Despite this, we have a lot of conversations with business owners who want absolute certainty about an idea or a proposal before they can progress it. Often when building a financial forecast, they are projecting a financial future for themselves, their families and want us to tell them that 100% what we project will happen. They want absolute certainty that if they take on three more hires, or open another office or venue that their business will make another £500,000. Sadly no-one can guarantee that level of certainty and so we encourage clients to focus on clarity.
Clarity is something we can control. We can be very clear on the product or service we’re going to deliver, we can get very clear on when we are going to do this and we can clear on why we are doing it, our purpose. With this clarity, we can maximize the possibility of a set of results. It’s still not a certainty but we are maybe moving into the realms of probability.
Craving clarity not, certainty was a wonderful topic to discuss with Alan Clark on the Mind your Business Podcast. Typically this conversation comes up a lot when we are business planning with clients. In every forecast, there is an element of the known and an element of the unknown. For the majority of businesses the large area of uncertainty is around sales. To counter this, we have precedents that help us predict what will happen; we look at past performance, we look at industry benchmarks for a particular product, we make sure that we have absolute clarity on costs such as overheads and wages and we know what a business owner wants to take out of the business. If we are clear on all of this then use probability and a bit of common sense and try to set realistic goals.
Global pandemics aside, if your sales haven’t fallen off a cliff in the last 12 months, then the likelihood is they won’t this year.
Clarity starts when you write down your plans. This scares a lot of business owners because as soon as you write down that you want to be a half-a -million-pound business or you want to take out a £30,000 dividend, you feel you have to achieve it and if you don’t then you will have failed. But if you don’t write it down you’ve never failed that’s just the human psyche at work.
In his coaching business, Alan has frameworks that he uses to describe this level of clarity for clients. One of his particular favourites is called V.U.C.A. V.U.C.A was originally coined by the American military to allow them to view the world in a certain way. It stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.
In the UK over the last 12 months against a backdrop of Brexit or the Covid pandemic, your markets might be volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, but there is an antidote to this called V.U.C.A Prime. V.U.C.A Prime stands for Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility. We talked a lot about Getting Started on the Podcast and in a previous blog. We discussed how business owners could shoot for the stars to get to the Moon, but to get there they needed to be agile, flexible and allow a business to evolve over time.
Clarity brings control. Before any performance comes action. Clarity defines that action it allows you to act in a focused way. You’ve done your thinking, you know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, how to make the product or service better, how to astonish customers, how to act, how to work with your team. All of this comes from clarity and that 100% has an impact on your performance.
During the pandemic, we have seen business owners that had clarity and who created action, while others were crippled by inaction. They were swamped with information, burdened by negativity, they didn’t know which way to turn and so we spent a lot of time trying to provide that clarity, looking forward to how businesses could get itself back out there, open up again and be a strong as possible.
Many of those that acted brought subtle changes to their business. They pivoted. They looked at their business and understood its purpose and what their customers wanted and needed from them. Some, for example decided that they didn’t need bricks-and-mortar but could still deliver their purpose. They retained the clarity on what they were trying to achieve. These businesses might find they will need to pivot a number of times over the next 4 or 5 years but that is ok.
As well as useful frameworks, Alan likes a quote too. He cites Werner Erhard, an American author and lecturer who says ‘what is undistinguished runs you’. It means that without clarity you are run by emotion. Emotion makes you unclear, runs you ragged and prevents you from creating your optimal levels of service for your customers.
If you are reading this and are unsure where to start, there are two elements that it is essential you have clarity on. The first is your financials; your costs, your margins, your overheads, your conversion rate. The second is your purpose. Take a piece of paper and write down all the ways that you can delight your clients, your customers and your team. Obviously, there is a lot more to running a business but even this small activity frees you to undertake an action and ultimately delight your customers, which ultimately has to be very positive for your business.
In summary, seek clarity not certainty. V.U.C.A is a lens through which you can interpret the world. It comes in two forms; volatility uncertainty complexity and ambiguous which is a way to describe the world or the business environment you find yourself in. The Antidote is V.U.C.A Prime, which stands for Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility. It’s about understanding what you want to bring to the world, the industry you are in, what your clients are looking for, the change that the world is craving and then adding clarity about what you are going to do about it.