In a recent interview*, John C. Maxwell described eight ways to lose in business. Rather than paraphrasing what the leadership expert and best-selling author wrote, I thought it would be more positive to describe six ways to win in business. Fair warning: the points made may sound like common sense, yet experience shows that “common sense is not common.”
1. Take Risks
Risk is an inherent part of business. If you stop taking risks, there is a good chance your friendly competitor down the road will be willing to take some risks. This doesn’t mean that those risks should be crazy, random or not well thought-out. On the opposite, risks should be weighed, reasoned and discussed with colleagues, a mentor or your team.
For example, should you stay open until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. on Wednesdays? Should you invest in digital radiography? Should you hire an office manager or an ordering person?
2. Think for Yourself
Maxwell recommends using experts and consultants wisely. Their knowledge and experience should be tapped, not followed blindly. This applies to non-experts as well. Acting on their recommendation could be a recipe for disaster. Maxwell, quoting author Gordon MacDonald, recommends staying away from “mental flabbiness” as well as “rules, regulations and programs.” He encourages readers to grow their mind and make their own important decisions.
3. Focus on Your Clients, Not Your Competitors
Maxwell goes back to the basics: The customer is king. In addition, he explains that:
- Poor customer service is the No. 1 reason companies lose business.
- It costs five times more to attract a new clinet than to keep an existing one.
- Customers (clients) pay more for excellent service.
- An unhappy customer tells nine people.
- A happy customer tells only five people.
Please keep in mind that these numbers are from the pre-Internet era. With the emergence of countless websites and platforms, anyone can share comments with hundreds or thousands of local customers.
Nurturing a client-centric practice is much more productive than focusing on the competition. Quoting UCLA Bruins basketball coach John Wooden, Maxwell writes: “The way to build a team isn’t to worry about your competitor, (but) to play to your strengths. If we play our game right, they will be playing our game. We won’t play their game.”
4. Minimize Bureaucracy
You’ve heard of Murphy’s Law; Pareto’s 80-20 principle; Moore’s Law (relative to microprocessors). Here is one more: Zimmerman’s Law. It says, “Regardless of whether a mission expands or contracts, administrative overhead continues to grow at a steady rate.”
How do you fight bureaucracy?
By simplifying procedures; by challenging years of “business as usual;” by questioning why “we’ve always done it that way;” by decreasing the number of steps of any and all processes; by reducing the number of steps, actions and forms; by preferring simplicity to complexity.
5. Be Flexible
“There is no antidote for rigidity of mind,” says Maxwell. Ouch!
However, he suggests a few ways to fight inflexibility:
- Empasize quality—high quality
- Focus on learning and improvisation
- Favor strategic thinking
- Commit to innovation
6. Aim for Excellence
Maxwell doesn’t like the idea that “good enough is good enough.” He’d rather encourage you to strive for excellence. Ban complacency! Don’t be satisfied with things the way they are.
If you allow things to be “good enough,” then that becomes your standard of care. Remember how you were treated at the last fancy hotel to attend a CE event? Did they treat you like an annoyance interrupting their texting session, or were you treated like a king or a queen?
Excellence can’t be merely demanded or preached or enforced. It should be modeled, it should be part of who you are as a person or an organization. It should be part of your identity, your culture and your reputation.
As John C. Maxwell writes: “Once we have created a climate where quality is not just something we do but a feature of who we are as an organization, then the people in our organization will be inspired to go far beyond policy, far beyond duties and job descriptions, in order to maintain the organization’s reputation for excellence.”
* This blog is loosely inspired by the article "8 ways to lose in business," published in the October 2011 issue of Success magazine.