• Entrepreneur Business Tips: Part Two

    Date Posted: 12/07/2009 | By: Maureen

    Business Tips – Part Two (Tips 8-14)

    Tip #8 – Ask ‘the ultimate question’.

    Satisfied customers leave every day – sad but true fact. What each business should be striving for are loyal customers. Fred Reichheld has done some fantastic research that shows customer loyalty is the name of the game for sustained growth and profits. Even better is that he uncovered the ‘ultimate question’ that allows you to gauge your customer’s loyalty. The question is (and must be asked on a scale of 1-10): Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague? Anything 8 or below and your customer is at risk of leaving. One number gives you the insight into whether you have a loyal customer, and fair warning that you need to up the game with certain customers if the number is too low.

    Label printing is typically a commodity business; people price shop all the time. So how do we at Leapin’ Lizard approach the ultimate question and drive loyalty? We do some small, consistent things that you, our customers, tell us you care about. We’ll run small quantities, help you with your design, spend extra time with you, won’t charge for unique shapes etc. because we want a sustained long-term relationship.  We also like to have fun; you get a sticky lizard with every order, we joke around on the phone, we follow up to see if you’re happy with your custom labels and stickers. It’s good for you as customers and good for us. Trust is a great thing! So, what are you doing to drive loyalty with your customers? Ask your team what they think they should be doing to drive loyalty. And, be brave and ask the ultimate question!

     

    Tip #9 – Be strategic in sales, not an ‘order taker’.

    If this year has taught business owners anything, it’s that you can’t take your sales strategy and process for granted. Many companies were ‘order takers’ when times were good. There was enough business to go around that even a poor sales strategy or a bad selling process worked. As Todd is fond of saying, ‘even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then.’ (Gotta’ love those southern sayings!) By the same token, this year has been a fantastic time for business owners to dig in and really understand what works and what doesn’t in their selling process.

    A few quick steps you can take:

    *Assess where your last customers (good ones that are profitable and fun to work with) came from. Were they from referrals, trade shows, online etc. How can you repeat those types of sales?

    *Look at where you spent your sales time and money last year. Based on what the numbers tell you, determine where you’ll spend this year and what strategies you should leave behind. Don’t make assumptions that a sales strategy is working- let the numbers tell you!

    *Get your team together and review your sales process. Don’t have one? Map it out- now! You want every person delivering the same message to the marketplace in the same way. I’m not advocating having sales robots, but the cowboy sales approach won’t serve you well in the long run.

    *Invest in ongoing sales learning and training, whether that be formal or through CD’s, webinars etc. This is definitely an area where you should be sharpening the saw on a continual basis.

    Label printing sales is no different than any other industry. We all have to first ‘sell’ before we get the honor of serving our customers. If you don’t think you or your business is in sales, think again! But please, leave the cheesy talk-only-shove-my-product -or-solution-down-your-throat approach to the other guys. You may win a customer for one sale with that approach, but you won’t earn a long term relationship!

     

    Tip #10 – Get Your legal House in Order.

    Yikes! This is one area where you don’t want to get burned. Check your buy-sell agreements, make sure you’re complying with all FDA regulations, make sure you’ve paid all your entity renewals, that you’re up to date with the State and Federal regulations for your industry etc. You don’t want an innocent mistake to cost you any amount of money, your reputation or your business.

    A few steps you might take:

    *Sit down with your attorney once a year to review where you stand and any updates or changes you may need to make.

    *Contact or become a member of your industry association and follow their legal/regulatory updates.

    *Talk with a peer company to see if they have heard of any changes or have made any changes

    Label Printing Business Tip #11 next time!

     

    Tip #11 – Take time to review, analyze and plan.

    We live in a fast-paced, ‘check it off the list and move on’ kind of world. If we’re not careful, we can be 18 months into a business decision and not have taken the time to review what’s happened, analyze the results and plan for the upcoming timeframe. For all we know we’ve been headed very quickly down the wrong path! At minimum you should be taking time monthly to review, analyze and plan around key business decisions and drivers. There are several easy and compelling questions that can help with the review analyze and plan process:

    *What has worked?

