Redesign: What Will Make Your Clients Really Angry?

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Joyce was one of my “reinvent your business” clients who likes to take things to the edge, fall off the edge, and either soar or splat.

We were discussing all the different aspects of her business model that she could reinvent: her target audience, her product/service offerings, her delivery model, her marketing model, etc.

We kept focusing our thoughts on “What does the client want?”

Hey, it’s a great question — but it was limiting the discussion.

So I asked Joyce, “What could you do that would make your clients really, really angry?” She is a business consultant to medium-sized businesses, and they have certain expectations of her even if she is a solo entrepreneur.

Asking this odd question can generate great ideas.  Here are some of Joyce’s answers about what would make her clients truly angry:

  1. Double our prices
  2. Reduce our quality
  3. Take a longer time to deliver our services
  4. Take a week to answer emails and phone calls
  5. Show up at their office in a clown suit (or with clown-like answers)

By asking this question, Joyce was able to see which pieces of her business model were most important to her customers — and which were not:

  • Nowhere did she mention how she delivered her products and services. In the past, she had always delivered her services one-on-one with the clietn in the client’s office.
  • Nowhere did she mention who delivered her products and services. Joyce had always delivered her services herself. Now she realized that she could hire subcontractors to deliver some of the services, which would allow her to leverage her time and expand her business.

These were two great starting places to consider redesigning in her business model.

Bingo! Asking this outrageous question opened her eyes to places where she could transform her business.

Question For You: If you were to ask yourself this outrageous question, what answers would come up for you? Share your comments here!

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Improvement versus Innovation When Transforming Your Business

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How can you tell if you should just go after improvements, or if you should go after true innovation when transforming your business?

Susan M. Grotevant of the University of Minnesota says, “Old organizations, like old people can become set in their ways.” We tiptoe around innovation because it means getting rid of sacred cows, those projects, tasks, products and services we’ve been doing a long time but are no longer profitable, effective or efficient. Instead we settle for improvements, small tweaks that seem like we’re moving forward but really are a smokescreen to real transformation and business reinvention.

Improvement can be defined as small levels of change that have low risk, and typically start with an existing problem or process. There’s nothing wrong with gradual, consistent improvements, and the Kaizen philosophy of  change is being embraced all over the world.

But gradual improvements don’t allow for the type of creative thinking that starts with a clean slate, breakthrough thinking which helps innovate new ways of serving your customer and leapfrogging over your competitors.

Yes, innovation is riskier, but the rewards often outweigh those risks: greater revenue and profitability, thought leadership, and a bottom-up overhaul of how you serve your customers so you can serve them even better than ever.

Which strategy is better for your business reinvention? Both have their place in your strategic thinking, and your long-term goals will help you determine whether innovation or improvement is right for you. Don’t push away innovation because it feels to overwhelming or risky, though. You could be pushing away the future of your business.

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Drop That Sacred Cow

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Do you have services or products that you love, but your customers are unwilling to pay for? Are some of your offerings no longer profitable but you find yourself resistant to removing them from your website?

In business we call these “sacred cows,” the untouchables that are exempt from questioning. Often you are emotionally attached to them because you developed them yourself, spending huge amounts of time and money to bring them to the light.

Sacred cows don’t only include unprofitable or unwanted products and services. Sometimes you have a vendor or contractor who needs to be released because their quality has slipped.  Sometimes you need to look at tasks and processes that are ineffective time-wasters.

Don’t hold on to sacred cows: they’ll suck your business dry. During your business reinvention, look at all aspects of your business and cut things that no longer serve your customers or the goals of your business.

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Compass Round-Up

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It’s been four days since we all left the beautiful Compass Workshop room and came back to our individual offices.

And it’s taken me four days to get my head and heart around what really happened at the Compass Workshop, to process the entire weekend and find my own gems.

