How can you generate sustainable, profitable growth in economically challenging times?
The short answer is there are no shortcuts. It comes down to doing the same fundamental things that will help you generate sustainable, profitable growth in economically successful times. Consistently growing your business requires consistency in the good and bad times. Here are six actions that I encourage you to consider on how to accelerate your business results in a sustainable manner.
Accelerator Action #1: Schedule Thinking and Non-Thinking Time
For my money, this is the most valuable action of all. Take out your weekly calendar and block out one hour a week when you are going to get away from your boss, employees, customers, suppliers, family, and dog. Go to a place where no one knows you. Take out a blank sheet of paper.
At the top of the sheet of paper write down one business outcome you want to improve or one business issue that you want to resolve. Turn that outcome or that issue into an open-ended question. Answer that question from a variety of perspectives: your perspective, your boss’s perspective, your customer’s perspective, and your competitor’s perspective. Come up with as many ideas as you can in 35 minutes. Take the next 10 minutes and combine ideas together to make even better ideas. At the end of 45 minutes take your best idea and use the last 15 minutes to put together an action plan. I believe if you will do that you will have a tremendous impact in all of the other hours in your work week.
Also schedule time to stop working and stop thinking in a focused manner. Go for a 10-minute walk outside every day. Take three consecutive waking hours each week to disengage from your work. Get completely away from your for at least one full day each month and at least three full consecutive days each quarter. You will start to come up with better ideas on how to grow your business by giving your brain a regular rest.
Accelerator Action #2: Innovate to Sustain Success
Every customer and potential customer is asking two questions, “What will I get for my investment?” and “How will I be treated before, during, and after the sale?” Notice that every sale is about value and values. The way your customers and potential customers answer those questions right now is the brand you currently have. A brand is the perception of value that customers think they receive when they buy a certain product or service or think they will receive when they do buy that certain product or service. You don’t own your brand. Your brand exists outside of your business and inside the minds of your customers and prospects.
However, every customer and prospect is subconsciously asking two more questions, “What do I want to receive for my investment?” and “How do I want to be treated before, during, and after the sale?” These are the two critical questions for you to find the answer to. The answers you uncover provide you with the clues you will need to grow your business.
In order to uncover the answers, I encourage you to observe customers, talk with customers, and be the customer. Watch your customers as they interact with your products and services. Look for subtle hints as to what excites them and what frustrates them. Have conversations with your customers and just talk with them as you would with a friend. Ask them about their experience with your products and services and listen to what they say. Don’t write it all down. Keep it informal. If you can be the customer of your products and services, then go ahead and make a purchase and find out what they are going through. What you think is intuitively obvious for customers may not be that obvious at all. Dig down and really study every step in the customer’s journey from the first time they go on your website to the first time they step into one of your boats. Keep asking yourself, “At this point in the customer’s journey, what can we do to add more value to the customer?” Then take your strengths and your passions as an organization and apply them toward creating and delivering more value for the customer.
Accelerator Action #3: Collaborate to Accelerate
Don’t think you have to have all the answers. Stay in touch with a diverse group of people in the boating industry and keep exchanging ideas on how to grow your business in a profitable way. You can exchange ideas via e-mail, voicemail, phone, and face-to-face. And those are just the old-fashioned ways to do it. You can get connected on a whole range of social media outlets. The idea is to exchange ideas and look for ways to make even better ideas.
If you collaborate within your business, I suggest you establish these guidelines:
1. Clarify who the final decision-maker will be before you start collaborating.
2. Make sure everyone knows that not every idea is guaranteed to appear in the final version.
3. Establish the deadline for when a decision has to be made by before the collaboration begins. That creates a greater sense of urgency within the group.
4. Be sure to gather input from everyone in the group. Sometimes the introverted person has the best idea but is never heard because the extroverted people dominate the conversation. Ask an open-ended question and have everyone in the group share his or her answers to that question. Then look to combine ideas together to make even better ideas.
5. The decision-maker needs to communicate what the actual decision is and why he or she has made this particular decision.
Accelerator Action #4: Continually Raise My Bar
Every 30 days I encourage you to use The Bar Raising Process with the top five to seven employees in your business. Answer these seven questions:
1. What was our goal for the previous 30 days?
2. What did we actually achieve?
3. What did we do to try to achieve the goal?
4. What did we do that worked well and why did it work well?
5. What did we do that did not work well and why did it not work well?
6. What lessons did we learn or relearn over the past 30 days?
7. What will we do the same and what will we do differently over the next 30 days in order to improve our performance and results?
If you will invest one minute in answering each question, exchange your answers with the other members of your group, and then discuss the answers with each other, I believe you will steadily improve results in your business.
Accelerator Action #5: Sacrifice to Accelerate
There are two ways that will increase your chances for business failure: never try a new idea and try way too many new ideas. Have the courage to do the three things you really believe will have the greatest positive impact on improving your business results in a sustainable way and the courage to stop doing a lot of good activities that are keeping you from being able to do the three things that you know would matter the most.
You define yourself as an individual and as a business by what you say no to. Be willing to walk away from a lot of good activities so you can focus your attention on the few things that will matter the most toward improving your results in a sustainable manner.
Accelerator Action #6: Maintain Daily Enthusiasm
Remember that passion comes from purpose. No one can sustain real enthusiasm without having a reason for being enthused. What is your purpose at work? Why do you do what you do for a living? What is your purpose besides the paycheck?
I encourage you to take the time to write down your purpose at work. Every morning at the beginning of the work day, pull out that sheet and ask yourself, “Today how am I going to fulfill this purpose?” At the end of the workday, pull out the sheet of paper and ask yourself, “Today how did I fulfill my purpose?” If you will do that every day, I believe you will maintain the real enthusiasm necessary to propel sustainable, profitable growth.
About Dan Coughlin
Dan Coughlin was the keynote speaker at the Marine Boat Dealers Convention & Expo in Orlando on November 15, 2010. Visit Dan Coughlin’s Free Resource Center on Business Acceleration at www.thecoughlincompany.com. He teaches practical and inspiring ideas on how to improve business performance. He is a business keynote speaker, management consultant, executive coach, and author of four books on leadership, sales, branding, and innovation. His books include Accelerate, Corporate Catalysts, The Management 500, and Find a Way to Win. His clients include GE Capital, Prudential, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Marriott, Boeing, Abbott, Toyota, Subway, Kiewit, Denny’s, and the St. Louis Cardinals.