Any business leader must have asked themselves that question countless times. Do you?
I read some research earlier this week which focussed on the top ten worries for business leaders. They included some pretty weighty issues, survival being top of the list. Does worrying about survival actually make things worse?
What we focus on impacts hugely on the way we think and operate. It governs the questions we ask and impacts hugely on our motivation and energy levels. At times of challenge, it is all too easy to focus heavily on worrying about survival and fear of failure. The problem is this leaves people feeling fearful and disempowered and this impedes the quality of our thinking. The quality of our thinking has an enormous effect on our performance in every area of our lives. You only have to watch sportsmen and women who do brilliantly in training and in friendly matched but fall apart when it really counts.
So what does that mean for you as a business leader?
You have the choice between focusing on failing, letting your mind dwell on all the implications and there are a lot of implications or you can choose a different way.
Focus on success as the only option and you start to ask a completely different set of questions.
- What is it I need to do to ensure my business is a success?
- How do I define success?
I am amazed at how few people know what success is for them. They plan forward rather than identifying their destination and then plan how to get there. They become easily distracted and spend a great deal of time fire fighting. Yet very few of you would just get the car out of the garage and drive without some idea of where you were going.
Once you know where you are aiming for it is so much easier to plan the journey step by step. Planning needs to be structured rather than rigid; strategic planning is vital to ensure that you maximise the use of your time, energy, finances and make the best use of the resources at your disposal, (working with a coach can really help here.) Breaking things down into bite size pieces avoids being overwhelmed after all you wouldn’t attempt to eat a cow in one sitting, but it is enjoyable meal by meal.
- For starters am I really clear who my customer or client is?
Many clients I talk to are rather foggy about who their core customer is. Marketing then becomes much more challenging. Clients are afraid that by narrowing the customer/client group down too much they will lose potential custom.
In reality, the opposite is true. As you can then start to profile your customer base, where they can be found, how to reach them, what services or product they would spend money on Others will find you too through recommendation but if you stretch yourself too thin when marketing you end up achieving nothing but wasted time, energy and money.
- What is it that my business can do which really adds value and makes me stand out from the crowd?
Today’s customers are spoilt for choice. Competing on price may be difficult so what else do you offer as added value. Is it the quality of service or product, your expertise, that you offer something unique, creative, quality of relationships or that you go the extra mile. Do your market research.
Ask your customers what they want and how you might make things even better? Not only are you able to target your efforts and buying more effectively but it makes them feel more valued, particularly when you listen to what they have to say.
- How can we ensure that our customers and clients come back again and again?
Ensuring that you deliver what you promise is absolutely vital, as is communication and putting things right when something goes wrong.
Relationships with customers are important if you want repeat business and if you want them to tell everyone else how wonderful you are.
It is here that training your staff to understand that EVERY interaction with a customer or client by phone, letter, email or face to face advertises your business and that they have a vested interest in making your business successful as it provides job security. It also helps develop a sense of pride not only do they enjoy work more, but they become effective ambassadors. I have found this to be true whatever the business.
Creating rapport and effective communication is fundamental to good relationships and healthy sales figures. Many organisations underestimate the value that training all staff in these skills can bring to their balance sheet.
You know the old saying “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” yet so often businesses devote all their energy into finding new customers. They fail to see the benefits of staying in contact with those who have bought already.
Taking the time to create a database of customers so you can keep in contact is incredibly useful. Keep your business within customer’s consciousness so they naturally think of you when they need something. Follow contacts up not once but several times.
Instead of fearing failure focus on success and see failure as an opportunity to learn, what specifically needs to change to make things better. Sometimes it is just a numbers game; a salesperson who gets one sale from every ten calls will get more sales simply from making more calls. Analysing what makes the difference in those successful calls so you can replicate it has the potential to boost sales enormously.
The difference between successful business leaders and those who fail is that, whilst they feel fear, they do not dwell on it. They recognise that difficult times bring great opportunities. Their entire focus and energy is on what they need to do to ensure their business is a success. Is yours?