Designing Strategies: The Blog
I just finished reading a great article in Fast Company about how making very minor changes within your company can transform it’s culture and change its direction and success. All it takes is one or two small changes in behavior. Lisa Earle McLeod, the author, related a story about her family delivering their college-aged daughter to Boston University to begin her college experience.
While standing at one of those large public maps of the campus – probably with confused looks on their faces – they were soon approached by no one less than a dean of the university. He introduced himself, asked where they were from, then pleasantly offered assistance in finding the location they were seeking on campus. That was it. That one simple behavior made an important impact on their ‘customers’.
It was more than just a senior staff member being polite, his actions were a univerity policy. It was not just an opportunity for the university to help guide that student’s first steps toward their advanced education. BU takes this minor action very seriously. It is actually a fireable offense for anyone who walks by someone looking at one of the maps around campus and fails to offer assistance . They feel it reinforces their purpose: getting students ready to become part of an interconnected world.
What can you do in your company that is minor – something that takes less than a minute to accomplish – that would make a difference to your customers or potential customers? How about just stepping outside to invite inside anyone pausing to look at something in the window of your shop, studio or showroom? How many customers could you actually get inside by walking out and telling them you have a larger selection of the items they are looking at inside the store? Perhaps you could offer them a brochure with more information on the item in the window. How about just greeting visitors to your location with a positive, inspiring statement like: “Hello, how can we improve your life today?”
Think of a simple step or two to change how customers perceive your company in a postivie way. It will only take one or two experiences with you before they start talking about your company, how different it is, or what a pleasant experience they had. It won’t take them long to realize that your competitors don’t do the same things or take an interest in them before they are actually customers. Being nice costs absolutely nothing. Being helpful doesn’t cost anything either. Start thinking of how you can quickly and simply transform your company into one people want to do business with, then just do it.
What simple things have you done to improve your company in the mind of a customer? Please share your ideas with us below.
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Some time ago, I read a posting in the Successful and Outstanding Blog(gers) blog that really impressed me. It impressed me enough to bookmark it in my laptop to review from time to time. The post was written by Liz Strauss, a well-known business strategist. Liz related the story of a businessman who owned businesses in the fields of newspapers, magazines and books. She was hired to develop strategy to turn the book business around and refocus it on success.
Several months into her assignment, one of those great ‘Ah-ha!’ moments occured. She reminded the owner that while his three businesses are similar, they are clearly not exactly the same and needed different approaches in strategy to be successful. What makes one company successful will not necessarily work for other businesses, regardless of any similarities. Any differences, minor or enormous, need to be addressed.
It was simply a matter of her pointing out that the life spans for each of the three media formats are quite different. Newspapers, magazines and books have very different life spans. Once she pointed out this basic element, the distinct differences became very clear. At that same moment, Liz realized the owner really didn’t understand what business he was in.
Too often, small business owners are so engrossed in their ‘forest’ that they are unable to see their ‘trees’. They are wrapped up in day to day business operations, trying to keep all the necessary balls in the air and putting out fires along the way. In the midst of all this, they fail to do timely reality checks to assure they remain focused, on track and doing everything necessary to move forward toward profitability and successfully. Knowing what business you are in and how you plan to strategically manage and market it should be at the very top of your list of reality checks.
Block off some time in your schedule right now to review the basics of your business. Put your organization under a microscope, then take another look from about 35,000 feet. What business you are really in? What products and services do you really provide for your customers? Review your vision and mission. Are you on track to achieve them? Step back and take a good look at your company culture. Does it match the needs of your business, your customers, your vision and mission? Without these reality checks from time to time, your business can go into a major tailspin in the blink of an eye. Keep your focus on the business you are really in and the customers you really serve.
