Top 10 BIG Mistakes of BIG Business
Listed in order of most dangerous to commercial health, these ten big mistakes are fixable - in most cases.In business, BIGGER IS BETTER! I'm referring to big corporations vs. small business. The Telephone Business Directory people have a TV commercial that promotes this idea very well. It says that having a small ad is like being a solo musician. World-class talent you may be, but alone just the same. However, if you buy a full-page ad, your business takes on the persona of a powerful symphony - capable of great music, even brilliance. They imply that you will be perceived as big, competent and trustworthy.
Ron Zimky promoted a different idea in his book Knock Your Socks Off Customer Service. Ron talks about the idea of FCB (Faster - Cheaper - Better). He points out that all consumers look for FCB in the products we buy and in the companies we choose to patronize.
Well, I think they're both right. Generally speaking, we do perceive bigger as better. Smart ad executives and copywriters feed our need (obsession really) with a steady diet of what's new and improved. Therefore, as consumers we are trained to want our products and services to be FCB.
But sometimes BIGGER IS NOT BETTER. Since 1992, I've been speaking to SOHO (small office-home office) business leaders about what it takes to grow business big; and also, consulting with corporate executives who feel the need to cultivate a more entrepreneurial mindset in their corporate culture.
This article is based largely on a variety of research projects and interviews conducted over a two-year period. We started our journey with a single premise:
What would it take to double business now?
The answerer to our question became obvious almost right away. By paying better attention to the major problems areas of business, success would be an ordinary outcome. This is something motivational expert; Tony Robbins calls, Mastering the Fundamentals. Our course of study led us to identify the most common hindrances to business longevity (profitability was treated as separate issue). Further, this research revealed that healthy finances today are no certain guarantee of a wealthy existence tomorrow. Most of us agree that prosperity is about staying healthy long enough to enjoy any financial gain we realize along the way. Simply put, we need to outlast our mistakes.
We found ten major problem areas of big business - trouble is, small business is affected too. Every business has these infirmities of commerce to some degree; but these ills can grow, if un-checked, to extremely destructive proportions in a big business environment. Hence, we need to talk about them.
We also found that it's not inferior products, poor service or even outdated technology that is killing big business. The killer is the very thing that gave business its life in the first place - people. The once brilliant brain trust of leadership can become polluted with self-pride, arrogance and ignorance of core culprits. In such an emotionally unhealthy environment, the two fundamental building blocks of successful ideas and business, innovation and creativity are snuffed out slowly and quietly day after day.
The life giving DNA of every business entity is Diversity Necessitated by Adversity. In other words, turbulent times create survivors. Good DNA must exist in abundance in order to be truly creative and effective. Self-centered humanism (or big fat ego) can destroy objective logic. Dexter Yeager and Dr. Ron Ball wrote in A Millionaire's Common Sense Approach to Wealth,
"The only thing wrong with common sense is that it's not so common anymore." Never was there a truer statement.
As already mentioned, these Top 10 BIG Mistakes are found, to some degree, in every type and size of organization. When abusive activities or situations go unchecked, the right conditions are created, and the destructive goals of the infirmities of commerce are easily achieved. Some organizations (like some human cancer victims) discover their fatal condition too late.
Any one of these Top 10 BIG Mistakes has the potential of killing your business, but having all ten, festering under the surface of respectable (or purposely misstated) profitability; will weaken your organization immensely. The more symptoms you exhibit, the harder you will have to work in order to survive and thrive.
The purpose of this article is not to sound as one who is down on big business, but rather to preach repentance to the already converted; to save as many businesses as we can.
Listed in order of Most Dangerous to Commercial Health, these Top 10 BIG Mistakes are usually fatal...but fixable in most cases.
# 1 - Big Mistake of Big Business:
Over Utilization of a Limited Gene Pool.
In other words, relying too much on more of the same. When it comes to hiring more management talent, the status quo is that MBAs hire more MBAs (preferably in the same industry, and if possible, from the same school - taught the same lessons by the same professors and business leaders). This is the number one big mistake of big business because company does it. This practice is based in the "this is the way we've always done it" syndrome. They say you can't have too many MBA's, well I certainly beg to differ. Consider the recent integrity drain of some of our biggest corporations; extremely intelligent people are at the helm; and also, at the centre of every controversy.
More of the "same" eventually dilutes the gene pool of objective creativity. Ultimately, fresh ideas are no longer possible. Top management guru Tom Peters' resounding message is, "Stop doing the same thing week after week. We must dedicate ourselves to whatever is different. What works today will not work tomorrow." Therefore, we must invest heavily in diversity and accept that creativity comes in a myriad of different flavours.
