So there I was sipping coffee with a business friend, a man I have had many cups of coffee with over the past couple of decades and he said it again: “We’re going to take the business to the next level.”
If I had any hair left I would have been pulling it out in handfuls. But instead of that, I calmly asked, “What do you mean when you say, 'the next level?'"
He started to speak then he paused, took a breath, started to speak again, then paused again. He sort of composed himself, sat up, and said, “Honestly, I have no idea.” Well I have to applaud him for his candor.
Taking the business to the next level is an often used cliché, a phrase people have read or heard. It sounds purposeful and energetically active so, when they are talking about their plans for their businesses future, they insert it into the conversation because it sounds so nice.
But unless the “next level” is defined, the phrase is meaningless. And that is why I challenged my friend to define what he meant. I wanted him to clarify his thinking and planning process.
When he is able to define what he means he will then be able to create specific goals, then plan the actions necessary to achieve them. The clearer his definitions are, the easier it will be to create the goals and plans.
“The next level” can mean so many different things that, by itself it is a fuzzy, meaningless term. I think that, for most businesses, it is a combination of actions and terms that can include (but isn’t limited to):
- Increases in sales volume, margins and profits
- Increases in production per unit of input (widgets per hour or per person or per square foot.)
- Increases in customer retention or staff retention
- Positive changes in financial statements (balance sheet/profit and loss)
- Positive changes in customer satisfaction
The more clearly the next level can be defined, the easier it will be to create the path to get there, and beyond.