In 1994 I was in St. Louis wrestling in the AAU national wrestling tournament. I had done well and made it to the quarter finals. However, I lost that match by two points – the only points scored in the match. I had shot in on his legs for the take down, but somehow, he countered and ended up taking me down.
I rarely did this, but I was so baffled by it that I found him afterward and asked what happened. “You hesitated after the shot. It was just enough for me to counter.” I hadn’t followed through with the take down and lost the match.
In business, poor follow through is one of the most common mistakes businesses make.
Some say this is a question of integrity. I think it moves beyond that. It is a question of systems and habit. We have every intention of following up after the service, calling that lead one more time, or getting back to someone. Often when a ball gets dropped, we have a tendency to just leave it and hope no one notices. Eventually they do. We judge ourselves by our intentions, but the world judges us by our actions.
As a business, balls get dropped by the team because we have not put together the processes and not created good accountability. Creating a habit for our team and a culture that enforces those items are the key to creating a business that exceeds expectations.
So what now? How do you follow through better?
Take a look at your habits, systems and accountability. Pick one, work at it until it improves. Then, move on to the next.
I’ve been reviewing the many clients I have had over the years and looking at what the difference has been between the ones who grew their business and those that did not.
As I developed my list, here is what I have determined made them successful:
Follow-Through – This was the single most important factor in who succeeded and who did not. The ones that I saw increase their sales, hire better employees, and create exstatic customers were the ones who put into action the things they committed to doing.
Burning Desire – not a passing craving, or a “that-would-be-nice” motivation. They were almost obsessed with changing their business to become something incredible.
Willing to Be Challenged – they did not mind having someone challenge their way of thinking. They were humble and wanted to learn. However, when they would defend an aspect of their business, they had a well thought-out reason and could logically defend why it was that way. Emotions were important in the decision, but there was logical basis to it.
Time to Think, Plan and Dream – Successful clients I have worked with took the time to think through what was happening every day. They (usually) did not allow everyone else to dictate their schedule or the just rely on their to-do list to determine what would happen next. Dreaming was an important aspect as well since it allowed them to re-focus on what they wanted to accomplish (see “A Higher Ideal” below.)
Support – As a coach, I help provide support and provide accountability. Those who are amazingly successful, however had another person or group that was cheering them on.
A higher Ideal – The success of the business was merely a symptom of something bigger. Successful people started their business because it was their passion. They did have to find a way to monitize and leverage it for it to be able to grow. Sales became easy then and their focus became more about doing what they love – the money followed.
Faith – Faith in something greater than yourself is critical. I don’t mean an ideal or a passion. I mean someone or governing power that controls the universe. Faith in God is an easy one to identify. Some of my succesful clients have been agnostic or aethiest, but they believed in something – that people are basically good, natural energy, etc.
Creativity – The ability to see potential in the mundane is key to any success. People that I would deem successful were able to look beyond what is right in front of them and finding value where others could not.
Discernment – Beyond seeing the potential in the mundane, the people I know who have moved to great heights are those who can push away the distractions and the waste of time. They did not spend much time on failing efforts. They either changed it or abandonded it.
Courage – I don’t just mean the courage it takes to branch out on your own. I mean the quite courage it takes to do the most important thing when no one is looking or holding you accountable to it.
So the challenge for today is this: What are you missing within yourself that is keeping you from growing?
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
3rd president of the United States
Lately, I have been reading (or rather listening to) the book “Work The System”. Something the author says repeatedly is to look at your internal systems from “a slightly elevated and slightly removed point of view.” By looking at your business from the outside looking in, you can better work on your businesses instead of in.
Many of my clients often find themselves jumping from one appointment to the next, taking care of whatever is next on the to-do list, or looking for an excuse to work on trivial, easy things.
It takes a kind of courage to step back and look at your business from the outside looking in. It requires you to not just admit your faults, but to look them in the face and commit to change. A better process. An improved system. A better business. Owning a business, not owning your job. A better lifestyle to do what you wish with more money and a lot more time.
It might be time to “shake it up,” look from the outside in, and improve your system. You will never truly own a business until you do.
André Gide (1869–1951)
French writer, Nobel Prize winner
Have you ever entered a store and discovered that what they sold inside was not at all what you thought?
I spent one summer in the passenger seat of a Host Ice delivery truck. It was a great job because I did not mind being sent on the long trips through the Texas panhandle – delivering ice to small-town gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants. It was a great gig because I would nap between the small towns and then load the ice bins of the store while the driver completed the sale.
As I delivered ice, I encountered many businesses that portrayed a clean and freindly appearance in the front of the store, but were severly disorganized, chaotic, angry, and sometimes unsanitary in the back room or food preperation areas. I knew which restaurants were dependable and clean and which I would never eat from again.
I discovered a truth then that was reminded to me when I read Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerilla Marketing. Something he emphasized there was the need to communicate your identity not your image.
You see, an image is a mask. Something we create to be accepted by others.
An identity is the core of who we are. It’s what makes us unique. If our “image” does not align with our identity, we are false and dishonest.
Your marketing brand is not just a pretty logo or name – it’s the reputation attached to that name and logo.
You have to create a harmony between the image and message you send and the experience your customers receive. The reason McDonald’s can get away with grease-in-a-bag quality is because you have no different expectation. You know what you’re getting. (By the way – I love the McGriddle).
What are you communicating about your experience that your customers aren’t getting?
—Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987)
American artist who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art.
Have you ever wondered how some people seem to make money for breathing? (The Academy Awards are a good reminder of that. . . ) It isn’t because they are smarter or necessarily given more advantages. Some of the biggest successes and fortunes in my lifetime have started from a garage.
