The Customer Is Always Right… Or, Is She?
No business has much of a future unless it is “customer focused,” especially in today’s environment where everyone is constantly in reach of some type of electronic device that is connected to social media. Whereas you must satisfy the needs and wants of your customers, you shouldn’t confuse that with always listening to what they think they want.
In my experience, I would say that most consumers want they already bought but with a new feature and a lower price. The problem is, if you follow that advice when the next season rolls around they won’t buy it and instead opt to buy the shiny new object from your competitor.
Consumers can be depended on to tell you what they want. The problem is they can’t be depended on to tell what they will buy. Remember, most consumers think backward and successful entrepreneurs must think forward.
The Best Managers Were Once Inexperienced Neophytes
The biggest titans were once little kids with big dreams. Discover the dreamers in your organization. Determine their potential and then find out how determined they are to make their dreams a reality.
Nurture these people. Assign them a mentor. Ask their opinions. Share some of your secrets. Invite them to dinner at your home. And do some personal things like remembering their birthday, their favorite song, food or movie. Connect with them on multiple levels but always show them respect, give them encouragement and invite them to share your vision. Then, help them set goals and show them how your company can help them achieve their vision.
Once you do that, your company will be in a position to handle both problems and opportunities quickly, efficiently and effectively.
Hiring an Untested Candidate in a Short Timeframe to Fill a Key Position Immediately Is Almost Always a Bad idea
Entrepreneurs who are not prepared for rapid growth, unexpected problems, changes in the economic environment or don’t have the experience to adapt quickly to unique opportunities are likely to fail. No one has all the answers, timing is not always favorable and problems can’t always be anticipated so what do you do? You build a strong support system! First, you should be grooming young employees to take on additional responsibility. Second, you should constantly be expanding your “network” of advisers and third, you should be developing relationships with people outside your company that you want to hire but can’t right now.
Let them know how you feel. Keep them informed. Constantly ask their opinion and give them progress reports. At best, when the time comes both of you will feel comfortable in making a quick decision. At worst, they’ll feel flattered and may be in a position to recommend someone they feel will be a competent hire. In other words, be proactive. Control your situation.
When Stars Don’t Shine
Every once in a while you’ll meet the “perfect prospect.” This candidate went to all the right schools, won all the prestigious awards, says all the right things in the interview, has a great smile and winning personality, heck, she’s even great looking and dresses well… be very, very careful before making an offer.
Why? Because you may have been so overwhelmed with what you’ve seen on the surface, that you forgot to determine what’s under the surface. Number 1, does she play well with others? Number 2, is she looking for a career or a job? And, does she really want to work for your company?
The answer is, you really don’t know. In fact, you really don’t know about anyone until they’ve worked for you for at least three to six months. Therefore, be careful before you make anyone an offer and when you do, make sure each employment contract is carefully spelled out and contains at least a 90-day Probationary Period Clause that allows you to terminate any employee within that time period for any reason, with no penalty.
Build an Office Environment That Nurtures Innovation
Do everything possible to make sure your employees look forward to coming to work. Money and benefits will only go so far. Challenge their abilities. Develop ways that foster collaboration. Encourage them to “dream” of new projects or new methods to advance the company and then give them recognition and rewards when they are successful.
And always be sure that all employees have some pathway to get some personal time with the boss. Yes, you may have a structure and hierarchy that should be respected but, when it’s important enough, rules should be able to be bent… and sometimes, broken.