by Michael Mothner
While there is no silver bullet for business success, I have no doubt that there are common guiding principles shared by successful businesses and entrepreneurs. In today’s turbulent and sometimes downright scary economic climate, I remind myself of the following principles each and every day. Read on for some insight and real-life examples of how we are employing these principles at Wpromote.
1. Do More With Less
While this is not a concept you should only dust off in challenging times, now more than ever before this is a principle that should guide your decision-making. It is easier said than done, but if you look around your organization, your to-do list, your credit card statement or even your inbox, you will no doubt discover ways to get more done with less time, money, people or resources.
For example, we found that as a fairly computer savvy overall group, we didn’t need to have a full-time IT person to handle run of the mill computer issues. Instead, we actively pitch in and help each other when we run into problems, and as a result, we get more done, faster, and with fewer staff. It turns out our collective knowledge is significantly greater than any one “specialist” in this area; a pretty cool discovery.
2. Stop Talking, Start Doing
This is a big one for me. I find myself seemingly talking to people every single week that have a new “great idea”, but never seem to execute on them. And every time I want to scream, “JUST DO IT.” (Yes Nike, I paid my royalties for that one). Pick a metaphor out of the hat: I’ll go with “you can’t hit the ball if you don’t go to bat.”
The point is, if you are indecisive about taking action, whether it is launching a new initiative, laying off an employee, changing marketing, you name it, it is my belief that in the long view of things, you are harmed more by inaction than incorrect action. So spend less time analyzing, stop staring at the spreadsheet that is riddled with assumptions, and just do it.
3. Be Bold But Not Reckless
After the economic collapse in late 2008, common sense would seem to dictate that you batten down the hatches, lay low and just ride out the next 12-24 months that everyone agrees is going to be a slow and hopeful recovery.
I fall into a different camp; I see this time period as an absolutely amazing opportunity to be innovative, aggressive, steal market share and grow as a company. Our goal is to leapfrog over our competition as we emerge from this admittedly brutal period.
But bold, not reckless. We are expanding in ways that are core to our business, building a sales force and aggressively engaging in business development. We are focusing intensely on efficiency and revenue growth, and trimming outside of this mantra.
4. Don’t Focus On Your Competitors
Don’t get me wrong; I am not suggesting that you lose sight of your competitors. However, I do believe that if you simply follow your competitors, at best you will be always one step behind, and at worst, you will follow them right off a cliff.
So look at your industry, your clients, your organization, your efficiency, your margins, your customer service, your growth plans, and maybe, just maybe, sneak a peek at your competitors when you just insist on taking a break.
5. Love Your Customers; No, Make Them Love You.
While this applies universally, I believe it is all the more important during these times to truly love your customer. Right now every cost is potentially evaluated, no matter if you sell to consumers, businesses or even the government.
Go out of your way to prove your value day in and day out. Our search marketing services are accountable and metrics-based, yet I have no doubt that our stellar retention rate is in no small part due to the fact that our account managers are knowledgeable, accessible, and frankly, really darn awesome people. Our products are valuable, but our service is impossible to replace. I feel the same way about an e-commerce store like Zappos. A lot of other places sell the same shoe, but I just enjoy buying from them. This is a powerful thing.
In a perfect world, your product would be such that your customers can’t live without you. With truly amazing service, however, your customers simply don’t want to live without you.
6. Be Positive
Before you get frustrated that I am ending with a lame old cliché, let me defend myself. I am not suggesting that you should be blind to reality; if sales are down, they are down. It is important that you are positive and believe that you can effect change. If your sales team is seeing sagging results, then attack the problem, make a plan, and execute it (see #2). It is not about talking the talk; there is an amazing intangible quality when you – and your team, clients, partners, investors – truly believe in the direction you are taking. It is infectious; and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I don’t mean to get too “The Secret” on anybody; if you head down the wrong path, it’s still the wrong path. But no matter what you do in business, or in life, an outlook of positivity, excitement and enthusiasm will sweeten victory, soften defeat, and make the process more enjoyable.