Is Your Business A “Fixer-Upper”?

A lot of the time we blame our business failures on lack of time, money, resources and knowledge about the industry and market.   And it makes sense.  Maybe we started our business too early.  The customers were there yet, they didn’t see what we saw and weren’t ready to make shift.  Maybe we didn’t have enough money to get our business off the ground or sustain it in its first year.   Maybe we didn’t have the right suppliers or vendors to work with, or we were outsourcing too much of our tasks and not tackling what could be done in-house. We fail to understand, however,  that no matter how good the idea is, if we’re not flexible to make changes along the way, our businesses will never go anywhere.

Is Your Business in Need of Repair?

Is Your Business in Need of Repair?

Companies will always need some fixing up.  In the early stage, when things aren’t so pinned down and concrete, making changes is easy.  After all, we’re still bouncing around ideas and getting a feel for what to expect.  But what happens when we’ve launched our business, or it’s been in business for a few years, but we’re still struggling to see a return of our investment?  Despite what we’ve been told or heard, the majority of changes a company will need to make in its lifetime will be after it’s up and running.  How will we know which changes to make and when?  We can rely on trial and error, but that takes time and often, a lot money.  A better way –ask for feedback from our customers and staff members.  That seems to work the best.  Customers know what they want and what they’re willing to pay for it.  And more often than not, they’re willing to tell us in one fashion or another — angry/poor reviews, 1 or 2 star ratings, or dissing comments on social media platforms.

Is it all about ratings and reviews?  Is it all about customer service with a smile?  What signs do we look for to know it’s time for some changes to be made?:

  • Do we offer a way for customers/ clients to leave feedback with a call-to-action on our websites?
  • Do we take time to personalize service to each customer?  If not each customer, how about repeat or loyal customers?
  • Do we ever ask employees what they feel could improve their productivity?
  • Have we not change a single thing about your business — website, logo, philosophy, design, products, reception of customers —  since we’ve opened your doors?
  • Do we put off responding to any feedback till the following day only to forget?
  • How often do we say or show thanks to our customers?
  • How often do you reinvest money back into the company?
  • How high is our retention rate among our staff?   If  we’ve had about 5-6 employees leave in a 3 month period…NOT GOOD!
  • Do we ever do quarterly or monthly analysis on where our company is and where we’d like it to be by a deadline?

Stop and think about some of these questions.  If you answered ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’ to 3 or more of these, then you are in need some fixing up, my friend.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but don’t go out of business because you refused to budge on what you think is right.   Turn off the TV and get out a note pad.  It’s time to see where the most work is needed in your company and begin brainstorming on how to get there.  Will you repair it or let it crumble to the ground?

{photo credit: Ladyheart via morguefile.com}

Phrases Never To Use With Customers or Employees

‘I Don’t Know’  (Customer) – As honest as this answer is, if this is all you give a customer, you can pretty much kiss them goodbye.  You really may not know the answer, but find out instead of shutting them down with ‘I don’t know’.  Showing interest in your customers’ needs is not only common sense, but ensures they’ll stay loyal to your business.

‘I Don’t Have Time Right Now’ (Employee) – Are you really going to brush off an employee — someone who is working in your business so that you can work on your business — because YOU don’t have time?!  Truth is, this actually happens.  Time gets away from all of us.  We’re in a hurry to get somewhere or meet someone and all of a sudden something comes up with an employee of ours.  Instead of quickly dismissing them, ask them to send an email or leave a brief note of what their concern or issue is and let them know we’ll give it our attention as soon as we can.   Unless it’s urgent, handle it then and there.

Can You Give Me A Call Back Later?’  (Customer) – Never, EVER ask a customer or client to call you back later.  It takes them the same amount of time and energy to call your competitors as it does to call you back.  Instead, briefly ask what they’re looking for, what they need, take down their name, number and when would it be best to RETURN their call.  Show them you’re making every effort to get and keep their business. No customer wants or will work to give you their business, so don’t make them.

‘Just Handle It!’ (Employee) – This sits right up there with ‘I don’t have time right now’.  This is hardly ever said with great confidence or endearment.  And more than anything, it leaves your employees feeling as if you’re setting them up to fail.  You’re either too busy or can’t be bothered and now an issue — whatever it is– becomes their responsibility.  And what if they can’t?  What if the reason they’re bringing this concern to your attention is because it needs your authorization?  Do you still want them to ‘handle it’? Instead, ask them what the issue is, if it’s something that needs immediate attention and decide whether it’s something they can and should handle on their own.

