David FullerMy sister Catherine loves fishing and, to be honest, she’s much better at it than I am. Catherine could catch 10 fish to my one because she knows what she’s doing.

Before you even go fishing, you need to know why you’re going. Typically, people go fishing because they love fish and like spending time outdoors. Catherine fishes to relax. I fish because I can spend time with friends or family.

In business, we fish for customers so we can enjoy the profits those customers bring. But why are you in the business you’re in? What gets you up in the morning? What drives you to want to make sure that business works? What do you love about what your business does?

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To get clarity about what your business is really about, you need to define why you got into business and why you’re still there.

Where are you going to fish? 

You started your business because you believe there’s a market for it. But sometimes the number of opportunities overwhelms us. You need to identify the areas where you’re going to have the greatest chance of success to make sure your business is profitable.

We can’t fish everywhere. Some lakes or ponds only have small fish, while others have huge fish. Sometimes these spots with the big fish may be harder to get to or there may be too many other boats in this area, resulting in too much competition and too few fish.

If you want to be really successful, it’s important to find the best fishing spots: those with little (or no) competition and big fish!

Where are these fish?

If you own a restaurant, you might say you’re going to focus on the families with children and lovers of Italian food who live in a particular area.

These different groups – or fish – may be geographic or identified by culture, age, industry, distribution channels, market segments, technology, or even price.

Are there different product categories you’re fishing in? How big are you going to get?

When we go fishing, we need to get to the fishing hole. But in business, we need to be clear about how we’re going to achieve our goals. How are we going to get to the size we want? How are we going to serve our customers?

This can be simple when we’re talking about a brick-and-mortar store in a certain community. However, if you plan to grow your business to a multilocation, multimarket or even a multinational enterprise, you need to determine how you’re going to do it.

What are the things you need to do to grow?

Perhaps you’re happy with the vehicle you have, but if you’re planning to change it, write it down. For example, one of my clients is planning to grow their business and, in order to grow, they need more space. Their five-year plan includes adding to their location and buying some adjoining property to allow for growth.

Some other vehicles to get you moving include alliances, acquisitions of similar businesses or competition, joint ventures, internal growth, and expansion using technology.

How will you grow? What business-building techniques are you going to use to get your business to succeed and profit the way you would like it to?

What bait are you going to use to hook your customers?

To create and maintain an advantage in the marketplace, we need to differentiate ourselves from the competition. You also need to decide what you want to focus on to ensure long-term viability. Understanding your customers will help you to do this. Take the time to identify why your customers are attracted to your business and how you can improve.

Finally, you need to know how you’re going to capture your profits. Is it going to be volume of sales, your relationships with your customers, your margin or perhaps it’s your low-cost business model?

Whatever it is, profits are important and the reason why you’re in business. Without profit, you can’t do all the other things you love about your business, help people or make the world a better place.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc. He would love to hear how your business fishing is going. Email [email protected]. For interview requests, click here.

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