1. Challenge all assumptions
If it means a fight on the office floor over assumptions then have the fight – the words ‘that will never work’ or worse still ‘but we have always done it that way’ should prompt immediate expulsion of the offender. Ignore all accepted wisdoms and assumptions about your business, the market, competitors and customers. Above all the way you do things. Winning businesses are flexible, lean, energised, fluid and innovative by nature. Few businesses can claim such accolades. Question, be curious and allow all challenges. Amongst those challenges are secrets to your future growth and success. Take yesterday’s business apart and build tomorrows model.
2. Reduce what you sell; unload products and services
Sorry, I thought we were trying to grow the business? Yes, but how many products and services do you offer? How many are profitable? The business world is littered with warehouses full of stock that no one will buy. Ruthlessly narrow your offerings and put your sales and marketing behind those. Growth and a better reputation will follow. Oh, and get rid of more products next year; but I assume you are adding products too!
3. Talk to every customer you can. But DO NOT talk about your products or services
They may wish to – don’t allow it. Sounds like I am being asked to waste the customer’s and my time? No, ask them what their challenges are, understand their business much better. When you do you will appreciate the true value of what you can offer them and as a result you will sell them value – not products and services. When you sell value you grow and are differentiated.
4. Dig into service levels of your business and add 25 per cent to the quality and standards given
A bit optimistic? Not at all: add zero cost elements to the service given (see point three) and yes they DO exist. Mystery shop’ yourself to understand how the customer is treated and how that can be improved. Maximise the team’s customer focus – top to bottom of the organisation, inside out. Train everyone in commercial excellence – maximise the sales/quality/profit delivery. Steal ideas from other industries. The world is full of gold nuggets and most are ignored because a silly neuron says that what Starbucks/Mars/Carphone Warehouse do is not relevant. It is. Lift up your eyes and broaden your horizon.
5. Fire some customers
Are you crazy? Look at your bottom 20 per cent of customers, what is it costing to serve them? Are they growing? Some customers cost too much to serve because they don’t buy enough, some cost too much because they are unreasonably demanding. So long as they do not have a real potential to grow beyond today’s revenues then get rid of them. But do it nicely. Put the prices up and stiffen terms; they may through this method become profitable. The bottom tier of customers is like the bottom tier of products: The Only way is Exit.