Oh, I Don’t Handle Those Kinds Questions/Problems/ Areas, Etc’ (Customer) – Stop bringing attention to all the things you CAN’T do or that’s outside your scope.  Politely let the customer know that’s something you don’t do — whatever the request is– but, then offer to help them find someone who can.  Become a reference, someone people turn to find answers, even when they themselves don’t have the answer.  That too can build a customer base within itself.

‘Don’t You Understand?!’ (Employee)Do you understand?‘ conveys a more cordial way of asking if your employee(s) have grasped a method, procedure or explanation.  Saying ‘don’t’ rather than ‘do’ belittles them and drives a wedge between the employer-employee relationship (which we all know is the bee’s knees!).  Keep in mind, pissed off employees don’t work well and are always working towards finding a better employment environment.  Don’t drive away your employees by talking down to them.

As logical as most of this sounds, a lot of this still happens in the workplace and in many customer service departments in many businesses.  And just because it seems like the norm, doesn’t mean it’s right.  Sometimes our first impressions are simply words.  And our words can ignite feelings of resentment and hostility.  We have to be careful of what we say and how we say it.

How To Treat The Clients You Don’t Want

To truth be told, whether it’s a client you do or don’t want, you need to treat everyone you do business with the same level of courtesy, respect and thoroughness regardless if they’re your ideal customer/ client or not.  But if you find that there is a person or two who are going to be more trouble than they’re worth; whether it’s too many complaints, frequent late payments, canceling appointments, too many demands outside your scope or just plain obnoxious, get them out the door as quickly as possible with little to no collateral damage in the process.  People who are hard to work with make it hard to do the work.

How to get the unwanted out of hair?

  1. Take the blame – Make it seem like you cannot live up to their expectations or cannot provide them the services or products their looking for.  You’ll win points with being upfront about your supposed shortcomings, and when done early on, you’ll bear less the unpleasantness of working with them.  Double points there.
  2. Direct them to someone else – In this case, you’ll need to have a solid network in place of colleagues to refer unruly clients to.  But be fair to your connections in letting them know why you’re passing on this person.  Some people will take all the business they can get, others will want to target specific clientle too.  Just offer as much of a fair warning as you possibly can.
  3. Bow out gracefully – When you find yourself knee-deep in you-know-what, and the only way to climb out is wave your white flag, DO SO!  Be honest and let your client(s) know that you don’t feel that you’re going to be able to continue working with them (and give them a couple of legitimate reasons as to why) but agree to finish whatever it is you’re working on till it’s complete.  Thank them for their service and wish them the best of luck in their endeavors.
  4. Be polite and helpful – Up until you hand them off.  You may not like them, they may not like but that doesn’t mean you can get away with saying and doing whatever you please because they’ve gotten under your skin.  You never know who they know and how quickly word can spread.  No matter which exit strategy you choose, do it with a smile and a calm tone of voice.  The relationship may be ending, but your image doesn’t need to be tarnished in the process.

As you close out every relationship, make sure you give out your business card again.  No, this is not to rein them back in and relive your headaches, but this is a subtle way to tap into their network of connections and find new and hopefully more pleasant clients.  Let them know that if they have any additional questions or concerns or need of resources, you may be able to to direct them to someone who can help.   And that offer is extended to anyone they know, as well (wink, wink).

 

To Be Great Is To Expand Your Scope

You wanna be a great writer — read.

You want to be a great actor — explore emotions.

You want to be a great singer — study music.

You want to be a great athlete — train your body. 

You want to be great in business — know your customer.

Expand Your Scope

So often what we think it takes to be great and successful is all about expansion.  A bad writer should never just keep writing.  They should also read; read the works of published and prolific authors and writers.   An actor/ actress should not just keep acting, but tap into as many emotions as possible.  Go to an actor’s studio and take classes.  The same applies for those in business.  We can’t keep opening up the store, setting up shop, and making transactions thinking one day our business will great.  We got to learn as much as we can about our customers, their preferences, their dislikes and their needs.  To be great in business is not coming up with the best invention, product or design, but convincing our targeted market it is the best because it’s what they’ve been looking for.  But we can only tell them it’s what they’ve been looking for if we already know what they want.  We have to know our customer.

But before you start a business at full speed heading no where fast, think about what it’ll take for you and your business to be great and successful.  Doing the same thing over and over again– we’ve already identified — is crazy!  How do you get better when the technique doesn’t change?  To be great, you have to expand the scope of your normal activity.  It can be life altering or it can present enough of a challenge.  It may mean reading, studying, training, taking classes, taking notes or starting over.  But to be great, doesn’t mean repeating useless tasks and detrimental patterns.  It’s means going further, looking farther.

