This is the sixth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
The fundamentals – interpersonal connections, the natural world, a spiritual-values focus – are easy to lose sight of in the middle of an economic crisis. When things seem to be falling apart, it’s a good time to get back to basics and make sure your foundation is solid, ready to support a new structure.
On a personal level, a few minutes a day for a phone call to a friend or a face-to-face with a family member keeps everyone feeling connected. A walk through a park or a hike in the woods puts us in touch with the natural world. And setting aside time for meditation or worship renews our spiritual selves. A strong personal foundation makes it possible to be a strong business leader.
In the business realm, the same fundamentals of humanity and spirit are basic to a successful enterprise. John Mariotti, President and CEO of The Enterprise Group, recommends keeping these nine business fundamentals top-of-mind:
- “The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.” (Theodore Levitt) It seems self-evident, yet many businesses end up focused on process instead of customer relationships.
- Provide high-quality and reliable products or services. As Mariotti points out, customers value reliability. Quality and reliability are the underpinning of your brand.
- Keep the customers you have by selling them the products or services that made you successful. Keep your core business solid, especially when presented with new opportunities (and the risks that come with them).
- Charge a fair price. Too high, and you lose customers; too low and you lose your business.
- Always consider what is important to your customers. Listen. What are their pain points, and what can you offer as a solution?
- Know your costs and charge enough to make a profit.“Lose money on every sale, make it up in volume” is not a viable business model.
- Manage your cash flow. Monitor your projected cash flow to stay ahead of any finance issues.
- Keep your eye on the competition, and focus on what made you successful. Your value proposition and your distinctive brand will make you stand out.
- Hire the right people. Team up with people whose skills and attitude complement the values of your business. Protect the team and the brand by swiftly removing any “bad apples.”
We would add a tenth item to this list: Cultivate relationships with vendors who share your customer-centric orientation. Your business relies on customers, but it also relies on vendors to provide services or goods that you don’t make in-house. Seek out vendors who treat you the way you treat your customers.
When you keep your eye on the fundamentals that support all of your endeavors, both personal and business, you will weather the storm.
Photo © Robert Kneschke / AdobeStock