“There is nothing more powerful than idea whose time has come.” I’d like to take credit for this piece of brilliance but regrettably the great Victor Hugo beat me to it. Damn you and praise you, Hugo!
This astute observation of the powerful forces of nature by Hugo hit me after an odd weekend, which was stretched between a Fawlty Towers experience at a very expensive resort in the highlands of New South Wales and a speech I was preparing on Sunday for a speech to be delivered on Monday for the Australian Liquor Stores Association.
The topic of my speech was “Rethink your opportunity in the new economy” and you’d think I was going to be arguing strongly that attendees need to embrace social media to not only cosy up to their existing customers but also use to attract new ones.
And of course Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a great website, etc. can also be used effectively to market your business and I strongly recommend these new age or new economy strategic tools for an innovative, growth-oriented business, but wait, there’s more!
After decades of making speeches to over hundreds of thousands of small business owners, I’ve decided to work on the critical issue that differentiates good from great business achievers.
Usually when I speak at a conference, the vast majority of attendees are good performers. That’s why they’re at the event in the first place. However, if they’re aspirational, deep down they know they aren’t great at business, though most of them would love to be great.
The same applies to anyone reading this very article, whether they want to be the best employee in a medium-sized or big business, in a public service department or in an academic institution. Some people are OK with just being good but there are others who want to be great.
Last week I spoke to about 1000 members of a well-known supermarket business and I invited them to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if they wanted to receive some of the best business-building stories I have ever written. Some 75 out of the 1000 emailed me or 7.5%, which tells you about what percentage of people are in the zone to win.
To be fair, a lot of these people were married couples, so the percentage might have been 75 out of 500 potential emailers, so we’ll call it 15%. Even so, as you can see, those who strive for greatness and who will leave no stone unturned to get there, are on the small side.
Two of my favourite quotes from high achievers underline what has to happen to take on your biggest threat to your success — you!
Tennis great Chris Evert, who had a 90% success rate in professional tennis, once said: “Deep down I wanted to win so badly, I could actually will it to happen. I think most of my career was based on desire.”
And then there was the world’s greatest king of desire, Mohammad Ali, who gave us: “It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”
Winners have the attitude right — they really want to win. Really, they really have to win. That’s the desire bit but then they have to keep themselves motivated. Ali kept telling people: “I am the greatest!” He said this when he wasn’t but he was on the road to making it happen. And it was his deep conviction that helped make him get there.
Once you have the desire and the daily motivation, you then have to get your product or service right.
Enter Steve Jobs, who was fanatically opposed to second-rateness and had a passionate commitment to what customers wanted. Out of that came the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, etc.
He knew us so well and delivered what we wanted that Apple, along with products such as the VW Beetle, were hailed as love brands.
The best question you can ever ask of yourself as a business or as an employee praying for promotion or success is: “why should I buy from you?” What is so special about you and what you sell?
If the answer is: “I know you. I know what you want and I will move heaven and hell to make sure you get it,” then you are on the road to go from good to great and from an OK brand to a love brand.
To achieve this, you have to be committed like Chris Evert, consistently insistent as Ali and never willing to accept anything that is second rate when it comes to you or your business.
This is a big commitment to be that sort of person but if you want to grow, be better and be more successful, then you need to be an outlier. You can’t be like everyone else and think your results are going to be exceptional.
Now let me take you to my visit to a resort that had shades of Fawlty Towers. The setting was perfect but around 5pm the huge winds on Saturday beat a big tree and we endured a blackout.
OK, that can happen. But being an expensive resort, they certainly would have a back up power generator, wouldn’t they? Well, nope.
And so as it got colder and blacker, there was no contact from the hotel reception as the phones were electric. However, after some time, someone from the hotel was handing out tiny tealight candles, if you just happened to be wandering the dark hallways looking for info and/or help.
One senior looking employee was asked by a guest what was happening and how long did she expect this to go on for? Her answer was straight out of the Basil Fawlty playbook: “I don’t know. How long is a piece of string? And leave me alone I have work to do!” She didn’t actually say this, precisely, but that’s how she left me feeling after she dismissed me.
No one came to rooms to say “sorry and why don’t you help yourself to the mini-bar, because we know you have paid a lot to be here and this experience has not been great but we do care about you.”
I guess they never expected someone like me to be in the resort but they have ignored that over 50 rooms of guests could be bagging the management’s efforts wherever they go over the next few days or whenever the name of the place is brought up in pleasant company.
Happily, after three or four hours, the power came back on but the Fawlty Towers story was not over.
There were lots of annoying things that showed someone was clearly not in control. For example, when we tried to leave at 6.30am, there was no-one on reception, so we rang through to a night manager, who explained, in a tired voice, that someone starts work on the desk at 7am. My wife asked if she could be called before the bill was debited to our bank account and when she asked if he could take down her number, his Basil-ness was expressed this way: “Oh alright.” Finding a pen was clearly a threat to his chance to go back to sleep.
This low story from the Highlands was ultimately about leadership failure. The leaders at the resort don’t really want to win, to create a love brand, to give customers great service and to dare to be great.
So, what’s the end result? A story like this!
If you want to win in business, be the best at customer service and dare to be great, then email me at email@example.com and simply put this in the subject heading: Success.
I’ll make sure you’re put into our Grow Your Business club that I’m now creating. I hope I see you there. This club is a great idea whose time has come.
If you liked this article you'll love the Switzer Report, our newsletter and website for trustees of self-managed super funds. Click here for a FREE trial and to hear more of Peter’s expert commentary and advice.