1. It’s not about you, it’s about them. “Them,” of course, refers to your customers, employees, and even suppliers. Too many business owners look at every circumstance through the lens of their own self-interest. The more you concentrate on the needs of these other groups, the better your business will be.
2. Don’t be afraid to help your people be better. Often the business owner is concerned if she allows her people to obtain additional training, education, or experience, they’ll want more money or they’ll leave. Weigh that fear against the benefit of having a higher performing employee. If revenue-per-employee goes up, the investment was worth it.
3. Be thankful for complainers. Customers who are the most demanding and critical can be your best assets. Complaints enable you to fix things that aren’t working, things you weren’t aware were broken. Beware of customers who smile and nod in insincere approval, all the while harboring dissatisfaction. You can be sure they’ll tell all their friends.
4. If you see a good idea, steal it. No need to reinvent the wheel every time you want to try a new retail service or merchandising strategy. If you can grab an idea from Victoria’s Secret, the Apple Store, or Panera Bread then do it.
5. Have a plan. Setting goals and establishing a strategy to achieve them is fundamental to a business’ success. Budgets and business plans are the best management tools.
6. Measure what you do. Putting management tools and business plans in place isn’t worth much unless you measure your progress-or lack thereof-on a regular basis.
7. If what you’re doing doesn’t work, try something else. If an idea, concept, or strategy isn’t working, discard it. Sometimes it’s hard be-cause you’ve built your entire business premise around this kernel of intellectual property. But it’s insane to keep grinding away at something that’s not producing good results simply because it may be painful to abandon.
8. Be clear. Ensure customers know exactly what you are and what your business stands for. Are you a contact lens specialist, high-fashion eyewear purveyor, or family practitioner? Make sure employees know your mission statement. Everything you do in your business should underscore your unique reason to be.
9. Not everyone can, or should, be your customer. Many businesses attempt to be all things to all people, and wind up being the opposite. Focus on what you do best, those skills and services that bring true value to your unique clientele. What one customer or patient finds valuable, another will not. Concentrate on customers who are in sync with your proposition and reaffirm that proposition with them constantly. Stray from them in pursuit of others only at your own peril.
10. No one on their deathbed ever uttered, “I wish I’d spent more time at work.” Hopefully, this one needs no explanation.
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