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It's Finally Arrived! What now?

by Mark Deavall

Well 2010 has started and from what I can see it promises to be an exciting year! What with the Soccer World Cup (and all that goes with it), the “wrangling” on the political landscape and the Eskom price increases, if nothing 2010 will be a challenging year.

So seeing as it is going to be so challenging, I thought it fitting that we look at some of the strategies that businesses and individuals are going to need, in order to prosper during 2010 and beyond.

1)   Repeat business is free business – We spend an inordinate amount of money on gaining new business. We strategise and implement, all in the name of increasing our client base. To keep our customer “happy” we buy CRM software packages and have customer care centers. We develop call centers so that customers can call in and talk to us. We even let them bypass human interaction and ask them to press buttons on their phone until they hear a recorded voice giving them information. All this “stuff” costs a fortune and does very little to influence our bottom line positively. In other words it’s a huge expense with no or very little return, and forgive me, but I thought that we were all in business to show a return on investment!

You’ve heard the saying “it costs less to keep a customer than to get a new one”. We’ve heard it so often that we’ve grown used to it. However, maybe it’s time that we take a relook at that saying. “People buy from people they like” is a phrase that I’ve heard used in numerous sales training programs and sales meetings. But what does this really mean? It simply means that price and features may get a customer in the door, but it’s the experience that the customer has with you while doing business with you, that will bring them back for more. And EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN YOUR BUSINESS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CLIENT EXPERIENCE!

Repeat business is free business. There is no opportunity cost at all. If you’re going to invest money in a Customer Relationship / Retention Management program, invest in employing customer focused people, and training them to create a positive experience for the client every time.

2)    Get it right the first time – You only get paid once for the provision of a service to your customer. If you then have not done it properly and have to do it again, it costs the company money – and that money comes off the bottom line! Focus on being effective all the time.

3)   “It is time to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.” - Alexander Solzhenitsyn  - The man was right! Employ people that are more focused on their obligations and responsibilities, than on their rights. When people focus on their obligations, their rights are automatically conferred upon them. But when people focus purely on their rights with no or little attention to the obligations that go with those rights, we have low productivity and by inference low profit!

4)   The devil is in the detail – Most of the cases at the CCMA that are brought against employers by employees, and are lost by the employer, are lost because of procedural incorrectness on the part of the employer. If ever you have worked out the cost to your company of a CCMA case (even if you win it), you will have realised that the cost is huge. And in most cases, if the procedure had been followed correctly, unnecessary! Ensure that every single manager is well trained as to the procedures to be followed when managing staff. Because the cost of a CCMA case, win or lose, comes straight off the bottom line!

5)   Managers manage performance – If you have a “performance management system” in place in your company, all well and good. The problem is that in most cases your “performance management system” is nothing more than a “performance measurement system”. Managers manage individual people’s performance on a daily basis, not systems. Often HR is tasked with being the custodian of “performance management”. Wrong! HR is there to collate the results of the performance management being carried by the managers on a daily basis, so that those results can be used to work out what training is needed, who gets what bonus, who gets what increase and who do we promote. That should be the sum total of HR’s involvement in “performance management”. Managing performance proactively and on a daily basis leads to increased productivity and therefore a healthier bottom line. Ensure that ALL your managers know how to manage individual performance effectively.

6)   Business is not a “social responsibility” financier – Business is about profit. Business exists to make the shareholders wealthy. By its very nature therefore, business is ruthless. Underperformance costs business money. Big money (go and do the calculation). Therefore, if you have an underperformer in your business, take immediate action. I mean immediate! Don’t wait for the third or fourth performance appraisal. Address the issue the first time it raises its head. Oh and by the way, if you have a problem person working for you, and in three months you haven’t fixed or fired that person, then YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!

7)   Look after my money wisely – If you had R1000,000-00, and you gave it to a fund manager to look after for you, and after a year this fund manager told you that your R1000,000-00 was now worth R900,000-00, what would you do? You would be very angry and disappointed, and fire the fund manager, not so? Well then, in the same way, you are a fund manager for the business that employs you. You as an employee have the responsibility to make sure that the value of the investment that the company has made in you (Total cost to company) increases all the time. A short while ago I overheard two ladies talking. The one was obviously complaining. Her comment was “this company says that the people are its most valuable asset, and look what they have done to me!” I couldn’t help myself, so I joined the conversation and asked her if she knew what the definition of an asset is. She looked at me as if I had just landed from Mars. I told her that the definition of an asset is “something that has a continually appreciating value”, and that if they are not treating her as an asset, they are probably sending her a message of some sort. Your responsibility is to make sure that you have a continually appreciating value. 

I’m sure that you are aware of more strategies than just these seven to make 2010 and beyond, incredible. However, these seven points are some of the “non-negotiables” in business today. Use them and become great. Don’t, and be mediocre.

Mark Deavall is the managing director of Merit Business Institute. If you would like to get in contact with Mark, please call him on 27 11 609-1264, or e-mail me

This article is under strict copyright and may not be altered in any way for any purpose. If you would like to copy this article for any reason (which you are welcome to do), please be sure to copy the entire article including this paragraph.

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