Last week I introduced you to the three early warning signs that your business is failing. The first one has to do with employee performance and metrics, the second one happens when you begin to view the customer as an obstacle, and the third concerns marketing mismanagement in your company. If you’re encountering these signs, it typically means you’ve been asleep at the wheel.
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to cure these ills…
The Cure for Warning Sign #1
Let’s start with an example. Say you want to start using paid advertising as a marketing method for your business, but you’re not exactly sure how to do that and you know it’s beyond either the capability or the bandwidth of your current team. So you hire a person to do it, but you haven’t worked out in your head exactly how to do it. You just hire them and say, “We want to go into paid advertising. You’ve got some paid advertising experience. Can you help us?”
If you’re confused about how to execute growth initiatives for your company, but you’re feeling the pressure to do it anyway, you’re likely to end up hiring people without those metrics.
The cure here is simple. When you hire someone, show them the process that someone else has used to produce an example of the exact result you want them to achieve. If you don’t have an exact example of the result you want them to achieve, then you’re probably not ready to hire them. In other words, do it yourself first and then replicate yourself or find someone else who’s already done it and use that as your gauge.
The Cure for Warning Sign #2
Another thing that’s pretty common is for the customer to eventually seem like nothing more than an obstacle, a burden, and a nuisance. And oftentimes, at this point, entrepreneurs cut the cord between customer feedback and product or service development. But if you look back to when you were first starting out, you went to the customer and the customer said I won’t really buy unless you give me a choice of sizes. So you built a choice of sizes into your product because you needed to in order to get that customer.
As company growth occurs, entrepreneurs tend to cut the cord between customer feedback and those kinds of product choices. So the next time a customer says I also want a choice of colors, if you’re already making money you say Nope, we don’t offer a choice of colors.
If you start to build a team and you’ve got salespeople and customer service people interfacing with the customer, and they perceive the customer as a complaining pain in the butt, the feedback isn’t likely to make its way into product development.
The cure here? Another simple one…change your way of thinking. When you get customer feedback and at first you roll your eyes, you think it says something about the customer instead of something about you, stop yourself. Ask your teammates, address your company and say, “We just got this feedback. What do you think that means about us?” and start an open dialogue. That will create a healthy culture in your company.
The Cure for Warning Sign #3
Another early indication of failure is when you’re concealing your real sales numbers; filling in the gaps with half-truths so you look good on the surface. This actually stems in large part from Warning Sign #2—your view of the customer as it pertains to product development.
If you start believing you’ve got the customers’ problems already solved and that you’ve figured it all out, that stops your sense of continually learning, growing, and innovating. This is what leads to having to conceal and hide hard facts in the future because your customers are always growing and expanding and developing and innovating, so if you’re not participating in this process with them, you’re pretty soon going to experience that sales gap—and you’ll be tempted to fill that gap with embellishments.
So what’s the cure for this one? When your most direct sales numbers are falling and you feel like you have to kind of spruce up the marketing or make it all sound better than it is, take a step back and consider this: you might need to spruce up the actual product instead of the marketing.
Ultimately, the best way to make yourself immune to these business-killing, life-threatening diseases for entrepreneurs is to view your business as a continuous improvement machine. Always hire people to make specific improvements that they or you have made in the past and then measure your progress with metrics along that improvement scale. This will reveal the truth of your strengths and weaknesses to your employees, your competitors, and your customers so that you’re always completely authentic in the marketplace and you’re always expanding.
The companies that do this are the ones that have the longest staying power and that don’t find themselves on life support before ever realizing they were in trouble.
Lastly, if you know people who you think will get value out of this mini wake up call, please share it with them! And if you want an honest assessment of your own business and its readiness to grow, you can have that information in only 19 minutes. Receive your customized business assessment by simply putting your name and email address in the orange box above.