In Chapter 24 of The Termite Effect, I outline three rules that I recognized all great leaders possess:
- They follow The Golden Rule.
- They hold themselves and those whom they lead accountable.
- They have credibility.
I recently came across an article on Entrepreneur.com by Kara Ohngren in which she listed several attributes of a leader. I would like to share with you.
- Assemble a dedicated team
- Believe in your team
- Keep your team engaged
- Create a “team charter”
- Don’t assume
- Over communicate
- Dole out credit
- Be authentic
- Stay calm
- Know your obstacles
How many of these attributes do you wish to improve upon? Pick one and try to improve it over the next 30 days.
Last year I taught an undergraduate small business management course at a local college. During our discussion on marketing, I innocently posed the following question, “What do you guys know about networking?” One of my students looked at me with a straight face and said, “You mean like networking computers?”
What do YOU know about networking? Is it part of your overall marketing plan or are you more like my students?
I think it is safe to say that the Holy Grail for any entrepreneur is to have 100% of their business coming from existing customers and referrals. I previously wrote about dealing with existing customer here and here so let’s take a few moments to look at how effective networking can help lead you to those precious word-of-mouth referrals.
#1 – It is said that the average person knows 250-300 people. Stop and consider this: you are two introductions away from 60,000-90,000 people. What do you think of networking now?
#2 – Think of networking as running for office. Instead of securing votes, you are securing relationships. Just like a politician running for office, you, as the owner of a business, are always on stage, always networking, always building relationships, always building your network.
#3 – Effective networking requires that you have a servant’s heart. You must be genuinely interested in helping other people in your network without immediately getting anything in return.
#4 – People do business with people they like but they do more with people they trust. Effective networking helps move people from “Like” to “Trust”.
#5 – Effective networking requires attributes that, quite frankly, most people do not possess – diligence, persistence, consistency and discipline.
Are there areas of your business in which you feel less in control? For some of us it is our sales strategy or lack thereof. While others, it is how we manage and lead our employees. The bottom line is, if you are NOT in control, you are winging it to some degree.
For those areas of your business where you know you are in less control than you should be, I want to challenge you to develop systems around that function to reduce the amount of “winging it”.
As an example, let’s take the customer service function.
- Do you measure customer satisfaction formally or informally?
- What procedures do you have in place to handle customer complaints?
- Do you have a strategy in place to proactively follow-up with customers after they purchase from you?
I realize a list of questions like this can seem daunting; that is why it is imperative that you tackle one piece at a time. Pick the one where you are furthest along already. Consider the list above; you most likely have some type of process to handle customer complaints therefore . . .
- Look at how consistently it is applied.
- Evaluate the output that is collected from each complaint.
- How do you leverage the information gleamed from each complaint? Staff meetings? Informal huddles with your team?
The ultimate question for any business owner is: Could I be absent from the business for a day / a week / a month / six months and return to a thriving operation?
In order to get to the point where your business can run without your every-waking-moment-attention, take one step at a time. Tackle one task at a time. Establish and implement a system, track the results, insure the system is followed; then, and only then, move on to the next task. Over the course of several months, you will see a dramatic reduction in the amount of “winging it” and, as a result, a less stressful existence in the greatest profession on earth – an entrepreneur.
Understanding your strengths is important for everyone but it is vital for business owners.
In Michael Gerber’s small business classic, The E-Myth, he defines three personalities that all business owners assume – the Technician, the Entrepreneur, and the Manager. He argues that we are all a mixture of these three personalities.
- The Entrepreneur tends to be someone who is creative, innovative, restless, easily bored, and sees opportunity around every corner. They are the dreamers.
- The Technician is tactical, or technical, in nature. They are the doers. They love “the work”.
- The Manager is the pragmatist. They crave order and tend to be strategic planners. As you can tell, all three of these personalities are required to run a successful business.
Which of these do you relate to most?
Once you answer that question, you must begin playing to your strengths and propping up your areas of weakness. You do this by surrounding yourself with a strong team. For example, if your dominant personality is a Technician, hire a Manager to run the day-to-day operations of the business and sprinkle in an Entrepreneur to help you avoid complacency and inject some creativity into your business development.
If you are an Entrepreneur, you must understand that you will most likely get bored with the business once it is up and running. You are most fulfilled when trying something new. Once the “new” becomes “old”, you tend to lose interest. Make sure you bring on a Technician and a Manager to run your business so that you can move on to the next great thing while still taking advantage of your most recent endeavor.
My wife recently went into a local bank branch to get our daughter a debit card. After filling out the required paperwork, the young banker said to my wife,
Call me on Tuesday to make sure the paperwork was properly submitted.
Question: Who is responsible for making sure the paperwork was properly submitted? My wife or the banker?
Answer: THE BANKER.
Question: What was the banker really saying?
Answer: “I am indifferent to you as a customer so check back with me to see if I did my job and, maybe if you are lucky, you will get your debit card.”
Lesson: For the sake of your business or your sales career, please, please, please NEVER utter the words “call me” to a customer!
I suggest a different tact?
The banker could have said something like, “I will call you Tuesday after I confirm that everything is ready to go.”
When he called on Tuesday, he simply reports, “You are all set. I will check the system on Thursday to make sure your debit card was issued and mailed”.
When he called on Thursday to report on the debit card’s arrival he could have said, “I will call you on Tuesday to make sure you received your card.”
When he called on Tuesday to confirm the receipt of the card, he could have said, “please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or any future banking needs. I will touch base with you periodically to make sure you are satisfied”.
He could follow that conversation up with an email or a card thanking them for their business.
Does this seem like overkill to you? Three phone calls, an email or note card (two minutes of your time) over a stupid debit card? What is the lifetime value of a customer? After answering that question, perhaps you will have a different perspective on taking care of your customers.
Mistake No. 11 in The Termite Effect is “Your Business Does Not Have a Well-Defined Sales System”. Many business owners and entrepreneurs are winging it when it comes to their sales process. As a matter of fact, calling their sales activity a process is quite a stretch.
One of my favorite books on sales is Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling whose analysis suggests a specific questioning sequence. Below is a synopsis:
S – Situational Questions
- Background and data-gathering.
- “How long have you had your present equipment?”
P – Problem Questions
- Implied needs, explore difficulties and dissatisfaction in areas where your products or services can help.
- “Are you concerned with the quality of output from your current equipment?”
I – Implication Questions
- Build upon the implied need. Discover the seriousness and urgency of the need.
- “How does the equipment impact your profitability?”
N – Need-Payoff Questions
- Get the customer to explain to you the benefits that your solution could offer them.
- “What would it mean to your business if we improved your equipment’s speed by 10%-15%?”
Rackham suggests developing and maintaining a problem solving mentality. If you can solve a problem for a prospect, you most likely have a sale. You identify their problems by asking great questions.
I often make the argument that running a business is a marathon, not a sprint. To my clients, I preach consistency, persistence and perseverance. I beg them to look at failures not as smack downs but as growth opportunities. Find a successful business person and you will find someone who has a pocket full of failures.
Recently, I came across a stunning example of never-say-die that I want to share with you.
What is 4 – 53 – 1?
The combined first-year NFL win-loss-tie records of four Hall of Fame coaches spanning three different decades: Tom Landry (1960), Chuck Noll (1969), Bill Walsh (1979) and Jimmie Johnson (1989).
Between the four of them, they have won 11 Super Bowls!
Next time you have a bad day, month or year think about that!