In 45BC, Julius Caesar decreed the Julian Calendar. This formalized the then-new trend, that a calendar year begin in January—which for centuries before had started in March. Little did Caesar know that two millennia later, even with the minor modifications of the Gregorian calendar, the world at large would use this time to take stock.
With our own startup still finding its feet and so many good friends looking for jobs, I thought it might be appropriate to look at what entrepeneurs can do in 2009 to win. Even for those of you lucky enough to have a job, as Tom Peters said many years ago, you are the CEO of Me, Inc. and may want to check these out.
So here are 4 things that entrepreneurs need to do more of
[a] Give – as in contribute freely, your knowledge and at least some of your time. Start with your employees, who may be worried about the company, their own jobs and unclear how best to contribute. Share your learnings with peers in your trade organizations, with customers and prospects – be it in a blog, newsletter or a speech. At the very least, you will realize that you are not in half as bad a situation as many others are. Giving is not only psychically fulfilling but is an investment in your own future that makes just plain good business. And on any given day, giving need not take more time than a longish lunch break!
[b] Reach out – get out in the field, in front of prospects & customers every
other day. This means you—not just your marketing or sales person. You can’t talk to customers too much (in a single meeting you can, but then you may never be called back!) The silver lining in a downturn is that customers have time to talk. So reach out. You can start by calling on all those folks you haven’t connected with, just this last year, and work all the way back to those you haven’t spoken to since high school! Remember you are not trying to sell, but to connect.
[c] Listen – having reached out, it is important to listen. You would be surprised at the insights that arise when we truly listen to our customers. Often customer themselves gain clarity when they talk and so many of our own assumptions get uncovered and prove to be baseless. Listening requires both preparation as well as asking clarifying questions. Only those of us who do this well will get invited back.
[d] Simplify – this is a great time to simplify everything about our business and jobs. Simplify your products, your collateral, your sales pitch, your internal systems, your website – you get the picture. Make it easier for people to find you, to understand what it is you do, why you do it better than anyone else and why buying from you and using your products is going to simplify your customers’ own life and work. Simple is not easy – simple is hard! So the sooner you start the better.
In a downturn it’s easy to batten down the hatches and focus on the numbers – which is important, but we are never going to dig ourselves out of a hole, let alone grow or thrive with just a defensive game. So it is important to stay the course with Giving, Reaching out, Listening & Simplifying (GRLS). While this sounds like a lot of work, it is not. GRLS require passion, planning and perseverance – but aren’t these the very reasons you got into business in the first place?
You might want to check out the following two articles for interesting takes on this topic.