Identifying your key success factors

Key Success Factors (KSFs) are what you need to do to achieve long-term business success. Some common KSFs include expanding your customer base, and finding ways to create greater efficiencies in your accounting or stock control.

Here are some more KSFs that will suit a range of different businesses and goals:

  • Improve customer service and retain customers.
  • Boost your business’s credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Assess your location against the needs of your target customers.
  • Address any staffing issues such as the size of your team and whether further training or resources are needed to help staff do their jobs better.
  • Refine your production, importing or ordering methods.
  • Find new ways to sell more of your existing products or services.
  • Tighten your credit terms to boost cash flow and reduce the risk of unpaid debts.

How to establish KSFs

When you determine what your business’s KSFs will be, you need to keep a few things in mind. KSFs should be:

  • Tied to specific business goals.
  • Feasible to implement.

Consider prioritizing the most critical three goals for your business to start with. They key thing is to honestly assess where your business is now and where you want it to be, and to ask yourself, how will your business get there?

Common KSFs and how to achieve them

There are 5 common – but important – KSFs that all business owners should aim for:

1. Boost your credibility. Credibility and trust are earned by having a proven track record of good service and putting customers first. Consider the ways you could enhance your business’s credibility and trustworthiness. Picture a business you consider trustworthy and what it is that makes them so reputable.

2. Make sure you’re providing an outstanding customer experience. Does your service leave customers feeling impressed or quietly deterred? Brainstorm with staff all the ways you could improve your customer service, and check for evidence of recurring customer complaints or product returns. Improving your customer service should be an ongoing effort because consistently excellent service will lead to great word-of-mouth referrals for your business.

Providing consistent, outstanding service means:

  • Delivering consistent quality.
  • Delivering on time.
  • Keeping your promises – and rectifying your mistakes.
  • Communicating well with customers.

3. Address any staffing issues. Consider any staffing issues you need to address, from skills and training gaps to whether you have enough staff to deliver the best possible service while allowing you to focus on running the business. It’s important that you always make time to guide and support your team:

  • Regularly ask staff if there is anything that would help them do their jobs better.
  • Regularly check in with your staff one to one, get to know them and understand what motivates them.
  • Positive feedback helps to establish a culture of good work and by reinforcing the behavior of star performers, it can inspire other employees to try harder.
  • If an employee is not performing to standard, give them the chance to improve. Focus on the employee’s performance and not their character, and offer constructive feedback and support, rather than negative feedback.

4. Improve credit management. Do your customers always pay on time, or are you often chasing them for payment? Detail any improvements you can make to your credit policies:

  • Consider implementing shorter payment periods or having customers pay a larger deposit upfront, which gives peace of mind the customer has adequate finances to clear the balance.
  • Ensure you have clear terms and conditions for credit sales and ensure customers are aware of these and sign agreement to them.
  • Make it a policy to credit check all new accounts.
  • If disputes arise over unpaid bills, consider whether the amount owed is worth pursuing, and consider using a reputable debt collecting service.
  • Make it a habit to clarify your terms and conditions from the start – not when customers owe you money. It protects both you and them, so there are no surprises.

5. Strengthen your support networks. Consider your current support network, from your bank manager to your lawyer, any neighboring or complementary businesses, and mentors. Businesses with a well-established support network to call on can often solve problems faster and get back on their feet quicker following an unforeseen event.

An effective support network can include:

  • Your accountant, lawyer, or business banking manager.
  • A mentor.
  • Reliable tradespeople and IT experts.
  • Your industry group or association.
  • Businesses whose products and services complement yours.


Successful businesses are those that actively determine and then seek to achieve certain KSFs. The above 5 KSFs should be goals for any business, but you’re not restricted to them. Review your business and where you see it in 2, 5, 10 years time, then lay out specific KSFs to help you realize your objectives.

Next steps

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