I think the idea of “creatively swiping” a great idea from any and every business you can study is a fantastic strategy. It is also wonderful to read the latest management books and study the theories of great business thinkers and then try to apply those to your business as well. However, here’s my area of disagreement: You cannot look at a single best practice and just copy it wholesale onto your business. Just because something worked for IBM, Microsoft or Starbucks does not mean it will work in your business. The key is to look across several best practices, from many different industries, and then carefully choose the ones that you feel will work extremely well in your business.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you must constantly innovate, benchmark and look for new best practices as the market changes and your customers’ requirements change. As an example, if you look at the very popular book, “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins, several of the businesses he studied two decades ago are no longer in business. But how can this happen? These were the best of the best, the most successful companies of their era, why did their best practices not keep them at the top of their game? The answer, for the most part, is they stayed with what worked for too long as the market shifted away from them, and they did not innovate their own best practices. So the idea of Kaizen, continuous incremental improvement, applies directly to benchmarking, best practices and management.
Having just said that, here are a few best practices that will never go out of style:
- The number one driver of highly engaged, satisfied and loyal customers is … highly engaged, satisfied and loyal employees. Hire the best people you can possibly find, and then take good care of them, and they will, in turn, take great care of your customers.
- Whoever owns the voice of the customer, owns the marketplace. The customer is not always right, but he is the one who pays all the bills — being superb at listening to your customers is always a best practice.
- Creating the right culture in your organization is critical. The goal is to create a culture where your people have an “ownership mentality”: a culture of urgency to get the most important things done right now; a culture of both personal and mutual accountability; and a culture of extreme customer focus.
- Make disciplined execution a cornerstone of your success. Lack of good ideas or great planning is not why most businesses fail, what kills them is the inability to effectively execute on their ideas. Creativity, innovation, best practices, benchmarking … are useless if you cannot turn your ideas into action.
So here’s my suggestion: Benchmark best practices from any company you feel is doing something special and particularly impressive. Do not limit yourself to just your industry; if you’re in manufacturing, look at hospitality or the airlines industry; if you own a restaurant, look at Disney, Gore-Tex and Nike. What great ideas can you steal from them? Look around town, there are some businesses in Gainesville doing amazing things that you can likely adapt and apply to your business.
And one more thing: Another great way to benchmark is looking at “worst practices.” If you go into a business and they totally stink at something, before you start complaining, stop and ask yourself if your business ever does this to your customers. It can be extremely eye-opening and very helpful to look at how a failing business is running off customers to make sure that you and your team never do the same things.
I’m a huge fan of benchmarking best practices as long as you look at lots and lots of different companies, and several different industries, and then carefully choose just the best practices that you feel will truly help your company serve your customers more effectively, efficiently and profitably.
John Spence is the author of “Awesomely Simple – Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action,” and has been recognized as one of the top 100 business thought leaders in America and one of the country’s leading small business influencers. www.johnspence.com