FOUR KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK OURSELVES ON A DAILY BASIS TO ENSURE THE HEALTH, LONGEVITY AND PROFITABILITY OF ANY COMPANY
When Donald Trump uttered the words, “You’re fired!” he not only made those two dreaded words synonymous with failure, regret, anger and frustration, he also massively engaged an audience of millions watching, as someone was heaved from The Apprentice every week.
To the viewers, it was often obvious who would be leaving the penthouse. Poor work ethic, failure to submit to a team environment, creating confusion, ineffectiveness, and all around neglect of the task, were showcased by the participants. This resulted in their facing Trump’s laser stare, as he guillotined contestants, sending them humbled and degraded to face an uncertain future.
As business owners, executives, and managers, we are often the boss, the receptionist, the customer service representative, and more. We are inevitably wearing many hats, especially in the early stages of growth. With a 90% failure rate for most small businesses, managing to be in the rarefied air of the 10% can be tough. Growing beyond mediocrity from good to great business can be even tougher.
That’s where we need to find business tips that help us transcend that divide…
What if – instead of going through the motions of business every day – we decided to fire ourselves every night?
What if every morning, and throughout the day, we had to earn the right to be at our own company? How would that change things?
The late Dr. Wayne Dyer, someone who I had the exceptional fortune of knowing personally, wrote in his book, Wishes Fulfilled, that we could all benefit from the dying off of the aspect of ourselves that clings to the limiting beliefs that hold us back. He urges us to make a conscious decision to literally “birth” ourselves into the man or woman that we know deep down we can be.
Dr. Dyer’s success was palpable, with an estimated net worth of $20 million. In his numerous works, he spoke, with great humility, about a constant shedding of the various aspects of himself that no longer served him.
In business, what if we, too, made a concerted effort to jettison our arrogance, fear, cynicism and lack of focus at the end of every day, electing to start the next day from the same wide-eyed, neophytic place that caused us to be hungry enough to eschew ordinary and pursue extraordinary in the first place?
On paper I was a millionaire at age twenty-four. My then partner and I had purchased a health club with a substantial client base, a good reputation, and what we thought was a potential for growth. In our minds we had everything we reasoned would be required for success.
I was a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer. I had worked in sales before and grown up in an entrepreneurial family. My partner had also been brought up in a family with a small business. He had worked with his father on everything, from the accounting to the marketing, to the day-to-day operations.
We were young, keen, energized, hungry, and possessed just enough arrogant naivety to make it work, or so we thought.
Like many entrepreneurs with a great concept and a new business, we worked longer and harder, thinking that this was the solution. I recall many mornings waking up in excruciating pain from teaching over twenty high-impact fitness classes in a week and then standing for hours behind the front desk.
In between, I was training clients and doing their workouts with them. My partner procrastinated on the financials and, frankly, was in over his head; we both were.
We became exhausted and apathetic. The result was that we procrastinated on actually dealing with our problems, which included mounting repair bills, an expensive but necessary air-conditioning system that repeatedly stopped working, internal theft, increased competition in the market, and lack of member loyalty.
If our lives had been a reality television show, it would not have been a surprise when, on a fateful Good Friday morning, I went to our health club to teach a group cycling class and found a padlock on the door with the life-shattering news, and public humiliation, posted for all to see.
We had been closed down for failure to pay taxes. I had no idea things were so grave. How would I? I had deliberately avoided the business of doing business, conveniently allowing myself to live in delusion that somehow everything was fine.
In retrospect, if I had approached every day with the same enthusiasm that had been a catalyst for me to call people while in labor with my daughter to negotiate the remaining ten thousand dollars required to buy that health club in the first place, and fired myself every night, the experience most likely would have been different.
You see, I have been in the 90% failure rate, and I have also been one of the rare individuals to build a business that has surpassed the critical first five years.
According to Bloomberg, 80% of new businesses fail within the first eighteen months, and having gone through it, I will tell you first-hand that arrogance was the culprit.
The business tips that really make the difference…
Whether we are owners, executives, investors or someone with any form of vested interest in the company, it is imperative that we never stop earning our right to be there. The only way to do that is to appreciate – no matter what position we hold – we are replaceable. If you doubt that, you need only look to the late Steve Jobs and his ousting from Apple in the early years – or any other CEO or company founder who has been ‘voted off the island’ – to understand this concept.
Not only are we replaceable within our own companies, we are replaceable to our clients and consumers.
Businesses, and executives, who become complacent – think Blockbuster – end up finding out the hard way that losing our hunger and becoming too smug is a surefire way to hit the start button on the demise of a company.