    *What would we change? What hasn’t worked?

    *What have we learned?

    *What will we do next /next time?

    Label printing equipment, software and customers change very rapidly. If we were not taking the time to RAP (review, analyze, plan) we could quickly become obsolete. Our industry is no different than yours, though. We all need to be taking time at least monthly to pause and make sure our decision are still sound and serving our clients and businesses well.

     

    Tip #12 – Take some time off.

    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ – I can still see that creepy scene from “The Shining”! Though most of us won’t nut up like Jack, taking some time off to recharge is really important, especially given the stressful year 2009 shaped up to be for most business owners. I highly recommend you read “The Power of Full Engagement” which equates business people working non-stop to an athlete overtraining. You start to lose your edge and your ability to bring fresh thinking and enthusiasm to your work if you haven’t stepped back and paused in awhile. I have yet to hear someone say, “I had my best idea yet after working 12 hour days for 7 straight days!” Usually it’s just the opposite. We come back from some time off ready to tackle challenges and opportunities with new energy and thinking. If a few days off is not in the cards, think small. We can recharge our batteries by small breaks (say, 10 minutes) during the day where we completely check out and recharge. Take a quick walk, listen to your favorite music, stretch, read the sports page… Do whatever works for you!

    Label printing gets pretty hectic this time of year as everyone ramps up for the holidays. We love it because we know more of you are getting your product to market, which is fantastic. We also take time to stop and breathe and tell a few jokes during this busy time. We’re also making sure everyone takes some time off and gets away from work for a few days to really recharge.

     

    Tip #13 – Get your advisors together.

    As business owners it’s good to have a team of smart advisors supporting you. Having a team consisting of a great CPA, attorney, banker, insurance broker and financial advisor can be a true strategic advantage, given one critical factor. They all need to understand and support the advice and counsel the other advisors are giving you. For example, if your CPA is giving you tax advice that’s contrary to the financial plan your financial planner is executing for you, trouble lies ahead.

    Once a year, get all of your advisors in one room and talk about where you are taking your business, how you want to exit, and key moves that need to be made in the coming year. Have them all outline their strategies and advice for getting you there, and adjust those strategies so that the plan is a cohesive one. When you do this, you’ll truly have a team of strategic advisors working for and with you.

    Label printing advisors are the same as those listed above, and we’d also include some industry experts. Consider doing the same for your business. Is there someone whose inside industry knowledge would be helpful to you in growing your business? Would they be better able to advise you if they heard how your ‘team’ is helping you? If so, invite them to participate. If need be, bring them in via conference call or video conferencing – something you can do with any of your advisors.

    I’ve suggested this to companies in the past, and $$$ always pop up. ‘This could be a really expensive meeting’, is a sentiment I’ve heard more than once. True. However NOT getting them together often times proves much more expensive in the long run.

     

    Business Tip #14 – Know your core values.

    Wait, wait! Don’t stop reading. Core values have gotten a bad rap over the past few years because most companies weren’t actually determining their core values, but instead were cooking up a laundry list of things that would sound good on their websites. Determining your core values is decidedly NOT about marketing. It IS about understanding who you are so you can hire and retain the right people and recognize and reward those same people for acting in alignment with what matters to you and your company. You also use your core values to determine which customers are a match so you can deliver the value they are looking for and not burn out your employees trying to do it.

    Think back to the last employee or customer relationship that went sour. It almost always comes down to a mismatch in values. And, like it or not, values are driven mostly by the founders and owners of a company. We call it ‘the shadow you cast’. If you’re creative and resilient, it’s likely that those are a part of your company’s DNA as well. Both Verne Harnish at Gazelle’s and Jim Collins have good exercises for determining core values. We’ll talk about how to use them effectively in another post.

     

    Business Tip #15 next time!