Why do many business transactions fail to feel good? Do some of your personal or business purchases feel laborious, confusing, too time consuming and stressful? When businesses fall short of reaching your expectations, it is usually a result of internal or external challenges that lead to a purely transaction-based approach to business operations. In such cases, businesses easily run off the rails because they default to managing a series of transactions and products instead of people, processes and outcomes.
IDENTIFY YOUR MANAGEMENT STYLE
Is your management style still transaction-based? The first step for getting a young or struggling business to the next level is simply recognizing that the transaction-based approach to business is not sustainable as you grow. This is just a fact and it is not easy for many business owners to accept.
This outdated approach is generally the default when a business first gets up and running but it can’t work long-term. It looks something like this: the owner oversees everything and tells everyone exactly what to do and how to do it as if he or she runs a cottage business. Eventually, he or she just doesn’t have enough time in a day or a broad enough set of skills for that to make sense. Furthermore, by the prioritizing of products, services and tasks completed rather than the people and processes that deliver, manage and use them, owners miss the mark when they make decisions at every level of the organization, wasting lots of money and time.
The alternative to this approach is the adoption of a people-focused approach to business growth centered around the best practice of managing to achieve objectives and to develop others who can reach them and also set objectives beyond your scope of knowledge. This best practice means that you avoid telling people exactly how to do everything and you make them partners in figuring out their own path to reach team goals. This shift in how work gets accomplished is essential for every new business to survive. It makes growth more efficient and sustainable by leveraging the unique talent on your team. This approach also empowers employees and sends a message about your company’s growing capacity and your ability to compete in your industry long-term. This is something customers will notice.
Here are a few best practices to help you start moving away from a transaction-based business management style and building a more people-focused, sustainable business that customers admire.
DEVELOP YOUR TEAM
Your business and its image are the result of the collective behaviors of your employees. That is why employee development is a best practice that everyone cares about, including your customers and your larger community. Give your employees a platform to share what they know with your team and customers; and then provide the training they need to achieve your business goals.
Start with what they already know and do well in their current roles, and provide a safe space for employees to learn from one another. Peer-to-peer learning is a low-cost training tool. Colleagues often turn to others for help on an informal basis, so why not let more people benefit from these otherwise ad-hoc learning exchanges. Eventually, employee-led sessions can be offered to customers as well if they are relevant to the products and services your company offers.
Initiate projects that build upon each employees’ skills and interests and ask employees to come up with their own project ideas. For example, if you have a customer service employee that is great at design, let him or her show off their designs at your store or office lobby. Bike store employees can share their top ten places to bike in the local area with store signage or a Pinterest post. Send an employee to a technology or marketing conference and have them share their top takeaways with your staff and customers.
Employee training should be ongoing and customized to always address an underdeveloped skill or knowledge deficit of each employee, according to Ron Carucci of “When Companies Should Invest in Training Their Employees.” Also, make sure to select training that aligns with the goals, internal attitudes and structure of the business. Training won’t help if your team is not willing to address a root cause of a problem that the training is meant to eradicate.
BRAG ABOUT YOUR PARTNERS
Socially conscious, environmentally friendly and low-cost sourcing provides a tangible benefit to your employees, customers and community. Choose your sourcing partners wisely, recognizing that they should share some of the same standards and goals that your company values. Is everyone in your company fully aware of the importance of strategic sourcing, from supplies, to signage to services and materials? Are your customers also aware? Communicate with your employees, customers and prospects about why you choose certain sourcing partners and their respective product attributes and what the future holds for their industries. Let customers know why your sourcing practices matter to them in terms of pricing, function, health, environmental and labor issues.
CELEBRATE YOUR CUSTOMERS
It is extremely important to show your customers appreciation. However, some companies can’t afford to give frequent discounts or freebies so here a a few alternative ways to celebrate your customers. If you are in a business-to-business industry it is easy to promote your customers as valued partners through co-branding and storytelling. Write case studies, co-advertise and co-deliver events, making it clear there is mutual admiration. If you are in a business-to-consumer industry, don’t just engage your customers to buy. Think about how you can help your customers shine. Can you include them in a charity project? Can they help you with crowd sourced decisions including new product names and sourcing partners? Can you invite them to be a part of a leadership or creativity workshop that you have planned for your team? Empower your customers by valuing their opinions, exposing their talent or helping them develop supportive networks and relationships that benefit them.
IT’S EASY AND REWARDING
Your small or mid-size business might be a friendly place where customers can patronize people they know, but unless you move away from the transaction-based approach and adopt a set of people-focused best practices you will fall behind the times and your customers will notice. Set an example of what the best businesses do and your customers will view that as something to aspire towards in their own work environments. By picking just one area where you can improve, you will be on your way to making a stronger impact with your product development, branding and marketing efforts.
Finally, you might already be implementing best practices in your organizations, but not fully leveraging them to build customer loyalty and admiration. If you and your employees already exhibit excellence in any or all these areas, you should make sure to let the world know in strategic ways that drive revenue. Everyone loves the experience of exceptional business. It just feels good.