Last week in an all-hands meeting, Jeff Bezos predicted that Amazon will go bankrupt and fail, someday. "Amazon is not too big to fail," he said. "In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years."
No company is immune to failure, but there are things every entrepreneur needs to do to prevent it from happening to them prematurely, if at all.
"If we start to focus on ourselves, instead of focusing on our customers, that will be the beginning of the end," Bezos said. "We have to try and delay that day for as long as possible."
Giving your customers the best possible experience is the only way to achieve and maintain success. There are many actions--many tools--that every small business owner can leverage to achieve their goals. Here are a few things you can do in the upcoming year to get and keep your business on track.
Evolve your tech.
I visited a local coffee house establishment yesterday and was asked if I wanted a loyalty punch card. My response? "What? You don't have an app for that?" Ok, in all fairness a small retailer is not likely to afford a custom app. However, there are point of sale loyalty programs out there that are very affordable. Square's POS loyalty program, for instance, tops out at only 50-dollars per month.
Tech is costly, but there are some basic things you cannot afford to neglect:
- Keep the look and feel of your website current. Fix errors immediately; your website is what forms first impressions.
- Graduate from Excel forms to an accounting software to generate invoices and create reports.
- Take advantage of the efficiencies offered by social media scheduling tools and other streamlining software and apps available to you.
- Ask your web designer if there are any new plugins to make your WordPress site more user-friendly, attractive, and efficient.
Create emotional rewards for your consumers.
Forget about what your customer needs and figure out what they want. As much as we'd like to think we make decisions based in logic, our feelings and instinct play a much larger role. Your marketing copy should emphasize your credibility and trustworthiness. Offer social proof to tap into your prospect's FOMO and their sense of belonging to a larger purpose. Nike, Apple, and Coke all do this well. Offer visual content to make your followers feel more than they think. Feelings motivate, whether they are sad, happy, angry, or excited. You may sell a product but remember that consumers don't buy things. We buy feelings.
Don't coast, innovate.
Before the iPod there were a good number of media players that delivered music to consumers. It would have been easy for Apple to follow suit and release the iPod to compete. But by getting into the heads and hearts of consumers, Steve Jobs assessed that the joy is in the music, more so than the device. Eight months prior to launching the iPod Jobs launched iTunes, making digital music easily and affordably accessible to the consumer. Brilliant.
Sometimes we're so focused on the obvious that we forget about innovation. I often recommend that business owners have a semi-annual offsite meeting with employees, their coach, and/or other advisors to brainstorm new, fresh ideas. Remember, in brainstorming no idea is lame so lay it all out there.
Focus on employee happiness and company culture.
There are countless obvious reasons to keep your employees engaged and happy. One of them is that your customers bank on it. Edelman's 2018 Trust Barometer report revealed that the single most important characteristic of building consumer trust was treating employees well.
Among other things, support on-job success for your employees by allowing autonomy where reasonable and giving them the tools and training to succeed. Position your marketing to emphasize your loyalty to employees, and theirs to your company.
Know your numbers.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately, it's not. Too many entrepreneurs claim to be too busy to analyze their financial reports on a regular basis, some are simply too intimidated to do it.
Ask your accountant to teach you how to read your profit and loss and cash flow statements. If you don't know how to analyze them thoroughly, SCORE mentors are useful in this process and the service is free.
Take care of yourself.
"Until the entrepreneur is healthy, happy, and whole, their business cannot succeed." This is what I tell my coaching prospects, and it's true. If you are not operating at full capacity, neither will your business. A healthy body is important; a healthy mindset is equally important. Entrepreneurs tell me that they don't have enough time to spend with their families, to workout, to do the things they love. I tell them that until they make the time for those things by creating efficiencies and letting go of the beliefs that limit them, their business will suffer.
Working your body and mind around the clock does not produce positive results. If you are unable to take breaks from your work, you are doing something wrong. Engaging an experienced coach, turning to mentors, and reading about how successful people balance their priorities will all help.