A while ago I posted a blog called, 'If you want to be successful in business, start practising'.
At the time, the message I was trying to get across was that business, like everything else in life, requires practice to become good.
There is more to these words than I realised at the time.
In this post, I am going to draw attention to the concept of a practice, and what it means in a business sense.
I'm also going to talk about some of the necessary business practices.
I have found that introducing the idea of creating practices has been very useful for myself and some of the business owners I work with.
What it means to practice something
Have you ever wondered why doctors describe where they work as practices? Understanding the term 'practice' might shed some light.
The word practice means:
1. the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.
2. the customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something.
Law is also considered a practice. According to an HG.com Legal Resources article "the practice of law is called a practice because it involves constant attention, reflection, and evolution."
In the case of a doctor and a lawyer, to begin practising each must first complete years of extensive training learning the ideas, methods and procedures for performing their professions. Carrying out the practice means putting into action the skills and methods they have learnt.
Other activities that are often referred to as practices include spiritual and physical practices, such as meditation, yoga or football. Anyone who has practised these types of activities will know that it takes a long period of regular practise to get to a state when you can easily and enjoyably participate in the activity and realise the full effects.
So to practice something means to repeat the task regularly, to observe, learn and improve the task to achieve the desired outcome.
Running a business requires many practices - marketing practices, sales practices, customer experience practices, product development practices, leadership practices. For many people who are running their own business for the first time, the number of practices that need to be developed can be overwhelming. This is why being focused is so important.
The process of starting a business is working out the most valuable practices to achieve the desired outcome. Growing a business requires repeating and improving these processes with more resources.
Important business practices
Many of these practices will be familiar to you. But perhaps the value of this exercise will come from you realising how well or how poorly you are carrying out some of the most important practices.
1. Customer discovery - learning about your customers and their needs. This is vital in the early stages of building a business and remains an important practice throughout the life of a business.
2. Product or service development practices - building a valuable product or service, and continuing to make it more valuable.
3. Marketing & sales practices - completing the activities that make your target market aware that you exist and the value you provide so they purchase your product or service.
4. Customer experience & engagement practices - completing activities to make sure your customers getting the most out of your product or service and feel like they are getting adequate value.
5. Accounting & Finance practices - keeping your accounts up to date, filing your taxes, completing payroll and checking in on your financial performance regularly.
6. People & Culture practices - making sure your people are happy and productive and you are creating the right environment for the right people.
7. Leadership and management practices - ensuring leaders in the organisation have the state of mind and touch points to lead a team and make good decisions.
These practices can all be broken down further, and there are others that can be added to the list.
Creating practices within your business
Business practices are created in the same way as any practice. A person can figure out the practice for themselves, or they can learn from someone else. Learning from someone else is fast and useful if this person is a good teacher.
Once a practice is understood and proves to be valuable for the business, someone must carry it out regularly.
There is a significant difference between carrying out practice to get it done and carrying out practice with a will to observe, learn and improve to make the practice as effective as it possibly can be. In the early stages of starting the business when the team is small, often it's just a matter of doing a job that is good enough. However, as the team grows, hiring people with a passion for the practices they are to carry out will mean they will more diligently follow and improve the practice, and it's outcomes.
When starting a business, it is up to the founding team to create and maintain the most important practices. As the company grows and acquires more resource, people are hired to pick up or create and manage particular practices. For example, if the company hires a Head of Product, this person's role is to create and practice the necessary tasks for continuing to develop a product that achieves the organisation's objectives. If they hire a marketer, their role is to create and maintain the practices that will get the right customers for the lowest acquisition cost.
Reflecting on the current practices within a business can help founders and business owners to identify where they need to focus their time, and where they need support.
It is also useful for business owners to recognise when they need help learning new practices and/or when they need someone to carry out the practice.