Conducting business day to day does not have to be complicated. Offer a good product or service, price it right, over-deliver to your customers and be honest/ethical. Seems pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, the road to business success can be bumpy, have some detours and wicked turns and, on occasion, some of your competitors may not obey the “rules of the road.” There are also temptations to take shortcuts and sometimes not follow directions.
Whether you are just beginning your journey as a business owner or have more than a few years of leadership under your belt, imagine the “road” ahead of you to include five lanes. Navigate each lane well and, ultimately, they will merge together and catapult your business to destinations you and your team never thought possible.
Lane 1: Define Success
This is probably the most important lane on the road, as it is critical to define success for your business. Perhaps it is a traditional definition focused on bottom line results. Maybe your definition prioritizes your employees and their families over profits. Regardless of how you define business success, remember that your definition plays a critical role in future decision-making and provides a great benchmark along the way. Sadly, some organizations never commit to clearly defining what business success should look like for their company. These organizations “sputter” along the road without much direction.
Lane 2: Commit to Attracting and Retaining the Best People
Once you have defined what success looks like for your business, commit to attracting and retaining only the best people who can support that definition. This lane is challenging to navigate, as it requires a significant commitment to your team versus a company that accepts less than the best. Remember that average performers will always yield average results, so hire and attempt to keep your best people.
Lane 3: Create a Great Workplace for the Top Performers
Top talent expects their employers to be a great place to work. Great workplaces are forward thinking and offer policies and programs that enable top performers to focus on their jobs. Top performers are supported and rewarded based on results, have flexible work options and enjoy work settings that have healthy and positive cultures. In great workplaces, top performers are free from old-style company politics, bureaucracy and traditional workplace policies like probationary periods and “use it or lose it” vacation programs. If you have a traditional work setting, be prepared to move over in this lane as great workplaces for top people will be passing you by at lightning speed. You simply will not have enough “horsepower” in your business engine to keep up with these other companies.
Lane 4: Don’t Worry About Competitors
In 20 years of leading ERC, I never expended unnecessary energy worrying about organizations that overlapped or copied our services. Rather, I shared with the team that our time needed to be dedicated to taking great care of customers and creating new ways to address market needs. Spending time thinking or worrying about competitors was simply wasted time. And, if your company is an industry leader, remember that other organizations who think they are competing with you are simply followers trying to catch up to your company. So, try not to spend time seeing who is driving beside you and focus on the road ahead. If you do, chances are your competitors will all end up in your “rear-view” mirror.
Lane 5: Never Follow the Crowd:
There is not much traffic in this lane because it is reserved for industry pioneers, innovators and risk takers that revel in being and thinking different. These are the admired organizations that bring new ideas and products to market. They are led by extraordinary people who dismiss the status quo and create new rules of the road for their company and their industry. They hate driving in a crowded lane and shake their heads at all the companies stuck in gridlock in other lanes that are conducting business as usual and hardly making any progress toward truly being successful.
In addition to using these five lanes, keep your eyes on the “road,” focus on driving your business to your desired destination and ensure you pause at a few rest stops along the way. Otherwise you are apt to end up at the wrong destination or be a broken down business watching other organizations fly by on their road to success.
Pat Perry is a motivational speaker, author of two business books (patperrybook.com) and a 2018 Northeast Ohio Business Hall of Fame inductee.