I find a strong correlation between success and how easy we are to do business with. Especially in competitive market places, this has proven to be true.
In the marketplace we compete for many things. These include top talent, key accounts, well paying customers, the best advisers, the best partners, the best banking relationships rendering the best terms and lines of credit, the best culture, the best retention of employees and customers, and the best compensation. I submit that being easy to do business with in all of these areas will move the bottom line needle in big ways.
A wise business partner once told me, “Mel, do not make your problems my problems.”
Here are some things to consider related to how easy your enterprise is to do business with:
- The more difficult or unfriendly your culture is to do business with, the more dysfunctional your business is. This may seem harsh, but it is true. I call it the slope of your business treadmill. For your customers, employees, partners, bank, etc. they should not have to overcome or climb your self-imposed steep hill to do business with you. We should create a culture of pushing and encouraging each other to be easy to do business with.
- Refocus the center of your business universe. A tenacious client focus that accomplishes top and bottom line goals is the center of an easy to do business with culture. We must have a common focus and realization that serving our clients, together, in a harmonic way is how we achieve success. For this to happen, we have to serve the team members that are close to and own the client relationships. If our closest client relationship owners and teams have to fight internal riddles, illogical processes, and slow decision making processes to serve the clients, then we dang sure are not easy to do business with. Being easy to do business with starts inside the company with those team members who own the last mile to the clients. Focus on being easy for them, and then we will project that outside the company to clients and partners.
- Sound processes, sound paperwork, and sound data flow are not compromised by being easy to do business with. Please know that I am renown for requiring the sales and relationship owners to be administratively sound, and very business savvy. So, we are going to require top shelf work from our process and team. We just want to keep thinking and innovating until we lower the self-imposed slope of our process and systems to a level we are easy to do business with internally and externally. This is not easy, but it is worth it.
- A wise business partner once told me, “Mel, do not make your problems my problems.” Administrative and support teams that flip-flop the focus to them instead of serving and delivering for internal and external clients need to be trained and coached to better support with less resistance. Having said that, it is management’s responsibility to try and lessen the burden on support through better process, better technology, automation and good communications. So this is not about making any department a rag doll. However, it is about focus, commitment and realization that the ease of doing business is directly associated with security and success.
- Making tough decisions, being decisive, terminating wrong people, parting ways with wrong clients, severing ties with wrong partners, and protecting your core values and culture are 100% congruent with being easy to do business with. Please know that we are not suggesting being a doormat. Quite the contrary, we are promoting a confident enterprise that creates the right organizational structure with the right seats, fills them with the right people, and then leads, manages, and holds accountable in the process. This extends outside the organization to clients, partners etc. So we make smart decisions and we make tough decisions. This reinforces being easy to do business with.
- Being easy to do business with requires a relentless focus on many things. Consider these:
- Contract complexity and fairness: Obviously contracts and agreements require legal counsel’s engagement. I have seen such a broad spectrum of contracts. There is no doubt that getting the sweet spot of protecting our interests without skinning up our partner, client or employee is very much part of being easy to do business with. If there is a struggle here, then my strong recommendation as the top executive is to lead an effort to find the sweet spot, versus having a heavy hand in this area. Having fair agreements with our employees, partners and clients is a huge step towards being easy to do business with.
- Decision making process and speed: The more decisions made at the top while those team members closest to the clients sit and wait, the longer it will take. A top drawer company that plays at a highly competitive level will be an empowered culture whereby decisions are pushed down along with the ability and accountability. It may take some training and decision matrix framework development to transition to a more empowered culture. Every decision has a window of opportunity. Some close fast. If we are difficult to do business with, then I assure you we are missing many windows because we fail to get through them before they close. Rethink decision making and ask your key relationship owners how we can be easier to do business with. Engage them in the solutions.
- Kill the elephants: There are pent up unresolved problems in our business. Commit to killing them and moving on to some bigger and more productive problems. Remember, as top executives we have the authority, and thus the accountability, to remove the elephants in the room. Finally resolving these usually has an impact on the business that lessens the slope of our business treadmill.
- Promote a culture of problem solvers in the ranks. As top executives we should have an ongoing training and coaching process to grow our problem solving prowess in every role and in all departments. ‘To work here, you need to solve problems.’ Problems should be pushed down and solutions should be pushed up. This is a key trait of an enterprise that is easy to do business with. Problem recognition is half of the process. Keep going and think of a solution. Teach all team members to think it through, frame it up, weigh the options and ask themselves, “If this was my money what would I do?”
In closing, there are many good reasons to be easy to do business with. Our team members deserve it. It is a form of cruelty, even if unintentional, to put good people in dysfunctional organizations that render conflict, confusion, and slow decisions. Our clients will marvel and be more loyal if we are easy to do business with. I have found it plays well regardless of your market position as an economy provider or a premium provider. The bottom line is that your edge in the market is much sharper and better retained if you are easy to do business with. Our ability to attract and retain solid relationships with partners, bankers, and advisors will give us a competitive edge. Lastly, we must be honest with ourselves where we are today along the easy to do business with spectrum. Mark yourself today and then take action to close the gap towards optimal. I assure you it will pay huge returns.