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Kenneth W. Keller: Make sure your business is reaching its potential

Inside Business

Posted: June 30, 2009 4:05 p.m.
Updated: July 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Several years ago at his monthly executive forum meeting, a member shared with his peers that a longtime client returned to do business with him after having left for a competitor.

He was delighted by the news and called the client to find out why he got the business back. “You guys screw up less,” was the reply from the client.

While that is certainly not a slogan to base any advertising campaign on and it did not cause any rejoicing or celebration within his company, it serves a purpose to expose the means to set a company apart from others.

ATT Wireless promotes itself as the company “with the fewest dropped calls,” after all; something one thinks is hardly worth bragging about, yet that organization does.

Keith McFarland, author of the best-selling book “The Breakthrough Company,” was asked in an interview to describe the one thing that caused the companies he researched to excel in spite of difficult competition, challenging economies and growing pains. He said, “They simply did it better.”

“Doing it better” sounds extremely nebulous. Most businesses are filled with many procedures and processes created to standardize how things are done to eliminate errors, yet mistakes are made every day.

Too many business owners believe that to do it better means an outlay of cash for equipment, people and materials. That is not what McFarland said and that is not what he means.

Despite spending massive amounts of money on advertising, most of find sources for products and services by word of mouth.

That means that every time someone from an organization comes into a contact with a prospect or a client, that experience influences the base of referrals.

What do your prospects and clients experience when they come into contact with your business? Do they have a positive one that will propel them into doing more business with you and will cause them to mention and refer you to others?

Is there a way to simply improve the process of doing business with you that costs little or nothing?

The answer is yes, but three things must take place.

The first is that you have to be open to changing how things are done in your company.

The second is that you are committed to implementing the change even when facing resistance from employees who see it as “more work” or “another crazy idea” from the boss.

The third is that you have to enforce the change once it is made.

It is essential to explain the “why” behind the change. Taking the position of “I’m the boss, and you will do what I tell you to” doesn’t work with today’s employees; no one blindly follows leaders today.

If you assume that people understand that the challenging economy requires changes in how things are done simply to help the firm stay in business, think again.

People go with their own self-interest. This requires the owner to sell the idea to his or her employees. And like many buyers, acceptance won’t be immediate.

What can you do better in your company for your clients? Probably just about everything.

What can those departments and people do better that serve internal clients? The answer is the same — just about everything.

How does an owner communicate the message? It can happen through the creation and communication of a simple yet powerful message that everyone understands.

Decades ago, as part of the ambitious programs (Mercury, Gemini and Apollo) that put man on the moon and returned him safely to the earth, Lockheed Missiles and Space Company rallied thousands of employees to the Main Thing of “Zero Defects.” This encouraged people to do their jobs better.

This year, on the way to the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” as they come to bat at home games in the bottom of the eighth inning.

As this is written, the team has the best record in baseball. The game on Monday night was won when the Dodgers scored two runs in the bottom of the 13th inning; the game lasted four hours and 10 minutes.

The players believe and so do the fans.

Can your business simply do it better? The answer is yes. The “how” is for you to determine.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column represents his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.



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