July 2012 Intermediary A-Musing
Shoot…! ….Before You’re Shot!
Clearly for us in the Northern hemisphere, after tilting its maximum towards the sun in June, the longest day in terms of daylight hours has reached its peak for another year. Doubtless is the longest day for business owner-managers, with any changes occurring in different areas at the same time, over yet… and the potential is to increase the sense of everything changing at once. Add in the sense of peddling twice as fast to stay in the same place, it’s easy to lose direction, become staid and too busy for business… or life.
In the micro and small business operators world, in which time is eaten up quicker than cheese by a mouse in a creamery, the daily challenges can be similar to that given out to the Radio 4 panellists on Just a Minute: managing 60 seconds without repetition, hesitation or deviation. For some, the constant erosion results in a belief that being older means automatically time will move quicker, for others, the misinterpretation that nothing remains the same.
At a time when even being a long established family run business, with a great local reputation, isn’t sufficient to stand out against competing county and national chains, there is constant opportunity in the basis of business and the trading of products and services, and it is difficult to think of any businesses exempt from the benefits of continually refining its own information or practice (even before the time of the internet). However, when information overload is added to the mix of ever prevalent disturbance to attention, there can be a tipping point reached: being both cause and symptom, new opportunities and experiences are suppressed.
In this modern life in which time and technology moves at a pace seemingly faster than the speed of light, where it’s possible to use a phone that is smart enough to monitor heartbeat, after running for a train to which tickets were bought over the internet, whilst making the decision whether to arrange a taxi on arrival, when mail no longer necessitates a postie and face to face conversations happen through a screen, time does indeed seem to go quicker than ever before: business environments and customer wants/needs constantly changing - the changes in effect becoming a constant.
3 Shots to Crank Up Business’s Constant Changes ….and Kill the Overload
- Concentrate on areas that ensure the business is sustained – The financials, the data, the spreadsheets – boring and time consuming but true
- Give attention to new customers as well as loyal customers – Identify a market, the customer in that market and what that customer wants – time consuming but true
- Apply digital technology: applications such as email, smartphones, websites – Be selective; use the silent mode on your mobile phone, prioritise emails and make your website relevant – time consuming but true.
There are hundreds of businesses competing and claiming to give professional service (what other type would they make claim to!?) Add to that corporates with their brand going before them (think coffee – think Starbucks, think health – think Boots, think cheap supermarket – think Asda), the independent has plenty to make their days seem very long. For example, motorists are now enabled to buy car parts online, the website being the enabler; some are good sites, some are bad and some are in the middle. Some motorists choose to use a mechanic in a garage; some have good garage services, some bad and some are in the middle: as in all business types there are the good, the bad and the ugly. There’s no magic involved in the value-base for online customers altering their middleman from garage to website, and the mechanic’s customers’ preference of garage as intermediary, the customer has the choice of preference and a business has a choice in how it operates. Product or service, B2B or direct, all business types have a commonality in their customers wanting gold star service - it should be a norm but is often seen as an added bonus - add to that something that gets their attention or makes an impression, the customer experience becomes enjoyable.
Offering great deals which pass savings on is what customers want: it’s what businesses purport along with having a great reputation, keeping the customer updated and so on. But business being enjoyable isn’t easy for many sectors, us included; there are no giggles in high-end rate scales, pedantic red tape, or corporate contemplation, but experiencing customer satisfaction by creating an agreeable experience for a customer is drive in itself, no hesitation or deviation – for repetition.
Putting the customer first doesn’t always make us the most popular, arguing with a lender when we’re firmly on the side of customer makes for one of our less enjoyable challenges, but, a business that puts its customer first, by knowing they have understood what their customer wants, builds a confidence which reinforces their ability against the competition.
Seize the information overload, wring it dry, mangle it into submission and make it work for your business instead of against your business …..providing you’re not in a blackspot!