We have already delved into the first two pillars of building a legacy business: Be Yourself - and Be The Best. My focus in this post is on the third : “deliver, deliver, deliver”.
In my opinion and my judgment, these are the three things that really matter, and they matter regardless of whether you are a woman or a man. They encompass the mindset, the attitude, the body of work, the way you set your business up, your approach to business. These are the three success factors that - once you have these down - you'll never look back.
I am hoping that you have already learned some things that you can implement in your business almost immediately. In your next interaction with anybody from a corporation, these things should come across and the person just senses and feels in you that you are the person with whom they need to do business.
Let me start by sharing a short story. We won't be long on this topic, as you should already know the point of the story.
A mechanical engineer, having learned a lot of the basic engineering principles and finished college, gets his first major project to build a bridge. It isn't a big, big bridge. It may have been a 10th of a mile -- just crossing over a local stream. He isn't trying to cross the Mississippi River or the Seine in Germany or any other major river that's a quarter mile or half a mile across. He performs all of the planning and then takes it in for a supervisor to review. The supervisor looks at it and goes, “well, you know, I see you put a lot of work into this. I can see a lot of the detail. I see how you pulled the project plans together. There is a lot of work here, but I see one problem”. The engineer asks, “what, what, problem? What do you see?” The supervisor then just asks him, “okay, would you drive on this bridge?” And the engineer says, “what do you mean would I drive on this bridge? What are you seeing”? The supervisor looks at him and says, “your bridge is a foot too short”.
The engineer thinks, “I did a great job. How can that be?” He tells the supervisor, “Well, okay, then I'll just go back and figure out what it takes to put an extra foot in there and we'll just go from there. The supervisor looks at it and goes, “you know, when I hired you for this project, I hired you because you had a great broad background and you had all the skills and education and everything necessary to do the job, but you're proposing to me a bridge that's a foot to short and I'm not driving on a bridge that's a foot to short. I'm not going to recommend anybody take that road. I'm not going to have my customers go down that road. I am not going to trust my vehicle on a bridge that's a foot to short.”
This equates to approaching a corporate buyer with the best of intentions, trying to land a corporate contract, only to realize that you're presenting a bridge that's a foot too short. The question then becomes, how do you make sure you don't find yourself in that situation? What do you need to do? What precisely needs to happen so that you don't find yourself building bridges that are consistently a foot short? In other words, how do you set your business up so that you deliver, deliver, deliver? How do you ensure that, not only is your bridge exactly the right length, it's going to last the longest of time; and it's going to be the best bridge ever built by anybody building bridges. This comes from your body of work. The simplest thing I can share with you is make sure that you (and you've heard this often) under-promise and over-deliver. Make sure you detail out the mandatory customer’s requirements.
Seek every opportunity to go to the customer and verify. Get their validation and support and buy-in at every single step of the process. Be transparent with them about what it's going to take to do the job, how long it's going to take to do it, and whom you're going to use to do it. Corporate clients don't like surprises. If you're going to surprise them, it had better be a good surprise, and even then sometimes that can backfire on you -- so you have to be careful about good surprises. Do not confuse surprises. They are never going to be disappointed in over-delivering results, but they can be disappointed with surprises. Now you have their buy-in, you have their full support and you're going along, you're keeping them up to date as you go along - letting them know that everything is proceeding properly and without exception. If there are any adjustments you need to make in the process, you need to make those so that you can incorporate any changes that they want to bring about. When the project is completed - could be an hour-long project, a day-long, week-long, month-long, year-long, even 10-years-long, but you want to keep your customer apprised.
Here is the significance of all of this. Once you get that completed, you want to be able to get your customer to complete a customer satisfaction survey -- not overly complicated, not overly involved, just something where they can give you some feedback on what it was like to work with you and the significance, the impact of your work. What did it mean to their company? What were the savings that they were able to see? What increase in productivity did they observe? How much time did it save them? What did it do to their investment: did they not have to hire as many people or did they not have to fire somebody, or did they not have to spend budget dollars in another area?
All of these questions are great things that show the impact of what you did, or more precisely, how you were able to deliver and just do that at every single turn. When you have a good customer interaction, get the feedback. When you have a bad customer interaction, it is even more important that you get that feedback. In good ones you definitely want that feedback; you want it in their words; and you want to get their permission to share it with others.
Then, over time, once people have seen that you have the ability to deliver; that you can generate results; and that you consistently add value, you will have a body of work with a proven track record and it will be difficult for them to question if you can deliver. The only question you will have to ask at that point is can you deliver in their environment, and that's where your skill set of knowing their processes and procedures and what goes on in their environment comes into play. If you understand how they go to market; if you understand what is significant about what differentiates them from their competitors; and you are able to demonstrate how what you do will operate in their world and their environment, then you've addressed the issue of will it work for them - which is the heart of deliver, deliver, deliver. You have a proven track record; you have the confidence of having done it for other clients and you have proven you are able to effectively demonstrate that you know how to adapt your solution to that particular customer's environment.
So that you're not building bridges that are a foot too short, we'll just circle back quickly. There's a perception that it is different for women in the boardroom than it is for men and that's probably the reality for a whole host of people, but if you put the gender issue aside and you focus on what I believe to be the three major success ingredients - be the best, be yourself and deliver - then your company is going to be highly successful and you will never look back.
We have some other topics that we will cover in these three areas because there is quite a bit of a meat on these bones in terms of specific tactics and strategies that you can use to support these three concepts. I wanted to get you up to speed on the three concepts themselves because just having the fundamental understanding of these three things, these three pillars, these three anchors you can do everything else as a derivative or everything else as a subset of all of this. What did we do to be ourselves? Are we doing what we do? Are we staying in our lane? What are we doing to be the best in class - to be recognized as one of the industry leaders in what we are doing?
What are we doing to make sure that when our customers view us, we look like we're the best possible solution they can have. How are we creating value at every single turn year over year? Just because we did well last year does not mean what we did last year is going to work this year, so what are we doing to make sure that we are creating the value that our customers need, expect and demand?
To bring this home -- results matter. Results versus effort. What is the difference? Results mean you delivered, so let's make sure you don't build a bridge that's a foot too short. Let’s make sure that you are constantly bringing in results and your customers know that your company delivers, delivers, delivers.
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