“Unless someone like you, Cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not!”
(The Once-ler in Dr Seuss’ The Lorax)
Dr Seuss’ story of the Once-ler who despite warnings from the Lorax, consumes everything in his environment until his resources completely run out is an incredibly relevant wise book. It outlines current issues of global warming and personal responsibility. For such modern content, I was intrigued to see it was written in 1971 – almost 40 years ago. That got me thinking.
Wisdom can come from just about anywhere, but as with anything of great significance; it’s only wisdom if it stands the test of time.
As a business owner, you’ve probably seen lots of stuff passed off as wisdom, but how much of it stands the test of time? After taking a quick poll of some senior (read: old) marketing and PR industry colleagues, our collective ‘wisdom’ seemed to fall into six basic points. And whilst you might say “well d’uh!” to some of these points, ask yourself if your business is committed to showcasing them on a daily basis.
Never lose sight of who you are and what you’re good at
Make sure your USP (unique selling point) works for both you as a person and your business. Commit to focussing on your areas of strength. Your point of differentiation must be very strongly tied to the essence of what you and your business stands for. Stick to it religiously and don’t deviate – EVER, no matter what the current trend.
A great current example of this is the oil company that rebranded their famous shield to something to showcase their commitment to the environment. Trendy, yes – wise, probably not.
The oil business is about consuming ‘dirty’ resources – oil, gas and any other fuels they can find – and they do it mostly well. Claims of environmental friendliness however, conflict with the very essence of their business. Claims of keeping you and the rest of the world moving (even if we are destroying it as we go) might have been better. Customers respect honesty – even if it’s begrudgingly.
Pretending to be something you’re not, even if you wish it were true or are currently researching ways to make it true in the future – don’t claim it until it is true. If you go out too early with your claims, it’s so much uglier when the inevitable (like the world’s largest oil spill) happens.
If it can go wrong it probably will – but don’t wait until it does
In keeping with the oil spill theme, often, despite our best efforts, stuff happens. The difference between good and bad outcomes when disaster strikes, is the preparation.
Take five minutes and jot down all the things that could really qualify as a disaster in your business. Rank them on a scale of (1) least to (10) most likely. Then think of who would be most affected. If you don’t have relationships with them now, get some. It’s much harder to get to know someone or start a conversation when you’re in crisis mode.
If you’re the one that will be most affected by any disaster, spend 10 minutes brainstorming what you think would make a difference to the outcomes of each disaster. Spend at least some time each day for the next week on those activities.
For your worst three potential disasters, write yourself a brief outline of how you’d see yourself handling them, who you’d call first (with their phone number), what you’d do next and some kind of statement that you could use for clients, the press or anyone else you would need to keep informed. What will probably only take you five minutes now would be nigh on impossible for you to produce in the midst of such a crisis. Keep your notes somewhere handy – just in case.
Face your own music and do it quickly
It takes guts, but if you’ve done the wrong thing, cop to it and fix the problem – regardless of if the problem is your own or your company’s. Don’t hide behind lawyers, complain, whinge or make excuses. Certainly don’t wait for the problem to turn up in the media before you take it seriously as we saw with a recent high profile sexual harassment case. These days everyone has a friend who knows a journalist.
Eat humble pie as if it’s the best meal in the world. It’s ballsy and customers/staff will appreciate your efforts to fix the problem. Nothing makes a problem go away quicker than sincerity and contrition. However, nothing looks more guilty or cowardly than to turn tail, run and leave others to clean up your mess. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and Youtube your mistake can be news quicker than you can get to the airport and it’s out there for anyone to find forever.
Everyone is in sales & marketing
Anyone who interacts with your business has the potential to be part of your wider sales and marketing team. Their work can win or lose sales.
Your job is to help them help you win sales. Sales train everyone who might possibly interact with a customer – from the way the phone is answered to shipping or issues handling. Consider empowering everyone to fix problems as soon as they’re spotted. Give everyone a pre-set limit to fix issues and watch your company thrive and your annoyance factor from small matters diminish.
You might also ‘mystery shop’ your own organisation. Have someone you trust pretend to be a customer (or outsource so you don’t know their voice) and give you honest feedback. You can’t fix what you don’t know and you really don’t want to find out watching Today Tonight.
Walk the talk consistently
Make sure every claim in your company’s communication is walked by your and the rest of the company’s. Nothing screams louder than what you don’t say.
If like so many government organisations, your company’s USP is its green credentials, you might want to reconsider the V8 gas guzzlers in the fleet. If you claim your people are your organisation’s most important asset, do everything you can to retain your staff. Customers notice and staff talk. The last thing you want is a snide little remark from your receptionist to one of your key customers keeping you from getting ahead.
Finally, don’t be a Once-ler. Find ways to show you care “a whole awful lot” about the impact you make on other people and your environment – whatever your interpretation of that is. It can’t always just be about the money, the next sale, or biggering and biggering (Seuss for growth).
Although it’s never mentioned in marketing texts or success books on world domination, being nice to your staff, clients and suppliers goes a very long way and can inevitably lead to more clients, a loyal staff and suppliers who’ll help you out when you most need it.
As with the other points, it’s not very trendy, but it might just be wise.
No doubt, you’ve got bucket loads more wisdom gathered doing business. I’d love it if you’d share some with me below.