Start From the Inside

At GAPWORX, we work primarily with small companies led by entrepreneurs—the captains of their own boats. There is an understandable reluctance on their part to take things outside. Self-reliance can be a good thing … if there is a strong organizational culture and requisite resources of talent and time. There is a lot of useful outside expertise available for companies, but often it is perceived as “you’re telling me what to do,” instead of “helping me make my company better.”

It could be helpful to think—that instead of “outside in,” it could be “inside out.” Meaning, if you want a strong business culture, employee engagement, and customer engagement—the organization must have accurate information, meaningful communication, and effective systems. All individuals within an organization must possess personal motivation, ownership, and accountability—and then act that way.

Think of it as the intrapersonal drives the interpersonal. Intrapersonal attributes are individual self-awareness, critical thinking, effective mental habits, and emotional intelligence. Interpersonal effectiveness is when self-aware, self-motivated, and capable individuals work together within the organization to accomplish collective and shared goals. Conversational intelligence among employees, which relate company stories, positive customer experiences, and problem-solving—all build shared meaning, beliefs, and the “esprit de corps” needed to keep the company moving forward. This exemplifies the socially intelligent organization.

We encourage businesses to look beyond packaged “one size fits all” programs for organizational change. There are no silver bullet or bolt on solutions that work for every business. For any change process to work it must capture the “hearts and minds” of the people who do the everyday work. For organizations that are small or closely held—the more important it is to get everyone’s input, to analyze weaknesses and problems, implement solutions, and build systems.

Intellectual honesty—as Jim Collins calls “confronting the brutal facts,” can identify the rational elements that need attention. Employee emotions must be accounted for, as well. Organizations with clear vision and mission can build intrapersonal strength with leadership, mentoring, and coaching. Strong individuals can make for interpersonally effective teams.

Outside expertise and consultation that incorporates objectivity, feedback, and facilitation can yield tremendous results. No individual, or no organization, is completely self-aware. Even though it is a cliché—you can’t work on, or change what you don’t know.

Simplicity

We are fans of alliteration. It is evidenced in our company’s tagline—Awareness, Action, Achievement—and in other constructs within our models, processes, and intellectual property. We recognize that alliteration is advantageous, as it supports how all of us can more effectively remember things—processes and activities—that otherwise might be too complex.

Many business processes are complex, some by necessity. They provide a means for teams and individuals inside a company to accomplish specific activities in a best practice manner. The opposite approach might be described as “winging it,” and that is rarely advisable in business. Wherever possible, we believe that business processes and activities should be clear, concise, and complete (another alliteration), and not unnecessarily complex.

Many aspects of personal lives outside of business do not have templates, and we instinctively just “wing it.” That is how it should be. There should be freedom and flexibility, as we interact with family and friends. We adopt routines around our work days, but the consequence of NOT adhering to a specific personal routine is typically minimal.

In business, however, the negative consequence of “winging it” can be significant. It can adversely impact almost every aspect of business, but especially the interactions of employees with prospects and clients. So, to prevent or minimize such negative consequences, businesses have practices, processes, and procedures, which help build capabilities in roles, responsibilities, and relationships.

But, let’s consider the added dimension of business schemas. A schema is the present capacity of AWARENESS, attitudes, motivations, behaviors, capabilities, and knowledge to effectively perform in given situations.

For example, if you hire a new sales executive to fill a vacancy, but nine months later you are questioning that hire, because anticipated predictive performance indicators are coming up short. You ask, why? Often the answer is multi-faceted.

Maybe the executive’s prior sales environment was quite different, with a variety of factors. And those factors contributed to prior success.

Maybe sales capabilities need to be more aligned to a team selling environment, or maybe onboarding processes fell short of transferring needed company, technical, or product knowledge. These are performance factors that can be readily improved in most circumstances.

Understanding that salesperson’s prior sales environment in greater detail might have changed the hiring decision, but understanding it now might help you expand your business schema. With greater awareness of attitudes, motivations, behaviors, and capabilities, you can help the sales executive to once again be successful.

It might be … something surprisingly simple.

Important Questions

Do You Have Too Many Customers? This question was posed to a room of about 80 business owners and senior executives. Not surprising, there wasn’t anyone in the audience that said yes. In fact, there was a low chorus of chuckles and incredulity.

The presenter then asked: Are you making too much money? The collective response was the same, but noticeably even louder, with more laughter. The entire audience was fully engaged. EVERYONE wanted MORE customers and money. Go figure!

This presentation was about customer experience and journey mapping – very important topics for all businesses. Yet, it occurs to me that every business owner and executive charged to grow their business might reflect upon these two questions and arrive at completely different change initiatives to generate MORE customers and MORE money.  It might be improvements in IT infrastructure, operational efficiency, HR hiring practices, marketing communication, and/or a host of other critical business activities.

