The seven Rs of highly successful businesses
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl DyckDo you remember your first day of school? The thrill you felt at this new beginning.
There are two types of people in the world — those who get depressed about Labour Day, and those who welcome its “get back to work” message.
I think everyone should be as excited about Labour Day as a four-year-old about to start kindergarten.
Do you remember your first day of school? The thrill you felt at this new beginning, with your natural anxieties fighting a losing battle against the excitement of meeting new friends and the knowledge that a new world of wonders and challenges was opening up to you — plus, new clothes.
Imagine if you could recapture that excitement, that sense of destiny. Think of the beginning of September as that First Day, all over again. Sunny summer memories are consigned to the photo album (or more likely, Facebook) as people all over North America plunge back into work with new urgency and enthusiasm.
You can choose to march back to work with your head down, dreading the coming of winter. Or you can be that starry-eyed kid, embracing the new opportunities that await you. There really are exciting new people to meet and defining challenges to overcome.
Once in school, you were quickly exposed to the Three Rs: reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, the fundamentals of Western education. Business also has its Rs, but a lot more than three. But just as with the Big Three, your ability to master these Seven Rs will go a long way to determining your business’s success:
Reading Yes, the First R has graduated from school and landed an office job. Because reading seems to be on the decline in business these days. You forward an article to your sales staff and later learn nobody clicked on it; you prepare for a meeting only to find no one’s read your introductory memo. In these fast and loose days of email, texting, Twitter and YouTube, the concept of learning through reading seems on the way out.
That’s your cue to read like a sponge. Because those who read the briefing material and survey results, research their prospects, follow the business news and pay attention to the fine print are the prepared, knowledgeable competitors everyone wants on their side.
Write-off This seemingly blasé accounting term represents two important business concepts: knowing when to give up on an initiative, and capturing all the value you can from projects that go wrong. Don’t be afraid to close down a project that’s drifting off mission or off market; but make sure you get all your team members together to discuss what went wrong and how to avoid those errors next time.
Receivables No sale is final until the money’s in your account. Track your accounts receivable constantly and get on the phone yourself when clients start sliding. Revenue is great, but cash flow is the key to success.
Resourcing Whether it’s time, manpower, cash or credit, every successful entrepreneur maximizes scarce resources. You start by analyzing and prioritizing: what resources can we invest in this project? How can we leverage them to create more impact per input than any of our competitors? In kindergarten you amassed resources by grabbing your favourite blocks before anyone else could; in business, you leverage resources by making friends first and then renting, borrowing or bartering their blocks.
Returning customers In any business, your best and most valuable assets are the people who pay for what you produce. But return customers are much more than a revenue source; they’re a group to respect and revere, and a resource to be cultivated. Make sure they know how much you appreciate them; always look for ways to give them more value than they expect.
Talk to them constantly, personally or through surveys, feedback forms and Facebook forums. Understand why they buy, make sure they understand all the products and services you offer, and make it easy for them to refer you to others.
Recruiting Your business will succeed only to the extent that you have outstanding, motivated people working for you who buy into your mission and want to see your business grow. Always be on the lookout for willing, proactive talent. When you find the right person, create a job for them now rather than hope they’ll still be available when you have a specific vacancy. The best people find ways to improve your business, take initiative, and set a good example; they give you more time to do what you do best.
Rewarding Remember how you cherished your first A? Everyone longs to be recognized and rewarded for their efforts. Business owners must set up systems to ensure they consistently praise and reward employees who do outstanding work. You’ll encourage them to keep striving for excellence, while making it clear to everyone else the type of culture you want to build. Saying “thank you” is one of those things we all learn in kindergarten and tend to forget. But it’s a pillar of every winning business.