Get customers on your side: Gathering ideas from others, concerning your business.
Does your approval rating surpass that of the U.S. Congress?
Remember the old days? Democrats and republicans would fuss and fight all day long and eventually, through some give and take, come to a mutual agreement on an issue. That night they would all go out to dinner together. Not today! It seems like there is an automatic “no” if either side comes up with an idea and the process of negotiation (for the mutual benefit of the country) seems to have vanished. The latest polls I can find show the overall approval rating for congress at 24%. To be honest, that is higher than I thought it would be. I have two comments on this comments from having lived a very long life:
“If the husband and wife are exactly alike, one is unnecessary”
“Only worry about things you can change!”
Short of electing new members to Congress (which isn’t a bad idea) there is little the average American can do about changing how lawmakers think and act. Again, worry about things you can change. The intro is over, now for the point.
We need different opinions. If the owner had all the answers there wouldn’t be any need for accountants, lawyers, department managers or input from their technicians. However, no one has all the answers, so we need each other’s opinions. That is now we live, grow and get better.
Below are a few suggestions to consider when it comes to gathering ideas from others, concerning your business.
• Quarterly Company Meetings – Once a quarter have company a meeting. Ideally, make it a dinner meeting (for which the company pays). Use it for two purposes:
1. Give a State of the Company address. Let the entire team know how the company is going from a profit and loss standpoint and what plans are going to be instituted over the coming months.
2. Have an open discussion of positive ideas for changing the company, systems, etc. You might even want to give a prize, or prizes, for the best ideas.
• Suggestion Program – This can be a formalized system to receive written suggestions from ALL employees on how to improve the company. If it saves the company money, then share a portion of the savings.
• Weekly Tech Meeting – Weekly meetings keep the communication channels open with the opportunity to discuss concerns and/or ideas.
• Create a Customer Board of Directors – Your customers are your company, so it’s always good to get their input. Create a board of directors made up of residential and commercial clients. Hold quarterly, or twice a year, meetings again around a nice dinner. Ask for input on ways to improve any, and all, areas of the company.
• Create a Professional Board of Directors – Same idea as the Customer Board of Directors. The difference here is that the board is made up of professionals. Include your CPA, banker, lawyer and/or any other professionals you associate with.
• Join a Mixed Group – Without exception, this one thing can have more positive affect on your business than anything else you could be part of. The groups are usually made up of a few similar companies in non-competing geographic areas. They usually meet two- to four times a year, rotating from one contractors business to another. Part of the two-day meeting involves all team members evaluating the company they are visiting. It can be painful (like joining the service) but, like joining the service, it’s usually something you will later be very glad you did.
• Have an Outside Consultant Evaluate Your Company - It’s always good to have a fresh eyes look at your business. Outside consultants will be very frank with you and will make suggestions for change that will benefit your company.
• Listen to Your Wife – Sorry guys, but this is important. Women have a God given ability to sense trouble before men do. Your wife will “sense” when there is a problem. They may not know the exact core issue but they can sense it’s there. This is even more important if your wife works within the business. She will see, and know, what’s going on and can provide valuable input.
OK, those are ideas. Now it’s time for the really hard part. Swallow your pride and actually do something about the issues that came up. If you need to negotiate, like Congress is supposed to do, that’s fine. Remember, it’s not about you personally. It’s about making the company better for everyone’s benefit. If you will do that I’ll bet your approval rating will easily surpass Congress at 24%!