Excerpted from the book on mindful business management, Business Black Belt.
“What you learn after you think you know it all is what counts.”
~ John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach
For those who give you reasons for why businesses fail…
When I read a magazine article entitled, “10 Ways to Go Out of Business,” I snapped. I could just as easily show you 10 ways you can succeed in business! There are millions of ways to screw up, what good is knowing that? What about focusing on what works? This was my first inspiration to write this book. I started by writing 10 ways to succeed and went on to write 20. Here they are. Although no business fails for a single reason, likewise, no single reason in and of itself can make a business succeed. Ideally, you would incorporate all 20 things and more for your business to really succeed.
Things happen—miracles occur, phones ring, people are in agreement with you, people want to buy your stuff—it’s not luck, but there are specific things you can do consciously and consistently to get bigger and better.
1. You solve your own problem—with a vengeance
You develop a solution to a problem that you have experienced. That solution becomes a product or service. What will drive this product or service to succeed is your empathy and compassion for the customers who have the same problem. Find people with that problem and to share your experience and enthusiasm for why your product or service will, indeed, solve that problem and how good people will feel once it is solved. Because you have been through the same situation, you know exactly what it takes to lead your customer to success.
2. You take the leadership position
You are the expert on your product or service. At some time, the reason your customers are buying the product or service from you is that you know what you’re doing, you’re the expert, you’re telling them what they need, and you’re doing it the best possible way it can be done. You’ve invested the time, it’s your industry, you are current in it, and you’re putting the best product forward. Leadership is having the confidence to do what’s right, even in the face of uncertainty, disagreement, or industry inertia.
3. You presume that customers want to buy
Never assume customers don’t want to buy. Most sales trainings assume that customers do not want to buy. Listen to the language: “handling rejection,” “closing a deal,” “overcoming objections.” If you’ve got a product that solves a problem and you recognize a person with that problem, presume that the person wants to buy it. Your job as a salesperson is to establish rapport with genuine empathy and prove that your product does, indeed, solve the problem. Then engineer a way for the person to purchase it from you. Show them how they can have it.
4. You offer quality over profit
You emphasize the quality of your product, and your product’s or service’s ability to do the job or solve the problem the best way it can be solved—over profit. If there’s a choice between adding quality to the product or sacrificing quality for more profits, go for quality.
5. You are open to improvement
You are open to all ways your product, service or operation can be improved so your customer is always satisfied and buys more. You happily accept input and agree with your customers. You perceive criticism as constructive input for improvement anytime someone has a complaint, a question, a problem or a suggestion. This applies to you personally as well—there is no one to blame.
They are learning to balance their interests in shaping the future with a prudent respect for the limits in their abilities. They tuck, they weave, they dive—they ride with the river, rather than fight it.
James F. Moore, CEO, GeoPartners Research, Inc.
“Paradigm Shifts, Executive Leadership: Back to the Future,”
6. You always look for places to sell
Always look for places to sell your product and people to sell it to—channels, stores, and people. Network, read magazines, and look for outlets where you can sell. Never be bashful about recommending your product to anyone.
7. You use direct-response marketing techniques
Expect to take an order directly from the ad. Include 800 numbers in ads and take credit cards. The advertisements include quotes and testimonials from happy customers. The headlines introduce the solution to the problem, and the ad adequately explains the product and, most important, its benefits. Your ads and promotional materials are complete presentations in themselves.
8. You know who your customer is
You focus your products and services on your customers’ problems or desires. What else would those same customers buy from you? Selling an existing customer an additional product costs one fifth of what it takes to land a new customer. How can you expand your successful reputation into another product or service that you could provide? For example, JIAN is in the business management efficiency business (and cleaning up business practices). We have developed a reputation for a specific product line that appeals to entrepreneurs and business owners. If we add another product or service, it must be something these same people would expect from us—and believe us to be the logical provider. It would make sense to include it in a catalog and offer it with our other products to the same customers.
9. Businesses have karma too
You are aware that businesses also have Karma and that the concept of “What goes around, comes around” applies to a company as well as an individual. It starts with the CEO and flows out from there. This attitude also prevents a company from getting arrogant about its success and treating customers badly. With everybody on the management team and every employee in the company keeping this in mind, when decisions are made by anybody at any level, the right thing will be done and the customers will be happy.
