It’s a cliche – business is a people game. And like many cliches, it’s true, but what does this mean in practice for your business?
A good starting point is to ask: who are these people?
They are broken into four groups; first, your customers, then staff, strategic allies and you.
Taking these groups individually, we have said many times, if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business.
The better your relationship is with your customers, the more they will refer other new prospective customers your way and your advertising costs will be drastically reduced. I’ve actually seen cases where advertising costs have been eliminated altogether.
But how important is it to get to know your customers? And I mean, get to know them intimately. In some cases, you might well say that it is impossible to know each of them intimately. But this is missing the point; I am suggesting building a profile of your customers to the point where you know who they are, where they came from, how they came to you, how they think, what motivates them to buy your product or service and the factors that will ensure they keep coming back.
Customer profiles can be developed by creating a database, capturing as much information as possible on each business transaction.
While this may appear fundamental, especially for retailers whose point of sale software often does this, it’s amazing how many businesses do not go through this basic process.
Another process is gaining customer feedback by way of regular questionnaires. Once the information is captured, it requires analysis, the development of any resultant change in strategy and implementation.
Once you know and understand them to this extent, you’re in a powerful position of being able to truly meet their expectations and to deliver a consistently high level of service. When you have customers raving about you, who needs advertising?
Then there is your staff, the people who commit to spending around 30 per cent (often more) of their lives working to enhance your business.
Get this wrong and you will not – cannot – get the customer part right. If your people are not on the right page, totally in tune with your vision and 100 per cent committed to delivering on your promise, how can the customer gain satisfaction?
On the other hand, have staff who are totally engaged, totally on board and continually eager to learn more in the quest for customer satisfaction and that’s what the customer will get.
This process starts with how you have set up your business; if it has a clearly articulated vision and a set of values that are never compromised; its foundations are well established.
From that point, it’s a matter of recruiting people on this basis, providing a pathway that includes ongoing and continuous training, a generous package of reward, then the freedom to be accountable for their actions.
Strategic allies – so why is this group of people so important? For a start, let’s identify just who they might be; providers of professional services, such as your accountant or web designer; suppliers of goods and services to you such as your printer or stationer; your banker or your business coach.
To varying degrees, these people all know your business in depth, they know you and they know your staff. Importantly, they also know other people, many of whom are potential customers of yours.
How these people are treated will have an enormous bearing on the likelihood of new customers being referred to your business by members of this extremely influential group.
Many highly successful businesses have decided on a deliberate and strategic approach to their strategic allies to optimise the potential for new business to come their way as a result of their referral. Basically, it’s a matter of being “good people to deal with”.
Finally, there is you. Important decisions should be considered in the early stages (for an established business, that’s code for now) such as your role in the business.
Most business owners, when it is suggested that they complete detailed position agreements for every position within the company organisation chart, find their own role the most challenging.
They are quite happy to spend hours developing key performance indicators (KPI) and descriptions for all other positions, but have great problems with their own.
Which brings me to a final point; what should be the KPIs of a business owner, CEO or general manager? This is a topic for great discussion until the answer becomes obvious – their KPIs should be to ensure that their direct reports achieve their KPIs.
Once that’s done, they should spend all of their remaining time with those other groups – customers, staff and strategic allies. After all, it is a people game.
John Matthew is managing director of MBR Corporate, which offers a range of business mentoring and coaching services, mainly targeted at WA based SMEs, with a particular focus on businesses based in the state’s regional areas.
Contact John on 08 9531 3777 | mob 0418 935 327