So what is the defining factor? What sets these individuals apart?
The longer I study business and the difference between successful businesses and flops, I have come to realize the difference comes down to one phrase: perceived value.
This is probably why Andy Warhol said it was a true art. As with any art, value is determined by the end user. Many incredible artists starve because of three basic reasons:
- They fail to identify the values of their audience and then deliver that value.
- They fail to communicate the value to the right audience in the right way.
- It costs more to create it than what people are willing to pay.
Unfortunately, most perceived value is what your audience learns from your marketing message. Ferrari can sell a vehicle for drastically more than what Toyota can sell a vehicle. The essential function of both vehicles is the same, but a person that buys a Toyota is looking for economic and pragmatic solutions. A person buying a Ferrari is more interested in power, speed, and social standing. What they value and their ability to buy that value.
As a side note – there are only 39 Ferrari dealerships in the Continental United States. Compare that to the 1,234 Toyota dealerships in the same area. It boils down to perceived value and how you communicate that value.
What are you worth and are you communicating that worth?
Last summer, my family took a trip to see the Ape Caves near Mt. St. Helens. It was a lot of fun become amateur spelunkers as we explored this long lava tube. The kids had a great time and it wore us out completely.
Since we had planned to stay for an extended weekend, I had planned for us to visit the Ceder Creek Grist Mill the next day. This is an old grain mill that had been restored and demonstrated how they turned large amounts of grain into flour. One thing the mill operator told us during his demonstration surprised me:
The Mill owner was often the wealthiest man in the county.
It didn’t surprise me when I found out why . . . .
Farmers would bring their grain and pay the mill owner to grind it in preparation for selling to the area merchants. The interesting thing is that the farmers would bring the raw grain in large barrels or sacks and then refill the same containers with the flower that was milled.
However, when grain is ground, it actually creates up to 50% more volume than the grain itself. So if I mill one bushel of wheat, I will end up with 1.5 bushels of flower.
The miller would keep the extra half bushel and also sell that to the merchants. This was a standard practice and the farmers had no issue with the arrangement.
What are you creating that you are not getting credit for? Even if you don’t feel you should charge for the extra service – do your customers recognize the extra value they get?
I once suggested to a client that if they provide a courtesy service, they should still create an invoice and then discount it. This does two things:
- Helps you track and measure any inventory and how much you discount.
- Provides tangible proof to your customer the value they receive. Chances are they are going to see the receipt a couple of times before it gets thrown away – extra reminders that you are looking out for their best interest.
Don’t just create value – make it count.
“I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me. ”
—Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) from the movie The Departed
Many of you know about my two years in Southern Mexico as a missionary. In one area I served I cam across two families that stand out in my mind as stark contrasts.
The first I met in a cab ride from the bus station to the apartment in my first hour in this area. He drove the cab and I later found out that he was a science teacher for one of the local prep schools. His wife was due to have their second baby in a couple of months. He worked hard and was just starting out as a husband and father. He did not have to drive cab, but he did want to improve his situation.
The other family I met was completely opposite. His wife worked hard selling in the market to earn enough to buy the necessities of life. I once approached their house to see him laying in a hammock with a “caguama” (a beer of about 32 oz). All he could say was, “No hay trabajo” – there is no work.
One system created opportunity (the first eventually bought a home and became a community leader) the other created stagnation. We can shake our head at the second, but his “system” was to have his wife work while he drank in the shade bemoaning the economy. Guess who made a bigger impact in the world?
The economy, taxes, politicians, the system, big business, and the boogie man. The next time you want to blame some out-side source, figure out what is happening with your own systems that did not prepare for the influence of these outside influences.
Are you positioned to take advantage of circumstances whether they are good or bad? The difference is the systems you have in place and the quality of execution.
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
I had the special privilege of being in a Silverdale Rotary meeting where six high school kids were being honored for the many great things they are doing with their lives. All six came from different backgrounds, different family structures, and different cultural heritages.
Each of them was supposed to address the audience.They talked about the many activities, clubs, teams and other efforts they were making in their lives. The reason they gave for doing everything was simple: they had a large horizon that they planned to cross. There was little desire for the award they were receiving – the awards they craved were much larger than the little framed certificate and small gift they were receiving that day.They want to be greater than themselves.
So that got me thinking: “these teens are defining success in ways they understand it. Most of us had the same ambitions and dreams.”
Do we still define success the same way we did in high school?
What caused us to change how we measure success?
I can’t define success in life for you.
Business success is just as elusive. A “successful” business is often defined as growing, making a profit, long-term viability, attracting investors, . . . . The measures are endless.
Make up your mind. Set your horizon. Determine your measures. Make it happen.
“Even a blind hog will find an acorn once in a while.”
This is the type of thing my very Texan grandfather used to tell me. While this is not something I directly remember him saying, he would enjoy it just the same.
So what does that mean exactly? You can take it two ways, I guess.
- Even the handicapped get lucky sometimes
- You don’t need every advantage to be successful.
I prefer the second meaning.
Anytime you start out on a new venture – I’m sure you feel like that blind hog. Rooting around the ground with your nose hoping to find the first sign of the acorn you need. That first acorn sure is nice, isn’t it?
So, here is what happens. You start out and trip, stumble and even run headfirst into the trunk of the wrong tree. After stumbling along, you find the first acorn. Sweet success!
If you are observant, you can pick up on the “unseen” signs that point you to future success. You begin to discover what works and what does not.
It requires tons of time and failure to get to that big “win”.
This brings us to the fifth element that determines if a wrestler or business owner is successful: Determination.
There is another side to this. You don’t have to “root around” for too long. A little help from a coach can get you moving in the right direction without running head-first into the wrong tree.