Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Little Things Lead to Big Things!

When I was in printing, we did our best to ensure our products were done right, done beautifully and delivered on time.  Yet some customers were still unhappy with us.  What gives we wondered.  After all, we delivered what we promised. 

That's when we learned an important business lesson, among many others. 

Over 90% of our clients were women in their 20's to 40's.  Many were busy, going to school at night, raising families, juggling many things.  And many wore dresses and shoes with high heels.  As this became clearer, our thinking began to shift and we started to see our business in a new light, came to realize what business we were really in.  It wasn't just about delivering the products but also how we delivered what we did.  In other words, product delivery was only part of the overall total experience that was important to the customers.

As one example, in-terms of delivering our products, we would be packing them in big boxes, making them very happy to lift and move around.  They were heavy for men too, but they didn't say anything.  We would also label the boxes on the side.  This made it difficult for women, particularly those who wore tight skirts to bend and read the label.

Once we realized who are real clients were and the challenges they face, we started to shift how we looked at our business. Connected to the example I just shared, we started to use smaller boxes, ensured our drivers placed the boxes at client sites where the customers wanted them placed, and began to label the boxes on the side and on the top.

Result being through many such small steps, our client became happier with our service, thus helping us stand apart from other providers.  While we weren't always perfect and we made our share of mistakes, each and every day we strove to do better then we did yesterday. Overtime, small on-going improvements added up to big impacts.  Even in the competitive landscape, we became known for service and as a result, our clients stayed with us for long periods of time, purchased more and more, paid higher prices and provided numerous referrals.
The foundation for this shift though had to first take place in our minds.  We began to ask our clients what's important to them, beyond just getting products done right and on time.  We started to look at our business through their eyes, finding out what they wanted and what were those little things that frustrated them. In fact, I would turn to spending more and more of my time with clients, then internally.  I wanted my fingers on the pulse at all time, getting first hand knowledge.

We also shifted our thinking realizing that we really weren't in the business of printing.  While that's what we produced, we saw our business more as reducing stress, reducing anxiety, making life easier for our busy clients.  Once we saw our business through this new lens, what our business was really about, we continued to look at each and every aspect of our business, all with the goal of making our clients life easy and stress free as possible.  Rest, as they say was history. 

So, what business are you really in?  What do your customers want?  What are those little things that you can do and do more of that can lead to big impacts for you and your customers?  If you're unsure, I encourage you to talk to your clients.  Ask them, and they'll happily tell you.  Then apply what they tell you and watch your business and your profits grow. It's that simple.

After all, success is the sum of small efforts, done over and over on a consistent basis and in the process big things emerge from those little things.  

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