Volume 13, Issue 2 - March/April 2011

Customer Service
tips for quality service

Commandments of Successful Businesses
by Carl Tompkins

I am in my 35th year in business and have had the opportunity to learn and experience many dos and don’ts in business. I recently spent some time considering what lies at the real heart of being a great organization—in any industry. I’ve come to find ten specific rules that must be followed to prosper. Companies must:

1. Be goal-oriented and incorporate the use of S.M.A.R.T. goals. There should be no doubt about the critical nature of goals in business. While most claim to set annual goals, few companies achieve them, because they miss any one or all of the five components of a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Goals must be specific enough to be understood by everyone who is involved. Goals also must be measurable so that progress can be monitored on a regular basis. Likewise, goals must be agreeable and realistic to all parties involved or they will never be attained. Finally, goals must be time-bound, with a start and a finish to each goal.

2. Follow the rule of R.E.M.E. in managing people. People are the number-one asset within any organization; however, most employees report feeling treated more as numbers than as people. Employees who are not being managed properly lie at the root of every bad result in business. There are four simple steps to take to ensure that your management of employees is perfect and that they are represented by the above R.E.M.E. acronym, which stands for: Requirements, Education, Measurement and Example. All personnel must have a written job description defining what they are paid to do. Secondly, they must be educated about how the goals within their job descriptions are to be accomplished. Employees must have regular and meaningful feedback (also known as measurement) about their progress. Finally, people must have good leaders to follow and a good example is always the best teacher.

3. Seek and embrace “change.” Businesses are no different than individual people, as both of these parties favor the comfortable. Businesses often do the same things over and over, never advancing. As a result, they need to rely on some luck or positive outside influences to create better results—what a shame! The culture within any organization must challenge itself to improve constantly and this only can be accomplished by changing how business is conducted. As the great saying goes, “Business insanity is expecting different results from doing everything the same way.”

4. Reward the messenger. Most people in corporate America today lack the courage to share ideas, challenge the status quo, report problems and operate well outside the box—all because they fear the penalties they might face for rocking the boat. Yet, many hear the phrase, “We have an open-door policy around here,” ringing through the hallowed halls of their headquarters. Others are taught to “never shoot the messenger.” But what does reality show? Locked doors and dead messengers lie everywhere! If companies really are serious about improving, they must build a system that encourages and rewards those who rock the boat.

5. Live a “zero-defect” policy. There is nothing wrong with doing things right the first time, yet businesses lose enormous sums of money each year due to rework. Why? We have created the environment and mindset that making mistakes is part of doing business and that it’s okay. Wrong! Enact policies, procedures and rewards built around a zero-defect tolerance.

6. Serve to save the customer. In conducting business, service is everything! Not one step of the customer cycle should be set on doing anything less than delivering a dazzling experience. The idea behind this is based on choice and attitude, yet, still today, 67 percent of customers don’t return to a company because of a perceived attitude of indifference.

7. Be just and true in all matters. It is important to avoid the traps of politics, egos and pride. Even the Bible declares nothing good in any of these three words and, in the world of business, I’ve witnessed instances in which these subjects cost companies millions of dollars. There are people who will sacrifice what is best for the organization and focus only on what’s best for them, regardless of what unjust actions occur to others. This is the toughest of all commandments to follow since even the worst of violators would argue that they’ve never crossed this line. It’s amazing what greed can cause people to do. The best reason to follow this rule is to understand that there are great, long-term rewards for doing the right thing, being honest and following the Golden Rule.

8. Be reliable in the provision of products and services. Simply put, if your products and/or services don’t provide what was promised, you’re out of business! Even a free product that doesn’t work is too expensive. Studies indicate that there is no substitute for reliability; it is America’s number-one buying factor.

9. Seek, establish and maintain partnerships with customers. The mindset of building partnerships with customers is one that causes companies to do more than furnish a product at the right price. As long as people run companies, relationships are going to count for a lot in terms of long-term business. While one organization is the supplier and the other is the buyer, both must feel that they operate together, forever, and that this partnership creates mutual success for both organizations. Such relationships are a challenge to create, but are even harder to break.

10. Operate with a spirit of thanksgiving. Humans are made up of three components: body, mind and spirit. Since businesses are merely a collection of individual people working as a team toward common objectives, it is safe and accurate to say that the same notion of body, mind and spirit permeates the organization as well. When it comes to the spiritual aspect within any organization, companies will best succeed when pausing regularly to consider their good fortune and levels of accomplishment. Carrying on with a spirit of thanks for the many things you have (rather than agonizing over the remaining few you don’t) allows for a healthy and sustaining business culture.

Carl Tompkins is the global marketing resources manager for Sika Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich. He is based in Spokane, Wash. Mr. Tompkins’ opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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