Our advisory practice helps businesses to improve “customer-facing” employee motivations, capabilities, and habits, and the company processes and business practices that support customer creation and customer retention. We help sales teams to sell more effectively and all employees to deliver customer services that keep more customers. Many business owners have concerns in this area.

While the challenges (we call them GAPS … hence our company name) vary in each company, it is important to frequently evaluate poor financial performance to determine what is causing the shortfalls.

For instance, if the challenge is weak revenue growth, the resolution of that issue may reside in the sales team, or it may reside elsewhere in the business. It may derive from dysfunctional company hiring or onboarding practices, or order processing procedures. Numerous factors can combine to have a negative impact on customer perceptions of the value delivered.

We believe all business owners need to understand the root causes of underperformance, the resources required to resolve those challenges, and how best to prioritize the resolution of those challenges.

The perspectives of independent expertise can help businesses in this discovery process, and implement specific initiatives that can move the entire organization to being significantly less forceful in answering the two questions posed in this post.

One final question: What are you doing about it?

 

Want a Strong Business? Work on Your Gaps

A business culture is all the thinking, decision making, and actions within that business. Put simply – it is observable and measurable behavior that happens every day.

It is not a secret … strong business cultures are more successful than weak ones.

The short list of attributes of a strong business culture are:

  1. Clear vision, and achievable mission
  2. Leaders who inspire
  3. Supervisors who coach rather than manage
  4. Employees who work from talents and strengths
  5. An engaged workforce, aligned to the business purpose
  6. Job specific training
  7. Career paths
  8. Rewards and recognition
  9. Customers who become advocates

Almost every person has some awareness of what is not quite right, or what is missing from their lives. The striving to be better, to live better, and to have more of what we want stimulates the progress of individuals, companies, and even society.

In a competitive business environment, there is no place for complacency. Being GAPWORX … we want to have conversations with business leaders who are CURIOUS about how their business culture stacks up – their strengths and weaknesses. All businesses have gaps, and we think every business should work on them.

We help our clients work on cultural gaps, and that directly affects what we call Customer Building. Some employees have job-specific selling roles and responsibilities, others for serving. But generally, to fulfill the company brand … Everybody Sells and Everybody Serves.

I would be surprised to learn of any business that did not have to continuously create more customers. I would also be astounded to know of any business that did not have to continuously serve those customers well … to keep them.

Gap analysis is quantifying (measuring) the difference between what is, and what is desired. Qualifying (understanding) the rational and emotional discomfort about gaps, is why problem solvers and action takers succeed better in reducing their gaps. The awareness is … “I don’t like my results, I want something better, so I must do things differently.” That is simple psychology. Even though it is not complicated, it is still not easy.

The correlations are clear … strong business cultures create engaged workplaces. Engaged employees who are aligned to vision and mission, and who feel they have a place in the company – create stronger customer relationships.

If you want to sell more prospects and keep more customers … first understand your cultural gaps, and work on them.

Solving Gaps

Let’s look at gaps from the lens of HOW a business can solve them.

Literally, we work on GAPS. We think you should, too.

We believe that gaps – also called challenges, problems, issues, roadblocks or even headaches – once resolved, can significantly accelerate individual and companywide achievement. We see gaps as impediments to progress, and if removed, good or even great things can happen.

The good news is that some business gaps can be resolved quickly. Others can take more time and resources. Many can be resolved with minimal investment.

What resources do you need to make positive changes in your business? They fall into several broad categories – Expertise, Experience, Time, Objectivity, and, of course, Financial. All are important. Look outside your company if you are missing one or more.

Solving your company’s problems starts with Awareness, by understanding which organizational gaps are limiting individual, team, or even companywide performance.

Sometimes a gap is so commonplace, that it almost goes unnoticed or is assumed as being normal, or as one business owner said to us, “I just came to expect a certain level of complaints from new customers.” Your gaps might be about falling revenues, low margins, a significant spike in customer complaints, employee attrition, the loss of one or more key clients, or a host of other concerns. A few key questions come to mind.

  • What is causing the GAP?
  • Which GAPS are easily resolved?
  • Which GAPS are larger challenges?
  • What GAPS are the highest priorities to resolve?
  • What internal resources are needed to affect a given change?

If internal resources are missing, rely on external expertise.

As gaps are observed (or periodically), leaders and managers in your company should be asking these questions. In some instances, it may be important to get feedback from external stakeholders, including vendors and customers. If input is needed from your customers, use external resources to qualitatively interview for increased objectivity. Customers will almost always NOT provide candid answers … if an employee is posing the questions. And shy away from a reliance on surveys. Qualitative interviewing will consistently bring better results.

When the questions are answered, the gaps are typically more clearly defined. Then you can be more strategic, make better decisions, and solve problems holding you back from desired levels of performance.

Again, solving performance-robbing business gaps starts by moving from having limited awareness to having a greater understanding by gathering more information. Then you can plan, and prioritize which processes, systems, and employee behaviors that need to be changed to create opportunities for the outcomes you want.

Working on company gaps is an effective means to accelerate financial strength.