We live in a fast-paced, technology-driven world. We need it. We crave it. Yet, with the onslaught of technology and assault of information, it is easy to lose sight of the simple rules of smart business practices. As business owners, we must be careful not to over-engineer and under-deliver the fundamentals of good, solid business values, particularly as the Lansing region rebuilds itself.
These basic ‘rules’ are critical to your success as an entrepreneur, and more importantly, they are essential to turning around the Lansing region’s economy – and boosting your bottom line. If they seem like they’re basic common sense rules, that’s because they are.
Take a look at our top ten fundamentals of the game:
1. Cherish your customers
Ultimately, you are in the business of satisfying your customer. They indirectly sign your paycheck. If you don’t know what satisfies your customer, you cannot possibly deliver it; therefore, you will not succeed. Do whatever it takes to know exactly what your customers want and need. Survey them. Ask them. Ask your staff. Find out what you need to turn them into a loyal support system, and then do it! If you don’t, someone else will.
Countless stories demonstrate how Lansing area companies have lost business because they were set on doing things the old way instead of providing what the customer needed. You don’t want to be that entrepreneur.
2. Follow up and follow through
Respond to each and every correspondence. This may seem daunting, but with a little help and prioritizing, it can be done. A colleague told me about having contacted a dozen different contractors to perform various upgrades and renovations to her East Lansing home. Only two actually followed through on providing a proposal to her. If you don’t follow up and follow through, someone else will, and they’ll win.
3. Hire people better than you
It is difficult to comprehend the logic of the ego-driven method of 10s hiring 9s and 9s hiring 8s. Some of the smartest and most successful entrepreneurs hire people they know will out-perform them. There is no room for growth and succession in business if the person at the top is taking up all the space with an overinflated sense of self-worth and a self-sabotaging agenda.
If you are sick, want to take a vacation, or choose to retire, you need to confidently turn your business (and your cherished customer base) over to someone who’s as good as, if not better than, you.
4. Treat everyone with respect
Your employees, vendors, colleagues, even your landlord directly or indirectly keep your customers satisfied. If your team doesn’t feel respected by you, they won’t perform well. They won’t take care of your customers and your customers will find someone else who will. Remember your customers add the zeros to your salary; they keep you in business and help your business grow. This basic concept needs to be at the forefront of every one of your team members’ minds and executed at every turn.
5. Deliver consistency to your customers
Have you ever gone into your favorite restaurant and ordered your favorite dish only to have it different from the way you remember it? Of course you have and it’s disappointing. Don’t be that entrepreneur. Deliver consistency every time, no matter what your product or service. Offer your customers change but don’t surprise them with it.
6. Mentor – network – embrace every chance you get
Mentoring – such as that offered through the MEDC’s Shifting Gears Program – is not just about helping others realize their dreams or coaching them through a winning game. It is about embracing others without expectation of reward or return on your investment. Helping others, promoting other people and other businesses just for the sake of promoting them, is what mentoring is all about. Mentoring and networking mean staying in touch and helping others, free of an agenda to get business or further your personal, financial or professional gain.
7. Conduct yourself with unwavering personal integrity
Don’t just say it; do it! J.C. Watts said, “Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”
8. Focus on the goal
Obviously human nature is to be recognized and appreciated, but when that agenda gets in the way of the goal, the goal will never be reached. It’s been observed that more and more people are vying for recognition, awards or accolades, rather than focusing on the collective goal of the team.
Here’s an archaic, yet highly effective, approach: Rather than trying to be the star, play your part on the team and the goal will be realized.
9. Love what you do for a living
If you don’t love what you’re doing now, then change it. You have all the tools and resources you need to change your life and your career. The real question is: Do you have the courage to change? If you love what you do, you will have a hard time separating work and play because your work will become play.
10. Commit to the game
Commit yourself to your business, your family, your employees, your vendors, your plan and most of all your customers and the health and wealth of the Lansing area community. Stay aware and flexible enough to know when and how to alter your plan and your business, and make a commitment that is as deep as the commitment you would make (or have made) to a child. It’s the same for the professional sports team. Those players make a commitment to the season, the team, each game and every play. Your business, your livelihood, is not any different.