 

{photo credit: seaskylab via freedigitalphotos.net}

Successful Businesses Focuses On Two Elements

Good businesses know there are two important elements that will guarantee their success: (1) People and (2) Improvement.  And that’s all business is.  Focusing on people and improving the quality of business.  It’s not always about growth (because growing too fast is a problem in itself and if your business is under prepared for growth, it will fail just as if there was no business at all).  Marketing, an advantageous tool, can proved to be a challenge to measure.  Although, word of mouth is the best marketing strategy (letting your customers/ clients speak for your business).  And even though having great investors backing your business will see that your launch is as successful as possible, you’re still faced with the business’ questionable longevity and having to answer to a ‘partner’.

Remembering to value people will always take your company further.  It doesn’t matter what industry or field you’re in, you selling something to somebody.  And if your selling to other businesses, those businesses have people running and operating it and they too are servicing people.  People come first because people are the business.  Value every person, whether it’s your customers, vendors and suppliers, your support team such as family and friends, your board members –whoever– people come first.  How well you treat them, keep them involved, will keep them loyal to your business.  Customers like businesses that are more personable.  Employees enjoy working for companies that respect them as individuals and value their contribution.  It’s about how people feel connected to your business.

Think improvement, not growth.   Everyone in business assumes growth is the only way to succeed.  If you do not grow you’ll die.  Your competitors will eat you up, spit you out and move on.  Not necessarily so.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with growth.  It’s a good thing, when your company is positioned to manage it.  But getting bigger or growing, means bigger obstacles, bigger challenges and bigger competition.  So rather than focusing on growing, focus on improving.  What can your business do better?  Is customer service lagging?  Is shipping too slow?  Does your website need updating? Focus on the elements in your business that needs improvement.  Growth will find you when the time is right.

Business.  It’s all a matter of striving for improvement, working in and on your business as well as remembering to value everyone in involved in your business.  From the customer to the employee to the supplier.  Success follows value.  Make your company valuable.

 

 

Are We Taking Lessons From Our Elders?

Has technology given us the mindset, ‘out with the old and in with the new’?  Just because it’s the latest craze or a rising trend, is it better?  Is everything digital better because it’s where business seems to be going?  Have we taken any of the important lessons from the generation of business owners before us?  And before them?

It’s common and arguably normal for this generation of business owners to hop on the band wagon and coast our way from app to touchscreen to social media.  Everyone’s using it so it must be where we need to plant ourselves and our businesses, right?  After all, why would sites like Facebook , Twitter and LinkedIn boasts about how many active millions of users they have if it wasn’t for our attention?  And it’s not just social media sites that keeps bombarding us with what’s new and happening.  What about all these wonderful sites that can solve this or organize that for us?  Digital offsite storage, mobile accessibility to documents, online video meetings with clients and employees –we’ve got it all!  There’s almost nothing we can’t do away from our office or on the go.  So how in the world did earlier generations of business owners take care of business?

Everything seems much easier these days because all we have to do is slide our finger across a screen or push a button and let the magic unfold.  We let machines take care of it.  Not too long ago, people were the machines (there were computers back in the day, but they were hideous and bulky) and they were also the magic.  They got the ball rolling and took care of business and it wasn’t at the push of the button.  They kept it simple and worked with what they had:

  • They stretched every dollar and reused everything they could to make it last longer and go further.  Nothing was wasted.
  • They kept in touch with their customers and clients in the most meaningful way: calling or hand written notes/ letters.  Nothing like hearing the sound of another person’s voice.
  • They hunted for deals.  Rather than spend their hard earned dollars on what was new, they looked for the better deals, things that worked for what they need and would hold up.
  • They tapped into their networks for additional resources (this still hasn’t gone out of style).  We never really know who we know who might know where to get what we need or knows of someone who knows where to get it.  Short version:  We know someone who’s linked to what we need.
  • They understood value.  The value of their money, the value of their service, product, time, customer, customer’s time and information.  Anything they saw as a benefit was of value.  And they appreciated it.

Before we throw ourselves at the next big thing thinking it’s going to take our business to heights we’ve only dream about, take a lesson from those who mastered and grew their business without all the bells and whistles.  Much of the time, we just have to keep it simple.

Commitment

Are You Committed?

Are You Committed?

Check out #4: “to bind, as by a promise”.  Now think about your business, the company you’re running.  What commitments have you made to that business?  What promises or pledges have you made to ensure the success and longevity of your business?  Are you going to work smarter and not harder?  Are you going to give it 110%?  Are you going to make time to work on the business and grow it?  Are you going to provide the very best customer service you can by offering empathy to you customers?  How have you stayed commitment to your business or ideas of a business?  Do you network?  Do you market the business?  Do you know when to stop trying one avenue and go another route?  Do you know when to start over?

Are you committed to your business?  More importantly, are yo committed to yourself?  After all, you’re running to business.