(Or… Saying “Yes” more than you say “No”)
The first place most companies look to make changes when times get tough is on the cost side. They look for operational savings, in some cases finding excess fat, and other times making true sacrifices. These savings come in the form of budget cuts, belt-tightening, downsizing, project cancellations, deferred bonuses, etc. Let’s call these “Ops” savings, since they focus on the operations of your company.
I don’t want to talk about Ops here. They are very important, but they are not my current topic. Instead, I want to talk about “Opps.” I want to focus, not on cost cutting, but on opportunities.
Here’s the simple reason why: Even though you will find much fat in your operations and many ways to cut costs, your true measure of success in these tough times will be how well you find even better opportunities to engage customers, so these customers do things that drive your revenue and profits.
As I wrote in my last newsletter, The 2009 Readiness Test, the first thing you want to do is locate the sources of “latent profit” in your business. These are the untapped opportunities that you’ve not had a chance to develop.
Imagine your business is an immense landscape, with countless riches buried underground. Beneath your business landscape lie vast reserves of oil, gold, diamonds and other precious materials. Over the years, your resources to mine these riches have been limited, so you have only had time to develop some of them. You have a few high-producing oil wells, one diamond mine that serves you well, and a few veins of gold that have yield modest riches. But you know one thing for sure: You have barely scratched the surface. Your business bursts with untapped potential, waiting for your attention.
Here’s a simple trick, called “Bring the Future Forward,” to help you identify the opportunities that offer the best sources of latent profit in your business:
Imagine it is one or two years from today, and your business is much more successful than it is now. Looking from that future time back to today you see that you have successfully tapped into many opportunities, and have unleashed much latent profit in your business. Open your mind as you think about this … where did that realized potential come from? What happened that created this success?
As you imagine the opportunities that helped you succeed in this scenario, notice this: The best successes happen when customers do things. When people who are not your customers become customers, when customers become better customers, when customers rave to their friends about you; all of these things can have a big impact on your profits.
Here’s the next trick: Say “yes” more than you say “no.”
It’s really easy to say “no” these days. “No, that person can’t work here anymore.” “No, we’re not going to spend money on that.” “No, we’re not going to continue with that project.”
Many of those “no’s” are really important. But, they are not sufficient.
Say “yes.” “Yes, we are going to invest in building relationships with our current customers, because they are our most important asset.” “Yes, we are going to make it easier for our customers to do more business with us.” “Yes, we are going to focus on having more relationship-building encounters with customers.” “Yes, we are going to ensure that our entire team is on the same page so we can create a strong sense of brand harmony for our customers.”
“No” is tempting. It’s also easier to say no to spending than it is to invest in building customer relationships in tough times.
“Yes” is scary. It’s difficult to move forward when the whole world is pressing you backwards. But you need “yes.” In fact, “yes” is even more important now, in tough times, than it was before. With fewer customers spending less money, you can’t expect to get your fair share of those customers’ love, loyalty and dollars if you don’t work hard to get it.
Look at your organization. Are your colleagues saying “no” more than they are saying “yes” these days? Is your company responding to the economic downturn more with cutbacks or more by moving forward?
How do you compare?
Now, look at yourself. Are you saying “no” more than you are saying “yes?” Are you focused more on things you need to stop doing, or things you need to do
Here are a few things you can do:
Get together with a group of your colleagues, and walk through the “Bring the Future Forward” exercise I described above. Not only will you discover some ripe opportunities, you will find yourselves focusing on “yes” more than “no.”
Say “yes”… at least as much, if not more, than you say “no.”
So, as the New Year starts, and the economic pressure builds, be sure to balance your focus on “Ops” savings with “Opps” building. Say “yes”… at least as much, if not more, than you say “no.” In that way, you will improve your chances of not just surviving, but thriving in 2009.