Storytelling [… Editing and Ghostwriting]

Listening to a radio interview of a celebrity promoting his new book, I recalled the efforts that I and other colleagues had in 2015 when we collaboratively wrote “How to Hire the Right Consultant.” Excluding years of writing blog posts, that book was my first effort to publish and reach a broader audience. Although my contribution was only a single chapter on Customer Development, I learned about editing and publishing.

Reflecting on that publishing effort, it occurred to me that the process of writing and editing a book parallels GAPWORX work processes as we deliver services to our clients. While the specifics of a project’s scope of work vary with each client, in many ways what we do is … help clients to tell their stories in a more compelling way.

As all businesses engage and promote their business in the marketplace, they are … storytelling. Some are service companies. Others manufacturer products. All are unique. They come in all sizes, and either enjoy some measure of financial success, or eventually close their doors. In every instance, and ideally with every prospect and customer interaction, they strive to listen, to build rapport and trust, to persuade as to their value proposition, and hopefully either create a new customer or secure additional business. Basically, storytelling is about SELLING and SERVING.

In every business, these storytelling activities—through the roles and responsibilities of all employees—are performed at varying degrees of effectiveness. When specific financial measures are falling short of expectations, and the resources inside of a business are stretched too thin or are lacking in some capacity to affect the change, most businesses reach out to trusted advisors to supplement their ability to resolve the challenges.

As external advisors engage to solve problems, we liken that to the publishing equivalent of editing. At GAPWORX, as our services are customized to address client needs, we collaborate and train to improve company processes and behaviors. Our project activities are, in effect, an editing of the story each company tells. As we work behind the scenes, our editing is ghostwriting.

Regardless of how one labels the activities, a new and improved story is created by changing some mix of processes, behaviors, and capabilities … to improve the individual and collective attainment of company goals and objectives.

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?