Probably not, but here are ten ways you can increase your odds of survival
By Kevin Fisher, happytails | December 2008
One thing I’ve realized after 15 years as a business owner "You can do everything right and still fail" there are no foolproof strategies. I know, that may not be the encouraging rah rah you had hoped to hear but it’s the truth. Business climate, bad luck and unforeseen problems can all scuttle your excellent endeavor faster than you can say "Bear Sterns". With so much out of your control doesn’t it make sense to pay particular attention to those things you can control. While it may be true that the best plan in the world is no guarantee of success the lack of a plan is a certain road to failure.
( I’m gonna to bypass the obvious caveats regarding budgeting, expenses, costing and forecasting etc as I assume these things all go without saying, today I want to focus on a few more intangible items)
Here a few thoughts on how you can increase your chances of riding out the current storm.
1. Discover your customer: Have a clear idea who your customer is and target them specifically. Don’t try to be all things to all people, that’s the best way to lose any distinctiveness and personality your business may have.
2. Stand out by being different: How are you going to set yourself apart from your competition? What is unique about your store, your service, your employees? In an overcrowded marketplace where everyone is trying to sell you something this is a live or die imperative. As the world grows ever smaller it’s the niche players who exploit the "long tail" that will weather the ups and downs. (what’s the long tail?) If you’re looking for distinctiveness sell products that aren’t sold at every big box retailer…products like Happytails
3. Create an energetic team who all believe in what your selling. Every employee or associate must be great value for money, contributing to the excitement and personality of your company. Tip: If you cringe when an employee interacts with a customer it’s time to rethink their employment.
4. Be reliable: Do what you say your gonna do when you say you’re gonna do it. In business, if you promise something there are only two acceptable outcomes: either the thing gets done as promised or the customer is informed in time to make other arrangements. There is no third option… at least there isn’t if you want to keep your business alive.
5. Express your gratitude. To your employees, to your customers, to your vendors. Business may be full of charts, graphs and Excel spreadsheets but in the end it’s all about people, and people are more likely to extend themselves for you if you’ve extended yourself to them first.
6. Be consistent. No, not boring but consistently good. Every interaction you have with a customer whether it’s a phone call, an e-mail, an order delivery should be consistently excellent. I know, that’s an impossibly high bar to reach but if you make that your goal it will give you a standard for which to strive. I’m not telling you anything new when I say that it’s exponentially harder to find new customers than to keep the ones you have…but don’t strive to keep them, strive to astound them, if you don’t someone else will.
7. Smile (make the world wonder what you’ve been up to). So you think people buy from you because of price, quality, convenience? Every study ever done on successful selling says that people buy because they like the salesperson, they feel a personal connection that fosters trust….and speaking of selling:
8. Don’t sell. Before I started this business I thought that selling was about tips and tricks and convincing people to buy, I quickly learned that pressuring people to buy is a losing proposition…it’s short sighted because you’re looking to create a customer not a single sale. I believe that the best salespeople communicate their enthusiasm for the product and educate prospective customers on how the product will improve their lives. Period. If the product or service doesn’t improve your customers life in some way why on earth would they chose to buy it again?
9. Be uncomfortable: In a world of constant change it’s not a good idea to get too attached. Just because you’ve always done it one way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way. Keep abreast of the trends in your industry and take advantage of new innovations. Who knows the next internet may be just around the corner. (scary isn’t it?)
10. Be optimistic. Attitude is contagious, people want to hitch their wagon to a successful star so even when you don’t feel it -be positive.
The way ahead is going to be difficult for all of us but if I can insert one small sliver of silver lining here I do believe that the companies that survive the next few years will emerge as better, leaner, more capable organizations. I know that already we have rebalanced our own company to be leaner, more agile and more focused on our customers and the reality of business today. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that as the world changes around us we can evolve enough to out-run extinction.