“He seemed to understand my business, but…”
I was sitting with a CEO of a $4 million business several months ago. Call him Jay. Like many small business owners looking for continued growth, Jay was wrestling with a thorny decision. He had contracted with Kevin (not his real name), a marketing consultant, to develop a comprehensive marketing plan for the business. At the time of our discussion, Kevin had just presented a plan that consisted mainly of an analysis of the business’s current situation: markets served and unserved, competitive strengths and weaknesses, market position, and so forth. Jay found the data informative, but kept pushing Kevin for detailed recommendations – suggestions for reasonable sales growth goals and action steps both short- and long-term to achieve those goals. Kevin seemed to be dodging that question, instead hinting that Jay could contract with him on a retainer basis to guide the implementation of the plan over the upcoming months. Jay was wary.
This situation is not unusual. It’s not really a communication problem as much as a perception problem. Both Jay and Kevin are focused on “results”. However, Jay’s mindset is that of an entrepreneur; Kevin’s is that of an analyst. For Jay, achieving consistent growth is the result. For Kevin, defining the market and competitive situation is the result.
Stated simply, Jay wants to be reasonably confident that “If I do this, then I’ll achieve that.”
This difference in perspective is why consultants have such a challenge selling small-to-midsize businesses on their services. When they fail to secure a contract, they chalk it up to the assumption that the entrepreneur didn’t really have the money to spend anyway. But they are often mistaken, and they’re missing an opportunity to participate in this market.
In Jay’s most optimistic view, Kevin has opened the gate to the lock that can elevate his yacht to the next level. Now Jay wants Kevin in the boat, as his “marketing first mate”, for the next part of the journey.
A key to unlocking the door to a win-win consulting agreement is the willingness of the consultant to be paid on a sliding scale, proportional to the successful achievement of longer term goals.
Agree or disagree?
Love is a many splendored thing
I love you. Strange title for a business blog, isn’t it? But it’s true, assuming that you’re a business owner. Here’s what motivated me to make that declaration.
A couple days ago I went to hell and back. You’ve been there. I called the help line at a major corporation because of a small glitch in the operation of my new mobile phone. This particular visit to hell took almost two hours of my not unlimited time. I will spare you the details because you’ve been there. I’d rather talk about love anyway.
I love business owners and that’s why I’ve devoted the past thirteen years to working with them. Privately owned businesses tend to serve customers well and to get things accomplished quickly. Many entrepreneurs started their own business precisely because they could not find the quality of service that they craved.
A customer service process that works is a thing of beauty. A dysfunctional process will suck any beauty out of both customer and company.
So my love for you is conditional. You might get big faster than you can control. Or you might get complacent. Or you might turn catatonic under the stress of sustaining your own business.
Next time you visit the hell that I have described here, I want you to pledge anew that you will not let your company slide into customer service dysfunction. Promise?
Have you ever thought about how important your understanding of motivation is to your success as a CEO? Consider…
Effective selling requires understanding why a particular customer is “shopping”.
Effective marketing demands effectively communicating why your company does what it does.
Effective leadership requires your understanding why your partners and employees get out of bed to come to work in the morning.
Most important of all, why do you put so much energy into your company? And how clearly have you communicated this purpose to your audiences?
The better grip you can get on why, the better CEO you will be. Suggested reading: Start with Why by Simon Sinek.
I participate in leading a program for business owners that is offered by the Delaware Small Business Technology and Development Center (SBTDC). The participants meet once a week for three hours over a six week period. During that time they become engaged in a thoughtful analysis of their business and of their plan for that business. The SBTDC calls this their Business Development Network.
This program covers the fundamentals of running and ultimately exiting a successful business. While I was listening to Carla Holland (shown in photo) launch another six-week series recently, I made a list of the basic concepts she discussed in that first session. They are listed below. Continue reading
As the leader of your business, you’re concerned about first impressions. You want to put your best foot forward in early encounters with any new or returning customer. So you’re concerned about those early touches – your website; how your staff answers the phone; how your automated answering system represents your company; and how your sales people present themselves in that first customer meeting.
Not all CEOs put proper emphasis on this best practice. Not long ago Continue reading
As CEO, or business owner, or company president, you occupy a unique and a lonely position. Not surprisingly, your job description is a one-of-a-kind, whether you have actually written it or not. You are accountable for certain high level responsibilities, because only you can perform them. It is these responsibilities that should be your guide to priorities, to how you spend your company time.
Here are the universal accountabilities for someone running a private business, regardless of the size of that business. Continue reading
Posted in Business Exit Strategy, Business Processes, Human Resource Management, Leadership, Marketing Strategy, Planning, Strategy
Tagged Business Owner, Business Planning, CEO Development, Company Vision, Goals, Leadership, Personal Vision, Strategic Planning
I find myself on an airplane a few times each year, and I’m always critically observing the many processes involved in air travel. Everything from my online purchase of the ticket to the claiming of my luggage. And it always occurs to me that my clients are examining my processes in a similar, critical manner.
If you gave each of your customers/clients a grade card to fill out, how would they rate your company at each touch point in their relationship with you? Why not at least create the grade card, listing all those processes that involve interaction with your customer? Then, if you have the courage, start handing them out and asking for feedback.