We must see the unseen and develop an appetite to do the not-yet-done. I teach that the word impossible just means that it hasn't been done yet and that 'truth' alone doesn't mean that you can't do it. Also, it is no longer adequate to notice when a paradigm (set of rules and boundaries) has shifted. We must become the paradigm shifters; pioneers of ideas and processes that are new and improved, motivated by what is FCB. Above all, we must become "challenge-able."
# 2 - Big Mistake of Big Business:
Not Speaking the Customer's Language.
This is acutely fallout or by-product of the first big mistake. It's human nature to think if we're big, we're right. This leads to poor listening skills, which leads to our customer's lost interest. Improved customer intimacy is the cure for this ill. The remedy comes by way of corporate humility (or should I use the word meekness, which is very well defined as strength under control).
Getting close to our customers could mean parking the luxury car, riding on public transit and practicing better listening skills. People love to buy more new things. It isn't difficult to get them talking about which things (products and services) they want to buy in the future. Just ask them, but become a great listener as well. (This skill
alone will also enhance your personal relationships greatly.)
# 3 - Big Mistake of Big Business:
I'm talking about ownership of results of corporate endeavors. Prevalent thinking in corporate culture is that with so many other people to blame, why worry about my mess-ups. We found two reasons why this big mistake is so willing furnished.
First, the immediate situation, process or task is segregated from any personal accountability of the result. Without the ideal result (ownership) in mind, situational ethics reign and the start-with-the-end-in-mind precept that Stephen Covey wrote about in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is lost. Ownership of the results therefore, goes unclaimed.
Second, your personal and corporate lives require two completely different ways of thinking. In big business, your two lives are widely considered to be at odds with each other. This is almost never the case in small business. In small business, the owner is the business and the business is nothing without that particular owner. Thus we cannot separate the ownership of the business from the ownership of the results of the business. Biblical scripture says, "You cannot serve two masters, for you will serve one and hate the other." Guess which 'master' most employees grow to hate: their personal life or the corporation's infringement upon them?
Allow me to offer a personal truth about commitment. After 25 years of marriage, my wife, Dianne and I have realized that the key to relationship peace and longevity is not a fifty-fifty proposition. But rather, success comes when both parties commit to giving their one-hundred-percent effort and accept an equal stake in the ownership of the results.
"People Buy People - products and services just come with the package." Here's how this works in your business life. Imagine that your customer gets a call from your sales rep after the sale - later in the same day - to thank them for their patronage.
Within a day or two, the sales rep's supervisor or manager calls the customer to ask how they were treated. Then, in the following week, someone from your customer service or technical department contacts the customer to see if there is anything 'else' the customer needs. (These customer touch points should be a mix of in-person, phone, fax, mail and e-mail)
Now, after all that, your sales rep calls the customer (within 30 days of the sale) to say hello and ask for referrals. What do you think the customer thinks about your company? Companies who follow this plan of action never have to spend serious money on marketing or big ads in the Telephone Business Directory. When everyone (in your company, or in a marriage) is focused on customer service and intentional intimacy you literally can't lose.
# 4 - Big Mistake of Big Business:
This is part and parcel of the first three big mistakes. Let's understand some basics about human nature in big corporate culture. Shortsighted people (physically or mentally) can't see very far and therefore must practice caution, which also means they don't travel very fast. Their lack of long-term thinking means they have more time to focus on immediate profits. Short-term thinking about immediate profits is dangerous because it causes people to readily argue with customers and ignore the bigger picture of corporate longevity.
We all have 'negative experience' stories about wanting to return a product to a merchant only to get caught up in a battle of principles. Every store has at one time or another lost BIG future dollars due to their insistence of hanging on to a few present-day pennies.
This lack of long-term, big picture thinking is utter commercial suicide. (If you insist on repeatedly shooting yourself in the foot, you won't ever be fit enough to win a race)
# 5 - Big Mistake of Big Business:
Lack of Good Coaching.
Expert coaching is the fastest way to create sustainable motivation. Motivated individuals eventually become high performance human beings. A winning team is only as good - and can only go as far - as its super stars have been developed. Big business needs to attract and keep good coaches, and not be so unconditionally obsessed with big mistake number one. Focusing on fixing this big mistake will reward you with enough big benefits, which will also make the other mistakes much easier to manage. (An emphatic promise to be sure, but it works.)
# 6 - Big Mistake of Big Business:
No TQC (Total Quality Commitment).
