February 25, 2024

Learn Your Business

Portrait Photo of Mallory Lindgren Portrait Photo of Mallory Lindgren

Growth is essential for both businesses and their employees. For many young professionals, the first question when planning their career growth is, “Where do I start?” My top advice is always the same: Learn more about your business. Knowing the ins and outs of your company, even at a basic level, can enhance your ability to support clients, coworkers, and your own professional development.

While this may appear to be a daunting task, consider the adage “a mile wide and an inch deep” as your initial learning strategy. It is also a great tool for building relationships throughout your firm. Jeroen Kraaijenbrink’s 6M Model from The One-Hour Strategy provides a framework for understanding business strategy, encompassing:

  1.  Means. These are your company’s resources and skill sets, essentially how your work gets done. I encourage you to develop a basic awareness of your firm’s expertise, deliverables, and key leaders. Start by exploring how your individual contributions are utilized by your peers and clients. Then familiarize yourself with the expertise and deliverables of other departments. Take stock of technologies and procedures integral to your operations. It is also vital to learn the extent and limitations of your firm’s capabilities.

    Benefits: Understanding your firm’s “means” can make you a more effective team member. You’re better able to identify potential efficiencies, anticipate the needs of your colleagues and clients, and strengthen your sales acumen.

  2.  Magic. This is your company’s unique value proposition – the special factor that attracts customers. Once you’re familiar with how your company gets work done, delve into the benefits it provides. Seek to understand the unique way your firm adds value to your customers, making you their preferred choice.

    To grasp “magic,” explore client and project success stories. They are a testament to the value your company brings and the reasons clients are drawn to it. Also, explore your firm’s marketing materials and the processes used to ensure customer satisfaction.

    Benefits: Understanding your firm’s “magic” enhances your ability to communicate with clients, bolster team confidence, and foster success. It also helps you anticipate and meet client needs.

  3.  Market. This encompasses your clients and the competitive landscape. To understand this world, begin by mapping the value chain of your industry to see where your firm and clients fit into the larger picture. Then deepen your knowledge of your top clients and competitors.

    For clients, determine who they are at their core: What challenges do they face? How do they generate revenue? What drives their decisions and shapes their approach to risk? Review their websites and marketing materials to see how they present themselves to their clients. Meet with teammates who work with these clients to learn more about how they operate.

    For competitors, build a list of your top competitors, noting they may vary across different disciplines. Then research their “means” and “magic.”

    Benefits: By better understanding how your firm fits into the larger “market,” you position yourself to identify new or better ways to support your clients and grow your business. You can gain confidence in evaluating your pricing and risk models and more effectively articulate your firm’s differentiators.

  4.  Momentum. Now it’s time to look further outside your firm. “Momentum” describes the factors outside your control that help or hinder your business. This may include the economy, labor market, or supply chain, as well as nascent trends and legislation.

    Identify and research some of the top external factors impacting your area of expertise and industry. Then find ways to stay current with those that are most disruptive. This can be podcasts, following thought leaders on social media, or subscribing to curated news feeds. Most firms have team members tracking industry trends as part of their job. They are a great resource to point you toward effective resources to get started.

    Benefits: Awareness of external factors enables you to better harness the prevailing winds of change to your advantage. You are more equipped to anticipate challenges and proactively seize emerging opportunities.

  5.  Money. This points to your revenue and cost models. Invest time in learning how money flows through your organization. Learn key factors that influence your product pricing and what you receive in return, from whom, how, and when. Spend time understanding goals, budgets, expenses, risk, and cost management. Which key performance indicators does your company track, and how can you positively influence the direction?

    Benefits: Additional financial knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions and contribute to your firm’s financial health.

  6.  Meaning. This represents the things we find most important and to which we most aspire. Discover and document your personal values and ambitions – what matters most to you, what you seek, and where you aim to be. Then dedicate time to understanding your company’s mission, vision, and values, and the unique aspects of its culture. Reflect on how you can personify these ideals and encourage and celebrate colleagues who embody them as well.

    While last on this list, “meaning” is the most important and threads through all the other strategy elements. A firm’s “meaning” drives every business decision. You will gain insight into your firm’s “meaning” as you explore the elements above.

    Benefits: Aligning your personal growth with the company’s vision enhances your sense of fulfillment and strengthens your resolve to achieve the firm’s goals.

By exploring these six key strategy elements, you will gain an understanding of what your company offers, how it’s unique, who it’s for, and what it costs. Also, you’ll learn why you do it and the impact of your work on your firm and the world around you. While mastery may take years, being intentional about learning your business can help you immediately by improving your ability to solve more complex problems and better support your colleagues and clients. Understanding these elements today prepares you to anticipate and influence where they’ll be tomorrow. 

Originally published in the Zweig Letter.

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