Business: The Freedom Experience
- Published: 09/18/2012
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In the past, I have shared a brief outline of the Five Pillars of Business Growth. The “Five Pillars” represent core characteristics business owners must develop as they transition from being product sellers (florist, jeweler, restaurateur, etc) and service providers (mechanic, doctor, carpenter, plumber, or appraiser) to owners of profitable, scalable companies. These characteristics:
- Realizing their customers buy an experience – not just a product/service,
- Making a profit,
- Owning a business (not a job),
- Managing systems, leading people, and
- Making time for the “business of business.”
Before a business owner can develop and apply the Five Pillars, however, we ask them to forget about money, the product or service they provide, what the competition is doing, and many of the sales “techniques” they learned in books, seminars, and business school. Instead, we ask them to consider two facts.
Fact one: As a business owner, your livelihood is ultimately determined by others - free-thinking individuals deciding how to best fulfill their wants and needs. And,
Fact two: Something indescribably special happens every time one of these free-thinking individuals chooses (trusts) your business to fulfill their wants and needs over all other options.
Today I will discuss the unique but often overlooked relationship that exists between a business, its customers, and community. Sustainable business growth, especially small business growth, is NOT the result of a myopic strategy to steal dollars from customers and the competition. In fact, the polar opposite is true - business growth comes from forming win-win relationships. Ultimately, the level of success you enjoy is determined by how efficiently and effectively your business increases the life-quality of its customers. In other words, success results from the masterful application of the “Golden Rule.”
As a small business owner you are, perhaps, one of the last bastions of a true free-market (purely competitive) economy. Your customers are your neighbors, friends, and family: free-thinking individuals who have a variety of options with which to meeting their wants and needs. They choose how, when, where and, most importantly, WHO they buy from. They decide which mechanic to hire, in which bank to deposit their paychecks, which hairstylist to frequent, which newspaper to read - and they are under no obligation to choose you.
So, why does a customer choose one business over another? Consider this: All mechanics have some basic ability to fix cars or they wouldn’t be mechanics. So, why do you drive past three other mechanics to arrive at YOUR mechanic? All hair stylists share a basic level of knowledge, skill, and ability. So, why do you forsake all others to arrive in YOUR barber or stylist’s chair? What about YOUR dentist, YOUR doctor, YOUR bank, YOUR insurance agent. Why do you continually choose these businesses? Drill down on these answers and you will discover that what you are really buying is NOT the product these businesses provide. Instead, you are buying the EXPERIENCE of obtaining the product from these businesses. You return to these businesses because the value each experience adds to your life exceeds the value of the dollars and time you trade it.
So, what is this experience and what does it mean for your business? It means that as long as you are selling quality “stuff,” the “stuff” you sell; car repair, banking, dentistry, etc, is not why your customers choose your businesses over all others. Your “stuff” is not what customers really buy. They could buy your “stuff” somewhere else. What customers really buy is the EXPERIENCE of purchasing this “stuff” from your business. This “experience” is your real product - the totality of everything that comes into contact with the customer - everything.
Grow your business starts by taking two important steps:
- Sell a quality product and/or service, then
- Focus your remaining attention on developing and refining your customers’ experience.
Successful businesses owners are constantly evaluating and improving the experience of their customers. They exist to improve the life-quality of their customers and their community. In short: they “Live to Serve”.