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.

Is The Status Quo Acceptable?

Almost without exception, business owners and executive teams would say an emphatic NO. Everyone is seeking greater levels of individual and organizational performance. Whatever type of organizational change or initiative you plan – be it a strategic or tactical initiative – there are a few basic things to keep in mind.

  1. Plan Collaboratively. This isn’t a solo endeavor.
  2. Set Priorities. Determine what “gaps” most need to be resolved.
  3. Assess Resources. Finances, time, expertise, and experience.
  4. Be Realistic. Use outside expertise to leverage ROI.
  5. Designate a Champion. Accountability drives achievement.
  6. Be Urgent. Change can happen fast. Don’t wait.
  7. Be Explicit. Set specific and measurable goals, with deadlines.
  8. Be Clear. Keep all employees informed.
  9. Set Expectations. Share realistic roles and responsibilities for everyone.
  10. Work Your Plan. Achieve goals. Reassess the status quo.

There is an eleventh thing to also consider; be flexible when appropriate. Change doesn’t happen in a controlled setting. External forces can constrain or provide opportunities to accelerate the initiative.

One last THING – be sure to celebrate achievement. It motivates the next change to be equally or more successful.

THE PROCESS CORNER – Change is a Journey, Not a Destination

There are many famous quotations dealing with change. Change is inevitable, like death and taxes. Change is challenging for most of us to embrace. Most of us prefer our lives to have certainty and predictability, with a comfortable routineness. Often unknown to us, we are creatures of habit.  

Change is frequently linked to acceptance, but few of these quotations link it to a process that makes its outcome more efficient and desirable. In our personal lives – and as importantly in our professional lives – we need to acknowledge that change is necessary.

For the betterment of our personal and professional lives – we must acknowledge that change is necessary. We know change is hard, but paradoxically we seek easy processes to make our lives better.

The premise of this post is that individual and organizational change is a journey that is never-ending. It isn’t a destination that you arrive at and it is done. Rather, change occurs constantly, and individuals and organizations can: (1) ignore the external forces that impact them, or they can (2) embrace those external forces, and seek alternative solutions to achieve organizational success.  

We recommend an initial AWARENESS PHASE that identifies Problems (we call them Gaps), the Drivers of your Business (Financial, ROI, Cultural, Customers, etc.), Resources (dollars, time, talent – internal and external), and your Priorities based upon company goals and objectives.

Then you move into an ACTION PHASE where you expand Awareness, to Assess, Analyze, and Plan for specific initiatives. As plans are finalized and vetted, select a champion to lead each initiative. A project or initiative champion is key to overall accountability and success – to implement specific metrics and explicit schedules, and mark milestone progress along your Roadmap.

Although somewhat a misnomer, the “final” step is the ACHIEVEMENT PHASE. Certainly, there must be achievement, but it is an incremental signpost on the journey to the organization’s long-term goals and objectives.

Celebrate signpost achievements, but continue the process to adjust to each new change. Create new Awareness, new Action plans, and set new Achievement goals and objectives. Change management is a process. Scale it to your market and organization. Keep it simple. Get outside help if the expertise and resources are missing inside your organization.