3 Questions to Start the New Year

By Brad Thomason, CPA

 

Welcome to 2013.  Want it to be a good year for your business? (of course…).  Start by thinking about these three questions:

Is there a move we can make to better our position?  This question is the core of good tactical execution.  Immediately on its heels comes the follow-up: “If yes, then have we made it?”  These questions speak to the idea that we need to be inching the ball down the field whenever we have the chance.  And if the chance is there, what are we waiting for?  A common problem is the tendency to not push as hard as you can when an immediate deadline is not looming, or when you are working on an early stage project where clearly defined metrics haven’t yet been established.  But even if there is no external pressure causing you to stay engaged, it’s still a good idea to try to do so.  Why?  Because you don’t know what tomorrow is going to throw at you.  You can’t ignore prioritization, but assuming there’s not something more pressing, make the move now.  If you were destined to have some down time anyway, don’t take it today on the grounds that you might find yourself with nothing to do tomorrow.  Make today’s move today, and let tomorrow take care of itself.  It’s been my experience that most of the time fate will deal you a new task by the time it rolls around anyway.  So if you wait, you get overloaded and something has to get delayed.  That’s less likely to happen if you make your moves when they present themselves.

Are we acting like a business that we would want to buy from?  Don’t really think this one needs a lot of commentary.  Many small businesses start as a direct result of the owner not being able to find a supplier of a good or service that he/she was satisfied with.  So that person goes out and creates one.  With that in the DNA of so many small businesses (and most of the ones that end up becoming big businesses), it makes sense to stay close to this idea no matter what your field.  If there are things about the way you are operating that would give you pause as a consumer, you automatically have your list (hopefully a short one) of places where improvement is needed.

If we can’t meet a customer need or deliver a solution in the preferred way, have we explained why?  Numerous research studies have shown that people don’t like being told “no.”  But what they hate even more is being told “no,” and not knowing why.  Despite our societal tendency to eschew excuses, turns out the reason really does matter.  Specifically, if you can help a customer understand why you (hopefully) reasonably can’t get them what they’ve asked you for, they are much less likely to view you negatively.  They won’t be happy, and they may even go somewhere else to get that specific need met.  But in many cases it will keep them from branding you as unhelpful, uncaring or hard to deal with.  And if they came to you in the past they may come again the next time they need something in your field, even if you couldn’t give them a “yes” the last time around.  People want to understand, despite frequent protestations otherwise.  Requests for yes/no answers, or “just give me the bottomline” are more bluster than substance (at least in cases where the response is not affirmative).  Especially in cases where a factor out of your hands caused the negative outcome, let your customers know what it was.  Like the proverbial spoon full of sugar, it may help make the medicine go down.

Happy New Year…and best of luck.

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