By Sam Geist
As I sat down to write, it seemed to me that 2011 was both one of the most difficult and most rewarding years I've witnessed in a very long time. Why so difficult? -- Because reality finally set in. My clients realized that the issues they've avoided addressing for the longest time, could no longer be parked. The internal issues had to be faced. The external pressures had to be addressed. Why so rewarding? -- Because some of them saw the writing on the wall, began to address these issues and actually see results from their effort.
While talking to clients throughout the year the question that was asked of me again and again (no matter whether these clients sold services or products) was "How do we compete successfully in this environment?"
If I were sitting with you chatting one-on-one and you asked me "How do I, how does my company, how does my organization compete in these turbulent times?" I'd tell you these three things.
1. To compete you must exceed your customers' expectations.
We have a choice, we can raise our expectations of ourselves, we can exceed our customers' expectations (that's both our internal customers who work for us and our external customers who buy from us) -- or we can do what we've always done and be satisfied with the results.
Keep in mind that our customers (internal and external) also have a choice. They can remain our happy and loyal customers, because we've exceeded their expectations, or they can become our competitors' customers because our competitors have exceeded expectations -- while we haven't.
In order to exceed expectations in this age of value chain deconstruction, we must create value -- real value for our customers today and tomorrow -- and it must be value seen from the eyes of the recipient not the provider. One valuable way to create value for our customers is to anticipate their future needs and goal. See their upcoming problems (before they do) and provide solutions.
In today's business environment always remember that just satisfying customers doesn't cut it -- just satisfying is not the same as exceeding.
2. To compete you must engage your people.
Engaged people are not afraid of tomorrow -- they're not afraid of change. Engaged people try harder, do more. They're anxious to move, to succeed. They're the positive face of your brand. They're your valuable ambassadors. They're your secret weapon for success.
Ask yourself what you are doing right now to involve your people -- to engage them (and what you could be doing in 2012 that you're not presently doing). Encourage your people to feel the responsibility and commitment of ownership by giving them the responsibility and trust of leaders.
3. To compete you must execute your strategy.
Get tough with yourself. I've repeated it so many times, year after year -- strategy is important, very important, a necessary component for success, but strategy without execution is stagnant -- nothing happens. Execute! Get your people to execute! Execution trumps strategy!
The answer to the question "How do compete successfully in turbulent times?" comes full circle. It is only by taking action -- by executing -- that you are able to exceed expectations -- of yourself, of your customers (internal and external). It is only by taking action that you engage your people. Leadership is an active verb. Be the leader you need. Create a company of leaders your customers need.
2012 is the perfect time to face our new business reality squarely by taking decisive action.