By Stephen Archer, Director, Spring Partnerships
1. Pull apart yesterday’s business and build tomorrow’s
To achieve growth in 2015, business leaders need to question the status quo and encourage challenges from their colleagues and senior management team. Among those challenges will be the secret of future growth and success. In reality they need to pull apart yesterday’s business and build tomorrow’s model as this is where innovation lies.
Successful businesses are flexible, lean, energised, fluid and innovative. However, very few businesses really live up to these ideals. To achieve growth, change is often required and so a successful business tends to be one where all assumptions are challenged.
2. Reduce the number of products/services
The business world is littered with warehouses full of stock that no one wants to buy. Companies need to ruthlessly narrow their offerings and put their sales and marketing efforts behind those that customers want AND you most profit from. This focus will ensure that growth and a better reputation will follow as well as profit.
3. Talk to every customer but NOT about products and services
Successful companies are those where executives have regular dialogue with their customers about the challenges they face which enables a far better understanding of their client’s business and where they can truly add value. By doing this they can ensure that they will sell customers value – not products and services. Selling value will ensure a company grows and differentiates itself.
4. Add 25% to the quality of customer service
A bit optimistic? Companies should mystery shop themselves to understand how their customers are treated and how that can be improved.
Business leaders need to maximise the team’s customer focus – top to bottom of the organisation, inside out. Everyone must be trained in commercial excellence so they maximise the sales/quality/profit delivery. Another important factor is to steal ideas from other industries.
The world is full of gold nuggets and most are ignored because a silly neuron says that what Starbucks/Mars/Carphone Warehouse do is not relevant. It is. Companies need to open their eyes and broaden their horizons.
5. Fire some customers
This sounds crazy but if companies need to examine the bottom 20% of their customers and ask what it is costing to serve them. Are they growing? Some customers cost too much to serve because they don’t buy enough, some cost too much because they are unreasonably demanding. If customers don’t offer a real potential to grow beyond today’s revenues then get rid of them. But do it nicely. Put the prices up and stiffen terms; they may through this method become profitable. The bottom tier of customers is like the bottom tier of products: the only way is exit.
6. Keep your competitors close
Companies need to dance with the enemy? Remember Sun Tzu “know your enemy and know yourself," then: "you need not fear the result of a hundred battles". Also "be close to your friends but closer to your enemies”. By understanding the competition, companies can see where and how they can take a competitive advantage early. They will also be more aware of when their competitors make mistakes and there are as many lessons in failure as there are in success. Forget satisfaction in others failure though – companies need to learn from the mistakes and take action not to copy them.
7. Look at how to retain customers
Businesses need to look at lapsed customers and how to recover them. There is always a customer churn rate but don’t accept that customers cannot be brought back. They can and the cost of sales to make this happen can be very low. Everyone likes to feel loved – customers too.
8. Focus on doing social media well
Social media might seem to be ‘so 2010’ but, for many companies it’s not co-ordinated and it is an ill thought through mess of ‘Follow us on Facebook’ and ‘subscribe to our electrifying Twitter feed’. This medium is rarely done well hence its inclusion in this list. Get it right and companies will gain market presence and reputation and it does not cost much.
9. Champion innovation
Companies need to create a culture where employees are encouraged to perform, evolve and innovate. Everyone in a company should see themselves as supplier and customer to others. If done without blame then this is a really healthy dynamic and will create innovation and growth with little effort. Beware people who are comfortable – they are not trying and not trying is not contributing.
10. Encourage a winning team
To lead is to empower. It’s the whole team that will make success happen. Companies need to encourage staff to use their insight and create improvements. The journey of 100 miles starts with a small step. If everyone is making that step in unison then the organisation is moving forward. Only the free culture with supportive leadership will make that happen.