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With this in mind, there are four key questions that can help us ensure the health, longevity, sustainability and profitability of a business, and I encourage you to ask these of yourself every single day.
Successful Business Tips 1:
WOULD I HIRE MYSELF TODAY?
In the United States alone, there are a minimum of three applicants for every job opening, according to Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council. Essentially, the competition is fierce. Business owners and entrepreneurs do not have to compete with other candidates to walk into their own C-Suite offices everyday; however, imagine how a business could progress if every owner and executive was literally given notice at the end of the day and forced themselves to resign, thus demanding that they show up at work the next day without one hint of complacency.
From punctuality, to attitude, to willingness to grow – would you hire yourself today? If the answer is ‘no,’ then there are two choices: step up or step down. Our clients, customers and team members lose trust if we cannot be the person we would want to work with. Every day, make a decision to be the person you would want to hire and watch how your productivity and profits soar.
Successful Business Tips 2:
HOW AM I BRINGING VALUE TO MY CLIENTS TODAY?
In February of 2008, Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, took a risky move and shut down 7,100 retail locations in the United States to re-train his baristas in the art of espresso. What Schultz realized, especially at the peak of the recession, was that the solution to sagging revenues was to figure out how to add more value to his customers. In a memo entitled, “Howard Schultz Transformation Agenda Communication #8,” Schultz wrote, “We are passionate about our coffee. And we will revisit our standards of quality that are the foundation for the trust that our customers have in our coffee and in all of us.” That move, amongst others designed to heighten the ‘Starbucks Experience,’ were the foundation of the healthy profits Starbucks enjoyed coming out of the recession.
You may be having a bad day. You may feel like crawling back into bed. You may feel like the economy, the competition or even your colleagues are dragging you down, but the reality is that your clients, regardless of the business you are in, pay your bills. Adding value to clients is what keeps them working with you as opposed to your competition. Every day, make a decision to add more value. Schedule a meeting with your team and ask each one how they can serve the clients and customers to a greater level. From handwritten notes, to adding on complementary service, to authentic client care – there are always ways to add more value.
Successful Business Tips 3:
HOW AM I BRINGING VALUE TO MY COMPANY TODAY?
Another company CEO, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, sent a memo to his employees in 2015. Essentially, they were to adopt ‘holacracy’ or leave. In this memo, Hsieh announced the removal of all ‘people managers.’ The employees, which in a live talk I have heard Hsieh refer to as individual entrepreneurs within the company, would strive toward self-management and self-organization. This, Hsieh feels, is the catalyst to take the company to the next level. To truly operate with holacracy, employees must aspire to add value to the company with the unique understanding that they have a vested interest in the success of the business. Other companies, such as the aforementioned Starbucks and Whole Foods, provide tangibles such as stock options and even scholarships to those employees who are loyal and have proven to add value.
Executives and employees who tend to add more value to their place of employment are often promoted and given financial rewards. Those who tend to slug through the day and are inconsiderate of adding to their workplace tend to hit the chopping block, so to speak. Ask yourself how you can add value to your company.
Successful Business Tips 4:
IF MY CLIENTS AND CUSTOMERS REVIEWED MY WORK AND MY PRODUCTS – WOULD THEY WANT TO DO BUSINESS WITH ME?
In 2013, Johnson and Johnson met their goal of removing two potentially harmful chemicals, formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, from a myriad of their products, including the much beloved ‘No More Tears’ baby shampoo due to consumer pressure and increasing awareness from customers in terms of what was deemed safe. Johnson and Johnson could have, like some companies, created some form of seductive public relations campaign to somehow tout ‘the efficacy over safety issue’ in hopes of saving the majority of loyal brand users. Instead, they spent tens of millions of dollars ‘cleaning up’ their soaps and lotions because after a review of their work, they were willing to take action.
Companies that fail to respond to consumer demands fail to evolve. Making a bold decision to operate with transparency as though the world is watching (and thanks to social media it is), allows us to operate at a higher standard. From how we connect with people, to what we say behind closed doors, to the integrity of our products and services – innovation and advancement come with being humble enough to make necessary changes because our clients have called us to the carpet, so to speak, on something that did not align with their demands.
I have a belief that the number of successful businesses can shift in a positive direction when we start the day from a place where we fired ourselves the night before and are earning our right to be hired.
When we ask ourselves these questions, and combine them with top-tier business tips like being highly organized and efficient, our results transform dramatically.
As a fellow entrepreneur, I encourage you to go for it and ‘live’ into the person you would want to hire!
Susan Sly is a best selling author, speaker and entrepreneur. She has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime Television and the CBN. Susan is the mother of five children and resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.
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