In keeping with this month’s theme around building and development, I wanted to share with you one of the best pieces of advice I have ever gotten, something my father told me when I was young and repeated incessantly:
“No one can ever take your education away from you, so build your house on a rock of learning and curiosity.”
I’d like to offer six ideas for how you can build your business on a rock. To me, the core foundations of building a strong and sustainable business
1. Talent The success of your company is directly dependent on the quality of the people that you can get, grow and keep on your team. This means you should make talent acquisition, talent development and talent retention a major focus of your organization. Without great people nothing else matters.
2. Valued Differentiation In order to build a winning business, you have to bring something to the marketplace that is unique and compelling. Something that your target customers highly value, that is difficult if not impossible for your competition to copy, and something that you can deliver on flawlessly. If your business does not meet these criteria then you will likely have to compete on price, which is the fast lane to bankruptcy.
3. Extreme Customer Focus One of my key mantras is, “Whoever owns the voice of the customer owns the marketplace.” The more you understand your customer’s needs, wants, fears, wishes and desires the better chance you have of solving their problems and delivering the products and services they crave. Most businesses are pathetic at truly listening to their customer, so doing this well can give you a huge competitive advantage.
4. Superior Customer Service Even though people have been jumping up and down for years about how bad customer service is, it is still the case where few companies truly deliver consistently high quality customer service. The goal is to create a wonderful shopping, buying and owning experience for your target customer. This means your business must be excellent at listening to your customers and understanding what they define as “great service,” and then managing those expectations to allow you to consistently meet and exceed them. This doesn’t take a lot of money. It takes a lot of focus, training and feedback to ensure your customers are delighted every time they do business with you.
5. Financial Controls If you’re not managing cash flow, you will not be managing much for long. As Peter Drucker famously said, “The purpose of the business is to create and keep the customer.” And I will add that you must do that profitably. I have seen a lot of very “successful” businesses go out of business because they did not understand the full financial picture of the organization. These businesses were selling huge amounts of products, generating significant cash flows and losing money on every sale. As we like to say in the consulting business, “This is an unsustainable strategy.”
6. Disciplined Execution This is the number one problem I see within companies around the world. They understand the things I have mentioned above, they have an excellent strategy in place, they know how to win in the marketplace but they are not able to effectively execute their plans. For business to be successful you need to have highly engaged, satisfied and loyal employees who take amazing care of your customers and are proactive, accountable, and have a drive to deliver the necessary business results. In other words, you want employees who have an “ownership mentality” and are dedicated to making the business as successful as possible.
Just like building a building, you need to have good plans that are well designed and follow those plans, but if you don’t have a solid foundation, even the best plans will end in ruin. I believe if you focus on the six areas I have listed, you will be, “Building your house on a rock.”
JOHN SPENCE has been recognized as one of the top 100 business thought leaders and as one of the top 500 leadership development experts in the world. He is an international keynote speaker and management consultant and has written five books on business and life success. www.johnspence.com