Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Do You Really Want To Be The Best In The World?

Business tips and helpDuring the past 20 years I have done hundreds of strategic planning retreats and often times when crafting a vision statement my clients will decide that they should set their BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) to become number one in the world in their field. This sounds really nice, and for a very few organizations it is attainable, but most organizations will never, ever be number one in the world at what they do. And to me, that is absolutely fine.

Yes, you just heard a guy who teaches excellence for living say that it is perfectly acceptable to be slightly above average. The hard truth is, it is insanely difficult to become the world leader at just about anything. It takes massive amounts of work, huge sacrifice, incredible focus and a truckload of grit and persistence. Just take a look at anyone who has achieved the top slot in the world at what they do and you will see someone who has dedicated their entire life to the attainment of true excellence in their field.

A great example that has been used a lot lately is the United States Navy SEALs. I have seen countless articles in recent months about SEAL discipline, SEAL leadership, SEAL dedication and all of the other factors it takes to be an elite Special Operations soldier. Here’s the deal, the reason they call these people “elite” is because very, very, very few people are willing to pay the price necessary to become a Navy SEAL… and the same goes for an organization that wants to become, as one of my clients said in their vision statement, “The intergalactic expert on_______.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I think excellence is, well, excellent. I think that every organization should strive to be the very best they can be. But I also think running an above average business, that is highly profitable, takes great care of their employees, delivers real value to their customers and contributes to their community – is just as excellent.

So don’t stress so much. You don’t have to be the biggest or best in the world, you just need to run a good, solid and sustainably successful business. That is a major accomplishment in and of itself, so be very proud of it.

What are your thoughts?

.

Business Success Made Simple

8D9xPlllM2WzeTfM4McZ-Tl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBU8NzMXDbey6A_oozMjJETcFor nearly a decade I’ve been jumping up and down at almost every seminar I teach shouting, “Whoever owns the voice of the customer – owns the marketplace.” Yet I am still absolutely flabbergasted by how few companies truly do even an average job of listening to the people who pay all the bills – their customers. Because I’ve built my entire career around making complex things simple, here are four very simple questions to ask as many of your customers as possible:

 

  1. What are the top THREE reasons you do business with our company?

If you ask lots and lots of your customers this question, and a clear pattern emerges, they have just told you your value proposition and given you incredible insight into how to build your brand. I will quickly use myself as an example; I asked several dozen of my top clients around the world specifically why they hired me and the answer came back exceedingly clear,

 “John, we don’t know any other speaker who reads and studies as much as you do, you been reading more than 100 business books a year for 20 years, teaching for some of the top companies and business schools in the world and you are a top 100 business thought leader  – you are a complete freak for learning about business. You’ve also been the owner or CEO of 10 companies, and was the CEO of a Rockefeller foundation at the age of 26, so this is not just about theory – you actually know what it’s like when you’re having a hard time making payroll. Lastly, is easy to see that you are deeply interested in and knowledgeable about business, every time you present you are focused and passionate about what you’re teaching– and because of those three things we always get a high ROI when we engage you.”

So my brand isResearch + Real-Life + Passion = ROI

I challenge you to do the same thing with your customers, ask a large number of your best customers specifically why they chose to do business with you and they will give you information that will be invaluable in your marketing and branding going forward.

 

  1. What do we do that frustrates you? What would you like us to start doing, stop doing or do differently in order to make it easier to do business with us?

Again, if you ask a significant number of your top clients this question there will likely be a clear pattern and then it’s very simple: immediately change the stuff they want you to change if at all possible. Be warned, if you ask this question and do not heed their advice it would be worse than never asking the question at all, so you have to be prepared to make the changes they suggest.

 

  1. What would we need to do to earn more/all of your business?

When you get quality feedback on this question you have essentially been given your growth strategy directly from your customers. It has been my experience in working with dozens of clients on this exercise that your top customers will give you the same three or four answers, which should then be turned into key strategic objectives. I cannot possibly think of a better way to grow your business then ask the people who are already spending money with you specifically what you would need to do to get them to give you more money. Yes, it is just that simple.

 

  1. What would we do that would cause you to fire us immediately?

Typically you get several very clear and straightforward answers here around breach of confidentiality, unprofessional behavior, substandard work, missed deadlines, scope creep and things of that nature. Once you collect these answers make a list of the pattern and then make sure that everyone in your business understands that they must never do any of these things!

