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In times like these, a little inspiration goes a long way. As Tara Zirker of Successful Ads Club recently conveyed in a podcast interview, some business owners will need to deconstruct their businesses down to the bare bones and think about a different way to serve their clients.
As the owner of a digital marketing agency, I spend a lot of time with business owners and managers. I am often inspired by the stories they tell me and the lessons they have learned along the way, many of which shape the way they think about and run their organizations.
So, I thought I would share 3 simple lessons I learned from my clients in the hopes that they may help you think introspectively about your business as well.
1. Keep a sense of perspective
A client of ours in the food services industry wanted a new website, and the site required an ordering system for the company’s many customers. The business manages food orders for employees at several large corporate facilities, and these employees need to make food selections—from over two hundred menu choices—for corporate gatherings. Prior to the website launch, the owner of the company and I often discussed a terrible experience he had with a different agency ten years prior when his company had tried to rebuild the ordering system. The new ordering system that was rolled out at that time was non-functional and after three days, he had to reinstate the old system and website. As a result, he was encountering a lot of angst on his team as we approached the new website and ordering system launch date.
Although he now operates a multi-million dollar business, he would sometimes say to me, “I started my business with a piece of paper and a pencil. I always think about how far I have come. I am sure we will get through it,” and of course, we did.
2. Know what you don’t know
Another one of our clients manages a real estate team and is a seasoned industry veteran. She is an incredibly busy person, but her approach to business is very hands-on. She questions the smallest detail if she doesn’t understand it, displays an impressive capacity to learn, and has the ability to look across all of the moving parts of her business and see the big picture. The number of real estate transactions she does far outpaces her competition even at a national level and as a result, her workflows are complex.
One day, we were talking about her social media which is managed by my agency, and I remember asking her why she was hands-off about this particular aspect of her business. She said, “Because I know what I don’t know.” In other words, for the parts of her business that are outside of her immediate expertise, she chooses to find the right people and just let them get on with it. Her discipline in allocating out the aspects of the operation where she does not have experience is a testament to the importance of delegation as managers everywhere try to scale their growing businesses.
3. Keep moving forward
Retail businesses have the unique challenge of dealing with a multitude of customers day in, day out. One of our clients has ten stores throughout the state, and the nature of his business is such that the stores have very long operating hours. On weekends, the locations are particularly busy which seems to alter the customer experience overall. As you might imagine, the business receives a lot of online reviews, often 3o per month, and occasionally gets a negative one. Although we respond to these reviews, they still remain on the Internet for potential customers to see.
Once, after a slew of disheartening, negative reviews, I remember speaking with the owner. He said, “Well, given that the negative reviews are in the context of so many positive reviews, I think if we get a negative review once in a while, we are actually doing OK.” His adaptability comes from years of experience in his industry and decades as a manager. Whenever I speak with him, his commitment to the corporate mission never waivers, and like many seasoned managers, he has this innate capacity to roll with the punches and just keep moving forward.
So, there you have three simple lessons I learned from my clients. Their resilience never fails to inspire me, and I hope it will do the same for you. We are in unchartered waters, but I look forward to seeing everyone on the other side.