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If your business disappeared tomorrow…

If your business disappeared tomorrow…

20090308-disappeared-business

    If your business disappeared tomorrow, would anybody miss you?

    No one wants to close their doors. But let’s imagine the unthinkable: how would your customers respond if you did have to close up shop? Imagine two scenarios…

    Scenario one: you disappear and no one notices… That would be a disaster, but what would it tell you? Maybe it tells you that whatever needs your service or product fulfilled, a competitor was able to replace. What you had to offer was a commodity, and all commodities are replaceable.

    Scenario two: you close your doors and your customers wander around dazed and confused; they can’t imagine life without you. That would be remarkable, but again, what does this scenario tell you? It tells you that no one else could meet your customers’ needs the way you did. Whatever you had to offer was not a commodity.

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    We all want to survive and we all want to thrive. But how cool would it be if your customers needed you to survive even more than you did? What would you be prepared to do to be that irreplaceable?

    Any commodity you sell can be replaced, often more cheaply, by someone else. People selling commodities are always looking over their shoulders. So what is not a commodity? What can you offer your customers that can’t be replaced? The answer is: a relationship.

    A relationship is the opposite of a commodity.

    Relationships are as unique as snowflakes. No two customers, no two businesses, and therefore no two relationships, are exactly the same. They cannot be reproduced – not more quickly, not more cheaply. Not at all. And what cannot be reproduced cannot be competed against. A relationship is the ultimate ‘unique competitive advantage’.

    How do we create a unique relationship with our customers? You can start by answering some key questions.

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    1. Who are your customers? Do you really know them? What do they want, what do they hate, what will they splurge on and what do they buy in bulk, where do they live, what excites them, what are their values?
    2. Do you know what your customers value your business for? What brings them through your door? What do you have that they want? What do you offer that makes them choose you over your competitors?
    3. What are your customers’ triggers? What ‘language’ do they speak? What gesture can you make that would make your customers feel like you ‘get them’? What can you bring to the relationship that will make them feel like they are truly important when you do business with them? What words and images speak to your customers?

    Answer these questions with confidence and accuracy and you will already be huge strides ahead of others in your market.

    Remember, the answers shouldn’t be about a product or service! If the only thing that you know about your customers is what your in-store stats tell you, or that your customers value your business for great parking, or that their trigger is a loss leader sale on detergents, you need to ask better questions. Without better answers, your business will still be about commodities. 2-for-1 pricing is not the basis of a great relationship.

    When you can paint a picture of your customer, yourself, and your relationship, in sharp colours, then you have the most important part of creating the customer experience we are after. You are then ready to ensure that your customers have a relationship-based experience every time they do business with you.

    There are many ways you can create unique relationships with your customers. Here are a few suggestions:

    Treat your customers as individuals with names. Who doesn’t like to go into a shop to be greeted by name and to be asked if you’ll have ‘your usual’? Make it a practice to have a conversation with every customer who comes through the door. Exchange names if it is appropriate. Keep a few notes of key conversations, likes and dislikes. Share information about key customers at staff meetings.

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    Make your customers feel like they are on the inside. Everyone loves to feel like they are part of an ‘inner circle’. Give your customer insider tips on your industry. Give away trade ‘secrets’ for free; not big ones, not all of them, but enough to let them know that you are on their side.

    Educate. Take the time to provide ‘rich’ information to your customers. Keep them informed about new developments in your industry, and about trends that are affecting the products and services they are buying. Everyone loves being ‘in the know’ and these days, particularly younger consumers, are educated and looking for the ‘back story’ on what they are getting.

    Show your customers they matter more than their money. How did Radiohead and Trent Reznor make a fortune giving away music for free? They understood that relationships with their fans matter more than their money. And their fans reward them royally. You don’t have to give your business away, but you can find ways to go that extra mile without charging for it.

    Get out there. Still on the ‘matter more than money’ theme, though on a larger scale, this is about community service initiatives. Become more than a business, become an active member of your community. Like any great relationship, you get back what you put in.

    Give your customers something to talk about. Do something remarkable for them. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, it doesn’t have to be every time, but it has to be remarkable enough that it makes people talk about you. A little gift, a special delivery, a few more minutes of your time… Whatever it is, be consistently remarkable, and people will talk.

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    And most important of all…
    Talk with your customers. There is no substitute for conversation to build a relationship. No survey, no marketing report, can take the place of a conversation. Never miss an opportunity to give customers a chance to talk about themselves, and about the things that have brought them into your business. Ask questions. And when they talk, listen. Really listen. You are listening for two things in particular: anything that gives you more information about who your customers are, and anything that tells you why they are with you now. These two pieces of information are critical, because with them you can continue to feed the ‘great experience’ positive feedback loop. If you know intimately who your customer is, and why they come to you, you are more able to tailor their experience of your business to their needs and triggers.

    The more you can do to build relationships with your customers, the more they will come to feel that you understand them and their needs. You will have crossed that magical threshold where your customers come to you for a relationship and an experience, not for a commodity. They do business with you because they want that experience, and they value your relationship. And that cannot be reproduced.

    If you were to close your doors after developing relationships based on these suggestions, you would be missed indeed. But even better, you will have the customer loyalty that ensures you will never have to close your doors!

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    Last Updated on December 5, 2018

    How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

    How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

    Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

    We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

    How do they do it?

    By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

    1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

    There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

    If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

    2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

    Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

    According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

    Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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    3. Demand Learning from Your Team

    CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

    “The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

    His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

    Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

    “We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

    Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

    4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

    Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

    Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

    • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
    • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
    • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
    • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
    • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
    • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

    5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

    Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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    Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

    • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
    • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
    • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
    • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
    • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

      “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

    Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

    6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

    The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

    Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

    You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

    7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

    Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

    But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

    On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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    • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
    • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
    • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
    • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

    8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

    Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

    When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

    9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

    The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

    What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

    Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

    10. Empower Your Employees

    Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

    They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

    Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

    You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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    If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

    11. Nurture Your Company Culture

    Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

    Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

    However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

    Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

    Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

    Be a Leader, Not a Boss

    Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

    However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

    In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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