Deliver Something Special
Feb 22, 2011
I remember reading the following quote by Warren Buffet: “Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it's not going to get the business.” It was brilliant in its simplicity. I believe that “business” can be substituted for “premium brand”. Is your business delivering something special?
I was working with a company in the Louisville, KY area on a very large project. As the project was underway the customer’s project manager was inspecting the work and made the following comment: “you must want to do more work for us”. This was clearly a referendum about the quality of the workmanship the technicians provided. They delivered something special. There was nothing special about the material. Any approved installer could have installed the same materials. The difference was that the owner stayed involved in this project to make sure that the job was special. He had skilled project managers to manage the project but this customer was not yet “sold” on his company so he made sure he stayed personally involved and that something “special” was delivered. As a result his company delivered great customer service.
Is your brand delivering something special? If not, do you know what is stopping you? In most cases you are delivering a product that is the same as or similar to your competitors. But, just as was the case in the above example, special can be distilled down to your ability to build and maintain strong relationships with customers. Are you taking the time to build these relationships with your customers? Has the growth in your business made you too busy for them? Are you frustrated with your results, your staff, lawyers, accountants, bankers? Are they taking too much of your time? Are you having problems with cash flow? Well, you’re not alone. These could be signs that you are entering the “Danger Zone”.
In his book, “The Danger Zone, Lost in the Growth Transition”, Jerry Mills, the founder of B2B CFO® describes the “unofficial” organization chart of a business. It is comprised of what he calls Finders, Minders, and Grinders. If you are an owner/president/CEO of your business and you are functioning as required for your business to prosper, it is almost certain that you are spending the vast majority of your time engaged in finding activities. Finders are people who steer the company. Jerry Mills defines them further as forward looking, visionary, relationship builders. Why am I focusing on Finders in an article about delivering something special? Because it is ultimately up to the Finders to determine what qualifies as special in their companies. When Finders quit providing this function for their company the company quits delivering “special” and eventually quits delivering altogether.
There can be many reasons why an owner quits the “finding activities” that Jerry Mills describes in his book. The Finder may not be confident in the Minders of his business and begins taking on these tasks. Minders are defined in Danger Zone as living in the past. They are the key administrators of the company (Bookkeepers, Accountants, Controllers, IT Managers, etc.) , The owner may be distracted by things outside of the business such as family, or health issues. Sometimes it is because the infrastructure has not kept up with the growth of the business and the Finder has to deal with the resulting issues. Any of these can be contributing factors for a business entering the Danger Zone (where cash flow is not keeping up with cash requirements). So what should you do if you have already reached the conclusion that you are in the Danger Zone? First, you want to get back to doing the activities that made your business successful in the beginning, i.e., during the “creation” phase of your business. According to “The Danger Zone”, these include:
- Building relationships with customers
- Creating relationships with vendors
- Delegating tasks to employees or associates
- Causing sales and cash to come into the business
Are you still spending 70 to 80% of your time doing these activities? I know a lot of business owners blame the economy for the struggles of their business. And this may be partly true. But what I have observed in many businesses is that the Finders have stopped doing the things that made their business successful. The economy simply exposes the change. Get help finding your way back. Enlist the aid of a trusted advisor to help you find goal clarity. This need can be in the form of a part-time CFO who has the necessary skills that can assist you in finding cash in your business.