 

You can change the questions around a little in order to match your industry and your customers, but at the end of the day if you’ll just pick up the phone and call a handful of your best customers and ask them questions like the ones above, you will be overwhelmed by the quality and value of the answers you get and how significantly this information can impact your business. I know this suggestion is so obvious and simple as to almost be offensive, but I can also tell you that less than 10% of businesses ever do this exercise. So get on the phone or send out a survey and let me know how things turn out for you – I very much look forward to your feedback!

Five Fundamentals of Business Success

I just taught a series of business success seminars to about 300 entrepreneurs in Amsterdam and wanted to send a super special “Thank You” video to my hosts and the attendees on what I felt were a few of the MOST important things to focus on in order to run a highly successful organization. Once I finished the video I thought the information was so powerful that I decided to post it here on my blog for all of my followers to benefit from. I truly hope you find this video of great value and I challenge you to take at least one or two key ideas and begin implementing them right away.

I hope you will share this video with anyone you feel would find value in the ideas I shared — thanks, John


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

The Most Important Thing In Business

shutterstock_46846525

I was talking to a good friend of mine, Bob Fetterman, who is the manager of the performing arts center at our local college, when he turned me and said, “In one word, what is the most important thing in business?”

I thought about it for just a few seconds and then confidently answer, “Talent.” Bob looked back at me and said, “It’s the same in the theater.”

The truth of the matter is it’s the same in just about every organization. If you’ve done a truly good job of finding highly talented people you have built the foundation for a sustainably successful organization. Because no matter what’s wrong in your business; if you have great people they can figure out a way to fix it. On the other side of the coin, no matter what’s wrong in your business, if you have bad people they will make it worse.

In the class I teach on strategy at Wharton I tell my students that we are entering an era where there is very little opportunity to create sustainable competitive advantage. Your competitor can copy your products, they can put a location right across the street, they can spend ten times what you do on marketing, they can drop their price, they can offer free shipping, they can do lots of different things to try to win in the marketplace, but if you have superior talent, your people will figure out how to win against the competition. To me, two of the only sustainable competitive advantages left to most businesses are:

The quality of the people that you can get, grow and keep on your team

 

The relationships they create with your customers

 

Which means that talent acquisition, talent development and talent retention should be a major strategic imperative in your business. In addition, you will need to create a winning culture of highly engaged, satisfied and loyal employees who are fanatical about delivering only the highest quality products and services and having only superior customer relationships and will tolerate nothing less.

Years ago I had lunch with a gentleman who built his business from one acre on the edge of a dairy farm, to a multibillion-dollar enterprise and I asked him what he felt the most important thing in running a successful business, he didn’t hesitate, he looked at me and said, “John, you can kid yourself about a lot of things in business but at the end of the day it’s always people, people, people.”

 

If you have 5 seconds I would deeply appreciate your vote as a top small business influencer…


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

How to Attract Top Talent to Your Company

 

It has long been one of my core themes:

The success of your business is directly tied to the quality of the talent you can get, grow and keep on your team.

Think about this carefully, it’s a simple but extremely important business idea. If you agree with me, then you should be approaching talent acquisition, talent developemtn and talent retention as a key strategic objective in your company. Here is a video that outlines the six most important things that top talent looks for in the company where they work. I hope you find this helpful and that you share with your network – thanks so much – John


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

Some Ideas on Creativity and Failure

Last week I got an e-mail from one of my most treasured friends and professional colleagues, Hirofumi Leung – or as everybody calls him: Hiro.  I met Hiro years ago when he was just graduating college and told me he was about to start a sushi restaurant in the most expensive building in our town.  I was extremely skeptical that this “kid” would ever follow through on his wild scheme, but am happy to report that nearly 10 years later his restaurant: “Dragonfly Sushi & Sake Company” has won numerous awards and he has become one of the most respected restaurateurs in this area of Florida.  I have enjoyed a long relationship as a mentor and friend to Hiro and he often asks me for input, suggestions and ideas.  Here is the e-mail that I received from him asking for some help in preparing for an upcoming talk he had been asked to give on creativity in entrepreneurship... Continue reading “Some Ideas on Creativity and Failure” »