What ‘Ah-ha’ moments have you had about your company that put you back on track and focused on success? Please share those moments below…
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As strange as it might sound to someone starting a new business, the beginning is when you need to plan for the end. OK, you might be thinking: ‘What is this dim-wit talking about? I want to know what to do today, tomorrow, next week and next month to get my newbusiness off the ground. I’ll worry about the end part later – much later.’ There is no time like the present to get to work on your succession and exit planning — before you need them. Developing key management concepts in the midst of a leadership crisis is definitely not the way to go.
The reality is that everything you do, every step you take in starting and growing a business should be based on where you want to be at the end. Your exit strategy and the succession plan that will make for a smooth transition and your successful exit possible shouldn’t be put off until the last minute. How will the company continue running strong with you, the founder or primary leader, out of the picture? What value will the firm have if you are no longer in the picture?
As the business grows, taking on its planned organizational structure, employees will be added to take on added responsibilities that come with growth. Success will bring growth to your customer base and revenues, introduce new products and services that provide for new market segments, and perhaps even increase the number of company facilities.
With your leadership skills focused on day-to-day matters that come with a successfully expanding business, it is easy to foget that no one is invincible or irreplaceable. Personal situations can change in a flash as drastic accidents, family or health issues arise. Any of these can pull a leader away on very short notice.
Having a succession plan in place can make such transitions less of a shock to the fiber of your organization. It involves identifying an appropriate successor, bringing her on-board far enough in advance for training and development necessary to take over the firm’s administration. Usually, the more history a successor candidate has with the company, the easier the transition phase. There are several key steps to take in developing your succession plan:
- Your Company/Industry Situation: Review the status of your company and industry today. But, also consider changes that might occur in the future and effects they might have. Based on this research process, develop a plan that includes the following phases.
- Search for Candidates: Successors can come from several sources: internal employee pool, external pool of others within your industry, and external pool of others outside your industry.
- Select & Develop the Right Candidate: Invest in training the ‘heir apparent’ to strengthen weak or missing areas of expertise necessary for them to take over the leadership role.
- The Transition: Managing the transition between leaders will be different for each company based on its unique situation.
While many companies manage to forge onward during a short term absence of key leaders, the longer your absence, the less likely your firm will successfully stay on track without a formalized succession plan. If you have left this important part of your planning on the back burner far too long, it’s time — NOW– to pull it out and get to work.
Planning for the success of your business when you are no longer there is crucial. Get to it! Put your company in a position to successfully pass the baton when it becomes necessary.
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I was channel surfing (no pun intended) last weekend and ran across an old movie about a women’s surfing competition. I watched for a while as time and again, the young competitors would paddle their surf boards out into the ocean, sit straddled across the boards, looking out over the ocean for what they hoped would be a good wave. Not just a good wave to ride, mind you, but a big, great wave to ride into shore, scoring high points for their surfing prowess.
As you can imagine, there were quite a few times when things didn’t go quite the way they planned. Some competitors exhibited excellent skills during their ride to shore; others ended up in the undertow after a crash and burn experience. When each ride was finished, the competitors just turned around and paddled back out to wait, watching for another wave and another chance to prove their surfing skills.
It was interesting how much this surfing process reminded me of the way many small business owners approach their businesses. They have no processes or systems in place to bring in new clients and projects. They just sit back and wait for something to come to them, taking whatever comes their way. They hope it will be something big and really, really good. They hope it will be very profitable and highlight their abilities in the best possible light. Sit. Wait. Hope.
Needless to say, this is NOT a business model you can rely on for success. Managing a business is about putting systems and processes in place that will bring continuity and create a clear path to success. These processes not only enable business owners and managers to bring in new customers and projects, they help bring in the kind of projects and customers they really want — the best ones, not just whatever comes along. With organized systems in place, projects and sales can be processed and moved along smoothly, creating the best results possible with a positive profit margin.
Don’t use surfing as your business model. Don’t sit. Don’t wait. Don’t just hope. Take time to put policies, systems and procedures in place. Move your business away from chaos, potential to crash and burn and a whatever comes approach. Move toward organized continuity and success.