One of the greatest risks any business faces is complacency. It's such an easy trap to fall into, especially when business is not overly challenging. But the reality is that our business could be thrown into chaos in an instant with the loss of a major client. And there are many reasons why we might lose that big client, and complacency is probably at the top of the list.
Have you ever been in the situation where you have lost a client because they had outgrown either your capacity or your capability? It's not a nice feeling and it's normally veiled in a range of other reasons for them choosing to use another supplier, but if you're honest, they have simply outgrown you and moved on.
Likewise, have you had a supplier that you've outgrown? You've used them for some time, but they aren't really coming to you with new ideas, or pushing you to do what you do better? We get into a false sense of comfort using them but at what cost? Then when we do change, we realize how much more we could have been doing for our clients all this time. And that's a concern.
So how do we need to grow? I remember having a situation a few years back where I had a client growing at an incredible rate - and I mean incredible. I went from me looking after them to having four full-time staff on their project within a year. I didn't want to grow in size too much but I also didn't want to lose this account.
Of course, there were plenty of other business trying to steal the work as well, so keeping the account became a challenge. We had a great relationship, but I could tell intuitively that if we didn't stay at the top of our game, delivering beyond their expectations, staying on top of technology and communication, they would drop us in a heartbeat.
This meant my role became about growing in ways that mattered to the client just as much (if not more) than delivering the work. How did this look?
I invested heavily in the newest technology, I paid people to teach us how to use it and we were always way ahead of our big client in terms of tech.
I invested in training for my team and myself - this was both skill development and personal development. Once again, we were always cutting edge at what we did as a result of this and we were constantly able to bring what we learned to the table with our big client, which impressed them considerably.
I invested in the relationship. I made a point of being involved in planning meetings, either as a facilitator at no cost for the client or as a supplier. I asked questions regarding budgets 12 months in advance and I became a valued part of the team on various levels.
All of the above helped my business retain this client for a long time and it was a very lucrative account, but it also retrained me. All of this investment didn't just work with that one client, it worked with all of my clients and it has worked ever since, because I kept doing it.
It made me better and it made my business better.
I wrote earlier danger of complacency, getting caught up in our comfort zone and not growing, but are we really doing anything about it? It's easy to talk about it, but what is your actual plan to avoid this happening? How much will you invest in yourself to avoid it?
If you're not growing you're dying is a warning for all business owners, and remember, it's not just about growing revenue, it's about growing in every other way.
The key to long-term survival in business is the term CANI, constant and never-ending improvement. It's not a new concept but it's a very powerful one.