After spending Friday through Sunday with a group of self-employed small business owners, I’m more convinced than ever of a few truths:

  1. It’s hugely valuable to take time away from your home and office to deeply focus on your business. Our lives are so busy that we often get only fragments of time to think big thoughts about our businesses. You have got to carve out an entire day or an entire weekend so you can really focus.
  2. Amazing things can happen when you surround yourself with a group of like-minded self-employed people who brainstorm with you, help you solve problems and generate new ideas. This support is immeasurable and the results are astounding. When ideas and problems are circling, circling, circling inside your head – STOP trying to do it alone. The very act of describing your problem or verbalizing your dream to other people helps to create significant clarity. The masterminding and brainstorming springboard ideas one on top of another, giving you two things: choices and hope.
  3. It’s necessary to have a tool that allows you to get everything out of your head and onto paper. I created the Compass Blueprint as such a focusing tool and all the participants remarked how seeing problems, solutions, ideas and areas for exploration right in front of their eyes was a opportunity for immense clarity. I don’t care if you use mind maps, lists, journals, vision boards, or whatever works for you. Do what you must to get it out of your head and on to paper.
  4. Environment matters. At the Compass Workshop we were surrounded by a stunningly beautiful room with wooden floors and ceiling, huge windows and natural daylight. We were also surrounded by the loving staff at Pendle Hill, a peaceful 24-acre Quaker center for contemplation. At the beginning of the Compass Workshop, Pendle Hill staff introduced us to the facility and said, “We know you are here to do important and meaningful work. Let us take care of you this weekend. Let us take care of the food and the rooms. Let us hold you in the light, so you can do what you came to do.” Let’s face it: this workshop would have never been the same if it had been held at a Hilton or a Sheraton hotel. Choose your environments wisely, both your retreat environments and your everyday office environment.
  5. People are everything. We had an extraordinary group of self-employed small business owners at the Compass Workshop this past weekend. Their willingness to explore, to be vulnerable, and to share deeply with each other was awe-inspiring to witness.
  6. And finally, patience and preparation pay off. I’ve been working on the design for the Compass Workshop for nearly a year, reading 45 books, hundreds of articles and ebooks, and watching videos. Many a time, in my impatience, I wanted to “just get it finished.” But I trusted my mind and my intuition to know when the class design was truly complete. When it came to delivering the Compass content this weekend, it was effortless. Surprisingly, I wasn’t exhausted – even teaching for two days straight, and sitting around the fireplace each night for several more hours talking about business and life. Looking back, the only reason I can see for why I wasn’t utterly exhausted was because I felt completely prepared and I knew deep inside myself that I had created a great program. Don’t rush yourself in order to “get it done.” Trust your inner compass to tell you when you’re truly finished with a plan or a project.

So, that’s my experience of the Compass Workshop as the teacher and creator of it. Throughout the weekend, participants mirrored these observations about community, environment, brainstorming, and the need to get away from everyday life so we can think and dream.

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Category: Rethinking Your Business

Learning to Tolerate the Ambiguity

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When rethinking your business, you’re sometimes in a state of “not knowingness.” Questions swirl in your head:

  • What do I want to become?
  • What’s next for my business?
  • What do my customers want?
  • What’s the right path to take to reach my goals?

NOT having answers to these questions can make you feel restless, uncertain, and even fearful. But this state of not-knowingness is an important part of the cycle of business transformation, reinvention, and growth. Instead of jumping in to choose an answer — any answer — try finding comfort in this ambiguity.

Here’s why…

Sitting in the mystery of not-knowingness is a state of grace, a chance to ask all the important questions, a chance to reexamine your values and your personal goals as they relate to your business.

It also allows all sorts of creative ideas to percolate to the surface. If you jump into creating a definitive plan because you can’t stand to be in the not-knowingness, you’ll miss the opportunity for incredible options to come to your awareness.

People who can tolerate uncertainty can also tolerate risk better. Being calm and staying centered when you don’t know the answers to the big questions helps you develop other important skills, like dealing with chaos and conflict.

Here’s the trick…

The trick is deciphering whether you’re staying in not-knowingness because you haven’t explored all the creative opportunities yet, or whether you’re staying in not-knowingness because it means you don’t have to make a decision. You stay in not-knowingness because it’s safe there and you get stuck there for a long, long time.

If you can never come up with answers to the big questions or you resist making a decision on those answers, you’re stuck. And the best way I know to get unstuck is a two-step process:

  1. Deciding to decide – make a commitment that you’re going to do serious work on the not-knowingness and that you will choose from among the options you come up with.
  2. Get together with trusted friends and colleagues, tell them the big questions for which you don’t yet have an answer, and brainstorm together some possible ideas.

Learning to be okay with ambiguity and not-knowingness can be a great springboard for the future of your business. This moment holds immense possibility for you to explore. But if you’re resisting the exploration or the making of decisions and taking action, get some help and support in the process.

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