What are the three most important things to focus on in business?
For those of you in architecture or engineering firms who are quick to answer and suggest that it is "our products and our services" unfortunately the answer to the question is below.
And for those that automatically take a more controversial and perhaps admirable stance and suggest it is "our people," the answer is also below.
Yes, very important, however!
In any business whether you are running a 1,000 person professional services firm or a small well -espected retail butchers shop there are only three things that really matter.
How could it possibly be so simple that anyone can summarize it all into three key areas of focus?
After many years of working it all out, and trying to focus the time, energy, and money equation, it is clear, and understandable, as long as we consider the basic principles.
I was prompted to draft this opinion piece having come across the following quote by Seth Godin:
“People do not buy goods and services. People buy relationships, stories and magic”
I believe there are three things you really need to place absolute focus on in business and they all inter-connect.
The first and perhaps most important thing when setting up and growing a business is Relationships, which are the building block of any business. Relationships breed value in a business and enable people to make a buying decision in favor of you and your company. Without relationships we will merely be selling our product or service as another commodity for the lowest possible price.
Relationships are valuable and can be considered as money in the bank. No one ever does business of value with a person or an organization they do not like. When developing relationships we must forget "selling" and instead we must treat the customer like we would a trusted family member. Make all the decisions in favor of the customer’s health and wellbeing and this will bring customer goodwill.
Ask yourself a big question: “What can I do to help this customer or help their business?”
Only with this mind-set as a starting point will you build trust and loyalty and further enhance the potential of the relationship.
This now brings us to the second factor, which is your Reputation and Profile. You must put "time, energy and money" into building your reputation and profile. If you have strong relationships in place you will also benefit through referrals which will boost your profile, however, never underestimate the value of a direct investment in your profile, which will enhance your reputation.
Respect should be a key factor in the basis of your reputation and where possible associate yourself with things that your customers and clients respect. Never allow your reputation and profile to be diminished or lost as we all know it takes a lifetime to build a positive reputation and a moment to lose it. Protect and nurture your reputation and profile at all cost.
Finally and when you have the other two in order, and they are being nurtured to strength you must develop and express a valid opinion via a Thought Leadership plan. Just like the butcher who has a strong customer base, you must be seen to be knowledgeable and willing to share knowledge, as much as the lawyer or accountant with 1,000 employees. You must showcase your knowledge, skills and expertise and have an opinion to share. Being seen to be a leader in your selected field is far more attractive than being a follower, or a provider of lowest price goods and services.
To share another quote from my great mentor and friend Michael Kerr:
“Be seen and be heard”
So to summarize let’s remember the importance of these three inter-connected spheres of influence and the sweet spots that exist in the overlaps and intersections of each sphere.
- Reputation and Profile
- Knowledge and Thought Leadership
Like spinning plates on three poles they must all have regular and perhaps equal focus to keep spinning and balanced. If we take our eye of any, or focus too much on one or the other the harmony and balance will be lost.
About the author: Mark Kelly is and Architect and Futurist with over 30 years of experience on major projects in Europe, Australia and the Middle East. Mark was a founding Director of Woods Bagot and during a 25-year tenure as an owner the company grew from two studios in Australia to a global footprint with award-winning studios in Asia, Europe and North America. Mark is a Director, Mentor, and Business Coach who is often invited to keynote on the future of business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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