The Alchemy Strategy for Business Success
by Rachel Willis
The Chinese ideogram for “crisis” is composed of two symbols: danger and opportunity.
So, which do you choose to focus on?
Frequently, it seems that businesses decide to ‘shut up shop’ and weather an economic crisis by doing very little other than safeguarding their current clientele and hoping for the best.
Whilst this approach is sensible, to focus entirely on this strategy is at best naïve and at worst highly risky. All it takes is one supplier, large customer or retailer to sever their contract with you, and your business can be placed in dire financial risk.
However, there is another way: the Alchemy Strategy. This exercise will help your business turn its base metals into gold by using the zero-cost powers of creativity and innovation to buck the economic trend and prosper through the downturn.
Step 1 - Brainstorm all that makes your business great
List the qualities, skills and talents you embody through your products, services and personnel. Be specific, and quantify these wherever possible.
For example, if you were McDonalds, you might include your status as the world’s largest chain of fast food restaurants, your franchising structure, strong brand loyalty, presence in over 119 countries, well-structured graduate scheme - the list goes on.
Make sure you capture all the attributes of your business, and why not involve your stakeholders in this process by asking a selection for their comments? Your suppliers, customers, shareholders, employees etc. will all hold different opinions and perspectives on your business. This exercise creates a win-win situation whereby you receive priceless feedback, and they feel acknowledged, heard, and valued: especially important when you are keen to retain their loyalty during these economic times.
Step 2 - Collate a database of all your contacts
The average business has links with over 500 people and organisations, so trawl through your customer lists, supplier contracts, former employees, affiliates etc. These don’t just need to be direct contacts; they can be ones that you have an indirect link to. For instance, the US parent company of the retailer with whom you recently negotiated a product trial. The likelihood is you will be surprised at just how many there are.
Step 3 - Brainstorm all your assets - both liquid and illiquid
Use categories such as property, products (both current and obsolete), equipment, people, cash reserves, etc.
Step 4 - The alchemy begins
The Alchemy Strategy requires an open mind, willingness to create from the unknown, and ability to look beneath the surface. So, turn down the doubting, sensible voice inside your head and instead imagine yourself as the mastermind of your business future.
Take a blank piece of paper and the lists you prepared in steps 1-3, and lay them out on a clear surface. With these papers in front of you, allow your eyes to drift from 1 to 2 to 3… from 3 to 2 to 1… and so on.
You will find that little sparks of invention appear in your mind, or leap off the pages at you. You sense that a contact from list 2 could be interested in buying one of the products on list 3. Or a quality from list 1 needs to be emphasised more in your marketing campaign for a service on list 3.
And this is the most crucial element of the whole strategy: write them ALL down WITHOUT judgement, no matter how illogical they may seem. Your intuition, creativity and innovative powers are being stimulated and these will not necessarily conform to the parameters that your rational mind operates within.
Only spend 15 minutes at a time on this final step because alchemical power does subside. If you haven’t saturated your lists, then return to them on consecutive days until you have.
Step 5 – Take action
Take each item on your sparks of invention list and, quite simply, action them!
Even if your mind is not 100% sure of the logic, allow the alchemy to be revealed to you by making those phone calls, tweaking that marketing campaign, selling that obsolete stock, changing that copy on your website, collaborating with that complementary business, signing that new supplier contract, and so on.
Repeat the Alchemy Strategy on a regular basis, and revel in your increased business success.
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