10. You are in business with people you just naturally like
Probably the single biggest killer of businesses are bad relationships—when the partners or the top managers of a company don’t get along. One of the beauties of being in business for yourself is that you can choose the people you work with. You might as well choose people you enjoy and trust, so the relationships will be long and happy ones. Be sure you have agreements, so in the event you must split up, even that can be amicable. Don’t be bashful about using an attorney to make sure you do this right.
11. You hire attitude over aptitude
Although you look for people with heart before brains, you want someone who can do the job better than you can (so you won’t feel compelled to micro-manage them!). You interview people carefully, paying close attention to past performance (past performance is an indicator of future performance), ability, character, and personality. A good blend of different personality styles on your management team provides the best decisions. Any differences in personality or management style may cause friction. You may have heated arguments when necessary, but no one takes it personally, knowing that the end result is a better decision and a more efficient company. Everybody looks at it as a learning experience. Underneath it all, you must genuinely respect each other and appreciate each other’s skills and abilities.
12. You invest in tools to get the job done
Invest money in quality equipment necessary for the infrastructure, so employees can do their jobs most effectively. Perhaps more expensive, more efficient equipment, machinery, and supplies will enable your employees to more easily get their jobs done and be less distracted by problems. Plus, it makes everybody happy to feel that they’re working with quality. It improves morale and keeps the focus on the purpose of your business.
13. All expenditures must generate cash
Every time you spend money, your mantra is “Will this new purchase or investment generate immediate cash or not?” The key words are immediate cash, because that’s what keeps a business going.
14. You keep going even while you are figuring things out
You are able to make decisions without having all the information. Ideally, 20 % of the information will give you 80% of what you need to know in order to make a good decision. Don’t wait until you have everything you possibly need to know, because you may experience paralysis from analysis! For example, I still need to make hiring decisions while I’m in the process of improving my ability to do it. As I’m learning and working on it, I’m willing to make mistakes, yet the company moves forward anyway.
15. You take action and see…
…as opposed to “wait and see.” You realize that you have to go ahead and make decisions to do something, even though you may not have found the best deal. You know that the longer you wait, the more it can cost you from inaction.
16. You’re totally honest
Don’t fudge facts or figures. Be honest with your employees. Pay people what you owe them. Do what you say you’re going to do. Always come through and maintain your reputation in a favorable way. Often, a deal could be tenuous or you may need something from a new supplier in a hurry. Your reputation alone can pull you through. Or it may be a toss-up for a customer as to whether they buy your product or one from a competitor. If you give the customer a better feeling, they’ll buy from you.
17. You maintain humility with success
Maintain your interest and willingness to improve your skills, your products, your services—no matter how good you think you are already. Still play by the rules. There is much responsibility with success. Really great people look for ways to be even more constructive with the successes they enjoy.
18. You continue to train yourself
Join organizations, take seminars and classes, and read books. Keep learning about your own job and different aspects of it, as well as different aspects of other people’s jobs.
19. You have incredible will power
No matter what the business is, it’s gonna go, it’s your thing, and you know it’s going to make it. Even if your friends, relatives, and professionals tell you it’s less than a great idea, you still envision its success and know you can make it happen. I’ve read a number of business success stories, and what I find consistent about Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Fred Smith at Federal Express, Bernard Marcus at Home Depot, Bill Gates at Microsoft, Steve Jobs at Apple, Lee Iacocca at Chrysler, and Jack Welch at G.E. is that they have incredible will power and sheer tenacity to make the company succeed.
20. You’re more interested in the game than the money.
Most wildly successful people have fundamentally been more interested in solving the problem than in making big bucks. Sure, they approach their business in a businesslike manner, but they are fanatic evangelists for what they are doing. Making money isn’t enough of a motivator to sustain their interest, focus, and energy over time. Look into the backgrounds and stories of the wildly successful and you’ll see this to be true.
It wasn’t until I started doing what I really enjoyed, that helped others, that I began to make real money. The sooner you start doing what you are good at, what you love doing, what helps others, the sooner you will attract money and everything you need.
I hope you found this book interesting and useful.
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