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How not to be a survivalist

Coast Guard 47' Motor Lifeboat in Morro Bay, CA 04 Dec 2007
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikebaird

I really try to avoid talking about survival.

I avoid it because think it’s the wrong target.

Focusing on “just surviving” places your business in a risky position.

A bad month or a consecutive series of just two or three bad months can shift many businesses from a survival position to just-plain-closed. I don’t think I have to explain how that will ripple out to your family, your employees and their families.

Not a good thing.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of folks out there working hard every day to make sure their business survives, and I’d be the last person to criticize them for that.

What I would suggest is that those folks focus on what has to be done for their business to thrive, since survival tasks are usually a subset of the “do this to thrive” list. We talked about the “Stop Doing” list yesterday, so I won’t revisit that.

Focused on … what?

Let’s talk about a few other things to examine when trying to transition from a survival thought process to one focused on thriving.

What’s the biggest problem your customers have that you aren’t doing anything to solve? Why is that?

Are you teaching your clients/prospects the one thing your business does that would make the biggest difference in their lives? If not, why not?

What would your customers buy from you – that they rarely buy now – if they only knew how much it would help them. Why don’t they know? What are you doing to educate them about it? What should you add to the education/sales process?

Are there markets you don’t yet serve with your existing products and services? Are the markets you serve now in need of products or services that would compliment your existing products and services?

Ask yourself “Who needs you the most?” Ask your best customers which of their friends could benefit from what they get from you – not so much as a referral, but as a hint about a market you might not have thought of.

What’s the one question that when *answered correctly for your product* always results in a sale with a business client? And once you know that question… how can you get them to ask it? Or can you ask it yourself? You already know the question…if it isn’t already the focus of your sales process, why is that?

What local business in your area is in the most trouble due to the economy? What can your business do to help them and their clientele? If a business you knew of has already closed, is there something you do that can pick up their slack?

For that matter, is there a marginal performer who isn’t serving their market well that might benefit from merging with (and learning from) you? If there’s an upside there, it might benefit you to look around.

Have you talked with your competitors lately? “Heaven forbid”, right? Maybe they’re ready to retire and this economy is the excuse they need? Don’t have the cash to buy them out? Work out a deal that lets you both win.

In other words, look around with eyes that don’t have any sort of preconceived notion.

Ask yourself “What can my company be?”, and then step on the gas.