centricity, advantageous excellence, data-derived insights, performance management, or resilience? We have answers that will help you read the currents, adjust your course accordingly, and embrace challenges. Even when you’re swimming against the current there are opportunities for growth.

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