Business Trends & Patterns – a simple game or is there more to it?

Author: Stewart Clark / Date: October 18, 2015

Category: Business Management

Business trend analysis is a serious analytical technique used in countless different forms of analysis. Yet for most business owners, finding the time to complete a simple Sudoku puzzle is hard enough – let alone undertake any form of formal business review.

My point – and the point of this article, is that if you do have the time to complete a simple Sudoku puzzle, then you also have the ability to transfer some Sudoku disciplines into a more effective business management process.

Skeptical? – read on for a few minutes and then I’m happy for you to be the judge.

Sudoku many would say its just a fun and engaging 81 square numerical puzzle to relax (or torment) the mind. However closer examination shows that the disciplines required to successfully navigate the 81 square puzzle have far wider business application.

Consider how the following 8 simple Sudoku disciplines apply to running a sound business.

Every number is related

Accurate reporting of appropriate numbers in a business is essential to a successful outcome. Understand the margins on your products, the output of staff, production volumes or the discounts you offer – are all examples of important numbers which are related from your Profit & Loss and need to be in balance for sustained profit.

  • Do you have the right reporting in your business?

Look for patterns – helps ask the right question

Patterns or trends in business can often shine a spot light on “an issue”. Rarely will a trend give all of the answers, but it will aid in forming the right questions. For instance, client buying trends may prompt you to focus on your product line; it’s pricing, delivery or service.

  • What trends are showing in your business today?

Avoid hasty assumptions

Any avid Sudoku fan will tell you how damaging a hastily placed number can be – as the puzzle will simply not work out. Fully assessing purchase decisions for instance, checking out the quality/credentials of a supplier or reviewing the terms of delivery can all save unwanted cost down the track. How good is your decision making process?

Step back to view the whole puzzle and widen the gaze from just one cell

Tunnel vision on one aspect of a business can lead to a blind spot on another. Regardless of how good your operations are, stepping back on a regular basis to view the whole operations from end to end can avoid scary surprises. A common way of doing this is via a monthly meeting of the business owner/leadership team supported by accurate and relevant reporting.

  • Do you have a good view of your overall business – or are there blind spots?

Small forward progress is fine

All too often it is the small incremental steps that can make the most difference – the extra phone call, the extra client visit, one more prototype or an extra batch of testing. Whilst these steps may seem small, the key point is that you are taking incremental actions to move the business forward. Project plans, milestone points and allocation of responsibility can all help with this. What are the important 1%’ers in your business?

Capture information as you go

In Sudoku, “penciling in” potential numbers as you work out firm numbers is important. Similarly, in a business context, taking note of customer preferences, supplier profiles or product/competitor features can not only make for better forward business decisions, but can also assist in mitigating risks for historical decisions.

  • How good is your CRM?

Sometimes you need to walk away and then come back with a fresh set of eyes

Fatigue or being desensitized to a situation can lead to important features being missed. A fresh set of eyes – either yours with rest, or someone new to the situation, can “see” things that you couldn’t. How many times have you returned from a break or holiday to find that everything is just a bit easier – same thing!

  • So, how fatigued are you at the moment?

Just when you think you are stuck, all of the hard work pays off

As many a Sudoku follower will tell you, every now and again the puzzle seems to be claiming the win – with no movement. All of the blank squares are grid locked with no new numbers……and then it happens……. persistence pays off with one new number……which allows another and then the flood gates open and the game is finished quickly. Business can be very similar, with persistence at what may have seemed worthless activities, culminating to the point where suddenly it all pays off.

  • Do you give up too soon?

So other than having a bit of fun, this note has a serious point to it.

Running a business can be tough, but with a collection of simple business disciplines well integrated into your business – the load can be a lot lighter.

Consider your business and take the Sudoku business challenge. Honestly assess yourself and your business against these points and then…. with a greater awareness, set about doing something about them!

PS – for a spot of relaxation – test out the above principles for your next Sudoku and watch your completion time drop.