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Only the Remarkable Thrive

by Mike Foti

A crowded marketplace. Hyper-competition. Trying to do more with less. The competitive treadmill has not just been taken up one notch, it’s been cranked up to full-blast! How do you not only survive, but more importantly, thrive in this environment? What are the winners doing to get results in this “full-blast” world?

Recently, before a speaking engagement I delivered to a group of fast-growing companies I went searching for this “magic switch” – companies who had sustained success in the full-blast world. The good news is I found “it” and I’m going to share it with you! The cool thing is I can name this advice in two words or less. Repeat after me (shh, softly so your competitors don’t hear) – Remarkable relationships, Remarkable relationships.

That’s it. The magic switch of fast-growing, pro” table companies who have increased profits and revenues through the ups and downs of the economic cycle are their remarkable relationships with customers and people in their business. Here’s 3 ways you can follow their lead to remarkable relationships and making some money in 2004:

STRATEGY 1: FOCUS ON THE RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS

Customers are not created equal! You obviously want profitable, growing, accounts that pay their bills. How do you find them?

  • a) Analyze whom you are doing business with today (by customer and market segment). What margins and payment history do you have? Are their numbers going north or south? Why?
  • b) Get out and meet the best (or who you think has the potential to be the best). Ask about their challenges, problems, opportunities, and strategies. Given market realities are their needs changing? Are they seeing a different mix of work? Possibly smaller vs. bigger jobs. Could they use you on these projects? What people, structure, processes, systems would you need to deliver effectively for them?
  • c) Make sure to ask the #1 Question, “How can I help you make more $$$?”

STRATEGY 2: STOP SATISFYING CUSTOMERS

You might think I’ve gone o$ the edge on this one, but “satisfying” customers is not enough any more. Here’s why. There are a lot of companies who “satisfy,” and they’ll price it cheaper than you! Winning companies are remarkable. They solve problems and add value with their specialized expertise. They are “Mother Theresa in a UPS Uniform” – they serve and deliver! They go deep with customers to go up with results. Here’s some quick ways how:

  • a) Dig their turf! The best way to get to know someone is to meet on their turf. Consider not only attending your customer’s trade associations, but get involved with their issues. Learn their hot-buttons and always be thinking how you can help.
  • b) Locate the “King Pins” – Who are the movers and shakers in your key market segments? Do they know you? Allocate the highest percentage of your time to helping these people. Do them right and they will create the “buzz,” do the “selling” for you in their industry. Your best salesperson should be your customer!
  • c) Be easy, not cheap – I recently bought the generic brand of hair growth tonic (yes, this is one area where I don’t want to take after my Dad!) and my wife (with her Doctorate) and I (with my MBA) spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to open the special “child-safety” lid! Finally my wife (the smarter one) cut the doggone thing off! Yes, I bought cheap, but was it worth the loss of time? Your key to remarkable, profitable relationships is to become the easiest to do business with. Ask your customers how you could work with them better. What are their “child-safety lids” (i.e., burdens, hassles, problems) that you could get rid of? Become easier. Become more profitable!

STRATEGY 3: PROVIDE V.C.R.’S (VISION, CHALLENGE, AND RETURN)

…to inspire remarkable people – Simply put – the best people work for the best companies in up markets, down markets, and sideways markets. Despite tighter labor environments thriving businesses ” nd, develop, and inspire the brightest stars on the set. Here’s their secrets:

  • a) Vision – You can’t create winning results unless your team has a clear picture of what a winning scoreboard will look like. Share where your business is headed, what customers and market segments your company will choose to focus your remarkable expertise, service, and delivery. Identify how you plan to measure and track performance. Make sure to connect the dots for your people by connecting their skills to your vision and plan? Let them know what’s in it for them?
  • b) Challenge – You don’t want employees! Yes, that’s right. You want “partners” (in the field, in the office, at your customer’s job trailer) who want to be challenged to deliver easier, better, and more remarkably than your competition. People who will go “to the fan” when the crap hits it, and solve daily problems! To inspire these type of people do the following:

1. Identify their current skills, capabilities, and interests.

2. Ask them to dream about where they would like to contribute in the future.

3. Sketch out work assignments that would provide challenge and growth.

4. If possible, match your needs to their interests.

  • c) Return – Everyone wants a return on time invested. For some it’s “show me the money.” For others it’s a pat on the back, a personal letter recognizing their contribution, a gift certificate to a local restaurant to say thanks for the family time they have sacrificed to get a job done. As a remarkable business owner how can you both personalize how you appreciate your people and increase their returns?

So there you have it, three easy (OK, maybe not that easy!) strategies for growing remarkable relationships and results in a competitive world. The challenge is being focused and inspired to be remarkable with both your customers and your people. The key question is, “What do you need to do today to flick the magic switch to be remarkable with your relationships?”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Foti is Chief Executive Officer of Cleveland Glass Block (a Northcoast 99 recipient for best employers in Northeast Ohio and a Community Pillar Award winner for community service) and President of Leadership Builders. Mike is a national speaker, writer, and consultant who helps individuals and companies get results through people. To ask Mike how he might help you, or to receive his free tips, articles, or book “Conversations on Leadership,” call 216-531-6085 or visit his web site at www.leadershipbuilders.com

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