How to avoid the snakes and find the ladders.
Published: July 23, 2020

The game of Snakes and Ladders can be an infuriating one. You’re just about to reach the top of the board when you land on a snake and go slithering right to the bottom again. That’s what owning a business can feel like at times. A bad roll of the dice, and you’re suddenly heading in the wrong direction. That’s particularly true of the current situation, when the dice appears to be loaded against you, and there seem to be snakes wherever you look. But what can you do to make sure you find more ladders? 

Ladder One – Create a strategy. And use it. 

Oh, but I’ve got one of those you say. But what are you doing with it? Is it being implemented on a regular basis, impacting positively on your business, or gathering dust in some file you can’t even find? Having a meaningful, active strategy can be the difference between success and failure. Having dealt with hundreds of UK businesses, we’ve found that the successful ones all have one thing in common – a coherent strategy that is worked on and implemented regularly. 

When businesses are small they can sometimes get away for a short while without an active strategy. But energy and enthusiasm can only get you so far. As you get bigger you’ll experience growing pains in key areas – sales, marketing, operations, finance and talent. Big, successful companies get to stay big and successful by implementing their strategy, ensuring they can deal with problems as and when they occur. Their strategies give their owners, their team, their customers, and their investor’s reassurance and confidence that they know what they’re doing.  

Smaller businesses tend to be much less active with their strategies. Is it any surprise that a meagre 4% of businesses make it to the £1m turnover mark, and only 0.4% make it to the £10m target? By having an active strategy in place you’ll find yourself in a much stronger position to avoid the snakes.  

Ladder Two – Be unique. 

Another vital ladder involves creating something unique in your market. This allows you to steal a march on the competition, attract new customers and build your business. Better still, create a new market based on established customer behaviours. That is what the giant’s Google, Apple, Tesla, Uber, and Amazon all did. It’s not about re-inventing the wheel, it’s about looking at what your customers want, and finding new ways to provide it. This is particularly true of the current situation, where, although the world has been turned on its head, customers are still out there, looking for something unique, searching for a brand that speaks to them. 

In the ever-changing world of banking, insurance, property, transportation, shopping, communications and digitalisation successful companies continue to emerge. They build value not by ploughing the same old furrows, but by adjusting, exploiting and innovating, to become the companies of the future. You can do the same. 

Ladder Three – Simpler, better, faster. 

One proven way to avoid the snakes is to remove obstacles and reduce friction when acquiring and onboarding customers. By making the journey hassle-free, customers will not only like you, they won’t want to use anyone else. Is it any wonder that Amazon is the most valuable public company in the world? 

The pandemic has made life hard for many businesses. Which is why now is the perfect time to innovate and find new ways to engage with customers in a way that’s as frictionless is possible.  

Ladder Four – Data Insights.  

Wherever you look nowadays there is information. We’re drowning in it. But it’s not enough just to have the right information at your fingertips. It’s knowing what to do with it. A good cook doesn’t just have a recipe, they know what needs to be done, and when. The same is true of business.  

One of the most important ladders to success is knowing your numbers, and, more importantly, what they’re telling you. Your numbers may say that sales are down. But what is the real underlying problem you’re facing? You need to look at the data from all areas of your business – sales, marketing, operations, finance and talent, to unearth where the real issues lie. You can’t solve a problem you can’t spot.   

These are four of the most important ladders on which to build a business of value. Of course, there will be snakes along the way. There will be times when you slither back down the board to a place you don’t want to be. But, if that happens, take a look at these key areas – strategy, uniqueness, frictionless onboarding, and data insights, and ask yourself – is everything in place? Is everything functioning as well as it could be?  If the answer is no, then it’s time to find that ladder.