Recently, I heard a friend’s business wasn’t too busy and very different alternative work was being urgently sought. It was a surprise as their services are in demand, and previously workloads were said to be “too busy and demanding”. I started to consider what may have caused this turn-of-events. Especially, given how my own business has grown in the past two years. It has not only bounced back from the effects of the pandemic but is breaking records too. I wondered what was driving the contrasting experiences.
To start, develop, grow, and sustain a business needs much investment. Not always financial, but certainly the investment of time, energy, vision, and commitment. Business leadership also needs us to adapt to internal, external, and local and global change. That isn’t news. Everything in this world is linked, even more than ever it was. Information and economic conditions travel at the speed of light right across the world. Business leaders must be permanently on the look-out, monitoring the external environment, and anticipating and second-guessing what could or should happen next. We need to do this as accurately as possible, whilst acknowledging our ‘hit-rate’ may be frequent than we might want it to be. All our efforts should be preparing ourselves, our colleagues, and our services to be ready to spring into action when such change occurs – or not.
Some of the factors I believe have helped us to grow recently have been our adapting to new ways of working, online working being one of them (we weren’t using online communications at all before). That is unremarkable and is no different to very many businesses out there. Not all businesses can deliver their services online, and so there have been other challenges – but they can certainly connect and communicate using this tech. For us, we are connecting more regularly with our customers, offering open dialogue and discussion, and building a great deal of friendship and community beyond geographical and transport boundaries. Being online has enabled us to offer lots of opportunities for our market to get involved with discussion about our work – at absolutely no cost to the customer, and minimal outlay for us. In return, that has manifested reciprocity in spade fulls in the form of loyalty, direct orders, and mutual support and respect. It is the connection with customers; however it is done, that is the x factor.
Running a business and managing the customer base and relations with it, is a bit like operating a car. The heartbeat of the business is the fuel tank/electric battery. And therefore, the levels of ‘fuel’ or energy within it should be constantly observed. Regular glances down to the fuel gauge when travelling along the road and whilst going about day-to-day activities. A business’ energy reserves should never fall below being half-full, at which point a top-up is recommended. It is time to pull into the service station, to plug-in with previous, recent and current customers. Easier said than done I agree, but it is no good being one of those business leaders or drivers always running on empty, with the red-light flickering on the dashboard. Customers need regular contact, and a reactive response when they need and want you. This is where the sensible energy is applied. Attracting new customers is always needed, but often that is where people focus their attention, frequently to the detriment of existing ones. To not apply energy in the right places at the right time is a risky business indeed. Eventually the business (or car) will run out of energy, it will crawl to a halt on the hard shoulder, and you will be left wondering what to do next.