TQM (Total Quality Management) was the talk of the town a decade ago. But what happened? Does the word quality describe average modern-day managers? Are they smarter and making fewer mistakes? In a word, No. The reason most people go back to their old ways before TQM is that TQM was not followed up with TQC. We cannot just 'educate' people without equal amounts of EI (Emotional Intelligence) and interpersonal skills.
Whatever you do after reading this article, get a copy of Daniel Coleman's book, Working with Emotional Intelligence.
When we attempt to circumvent human nature, we usually lose all gains and find ourselves back to square one (I hate it when that happens). TQC is the ingredient that motivates people to stick with (and further develop) an idea or a project until its successful completion. Coleman says, "Executives with a high degree of EI, on average, exceed their performance standards or quotas by 20%.
# 7 - Big Mistake of Big Business:
Magic is that inexplicable influence that produces surprising results. Professional athletes refer to it as 'being in the zone.' It's a place, time or situation where everything goes right. Some refer to synergy (the by-product of compound energy naturally produced in a strong team environment) as a magical quality that makes bonus things happen. We need to harness the magic every day if we are to grow exponentially. I'm reminded of the self-evident magic of Michael Dell and his computer company growth of over 3,500 % in just five years. No one could have predicated that much bonus (or magic), but there it is for all to see. My conclusion? Michael Dell is magical.
# 8 - Big Mistake of Big Business:
The Too Comfortable Status Quo.
A TV actor of a few decades ago, Jacky Gleason gave us his famous line, "How sweet it is!" In our current business culture, opulence reigns and many executives are 'liven' large' and able to say, "How sweet it is" - and it is sweet. The American DOW, Canadian TSC and run away global IPOs are living proof that good times make fat cats. However, when cats get fat, they won't hunt or hustle anymore. To quote Dexter Yeager again (the self-made multi billionaire of Amway fame), "I keep myself mentally broke. This way, I'm always interested in the next big thing or the new 'best way' to do something." If you want to develop your own two billion-dollar annual business, you can't afford to be distracted by those measly little millions.
# 9 - Big Mistake of Big Business:
Under Developed Human Capital.
This is a Big, Big, Big mistake. Any executive or manager who doesn't utilize all the resources and business tools at his/her disposal is a sluggard. Sitting on top of unrecognized, underdeveloped abilities and untapped talent is the greatest sin of executives and managers.
Consider that almost everyone at the bottom of the corporate ladder wants to do some climbing, and that their minds can be an unlimited resource of creativity and ingenuity. I remember a spokesman for Toyota saying that they get over two million suggestions annually from their employees. Is it any wonder their products continually receive top honors? If two heads are better than one, then what are two million heads worth? Oftentimes, what we go through life looking for is in our own backyards.
# 10 - Big Mistake of Big Business:
Fear of Loss.
I live in a country where our National pastime is the game of Hockey. The most important lesion in Hockey is this: "you have to score to win." It's a statement encouraging the offence attack as apposed to a defensive posture. If you aren't ready and willing to play aggressively, you don't have a chance of winning the game.
I believe the same thinking should be adopted in business, because fear of loss is the number one hindrance to success in any arena. It holds us back in a variety of personal and professional situations.
A few years ago, I uncovered a half-million dollar deal because I wasn't afraid to call a senior executive. Some said that the business just fell into my lap; but I said, I'm the one who made the call (and bagged some big game). It wasn't my sales territory. It wasn't even my job to sell. I called the prospect because I knew no one else in the organization would. I was a young sales trainer who wanted to 'walk his talk' and it paid off big time.
Risk, for the most part, is a matter of perception and often never reality. We must consider the potential gains and act accordingly.
French Philosopher, Robert Thibodeau wrote "To try is all! It matters not if one succeeds or fails outwardly." I believe Thibodeau is saying: no pain - no gain. He is referring to internal integrity - the emotional need to be true-to-self.
George Cohon, President of McDonalds Restaurants in Canada said, "To be successful, you need drive, determination - and willingness to risk."
The best advice (and remedy) for overcoming Fear of Loss comes from a good friend of mine in Toronto, Reva Nelson, author of Risk It! Reva writes, "Keep focused on your vision and the results that you want." It's simple. It works. I love it!
These Top 10 BIG Mistakes of BIG Business will plague us forever because they are inherent in our nature, unless we address them one by one, starting with the most evident weakness in our particular organization.
Let's ask ourselves, "What can we do differently today than we did yesterday?" Find the answer to this question, on a daily basis, and you will be a survivor - not a causality of these infirmities of commerce that I call the Top 10 BIG Mistakes of BIG Business.