3 Simple Steps to a Prosperous Business

I read a great post by Steve Woodruff about businesses that get lost in the crowd.  It’s tongue-in-cheek, funny and sadly accurate. Here is my response:

Steve, great points. I think you nailed it. But you and I both know that for the myriads of businesses that fall underneath this sad banner that you have so simply illustrated, it’s not that simple.  Why?

Why is it that even though we know we should practice “opposite day” to everything you’ve mentioned, we still fall short?  What’s missing?  What’s the secret sauce?  What do I need to know?  Tell me! Ahhhhh! (read screaming, fingers in hair and running away while wiggling the elbows).

Too many businesses set “money” as their number one goal, and since there are so many ways to make money, it’s not enough to provide clear direction for management, decision-making and especially branding.  They need to rethink the core of the organization.  For the majority of small businesses in the United States, that means the core character or identity of the individual business owner.  For large firms, it’s the “Holy We” management team that serves as the core group of the organization.

Organizations that have lost sight of “who they are” cannot articulate their unique contribution to the world, let alone the target market.  Branding becomes a logo, sales fall into the price/promotion cycle, any business is good business and before they know it, they are commoditized and done.  In standing for everything, they have stood for nothing and become what they stood for.

The fact is: Many organizations fail. Most businesses that start in the U.S. fail. Many other types of organizations eventually fall out of favor with their members and are thus disbanded.  How do we find and keep our identity while prospering as a business or other organization?  Here are three thoughts:

1. Don’t let your product or service become your purpose. All great organizations have a purpose (and making money isn’t it).  Since a brand is a reflection of who you are and the relationships you have with stakeholders, GET CLEAR ON WHO YOU ARE and then figure out the products and services necessary to sustain it.  Don’t let the products define the organization.

2. Make everyone a brand manager.  That “who you are” determines the direction of your organization’s brand. Hiring people who “don’t get what you’re about” only sets you up to have your products, and your brand, prostituted at the moment someone starts looking out for numero uno (themselves). Help people feel responsible for the brand and they will defend it from desperate decisions.

3. Don’t sell anything.  A “Man (person) convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”.  Chasing the ambulance and pushing product will get some sales, but it’s not going to build long-term, sustainable revenue generation.  In the information-rich and advocacy-intensive social networks that permeate today’s purchasing processes, the best thing you can do is build strong relationships. 

Do these three things and the relationships you build will reflect the brand you want and the products will sell themselves.

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