As is the case with most social functions I attend, the conversation about a business’ environment and economy generally takes center stage. Last evening’s dinner discussion at the club was no exception.
For me these gatherings are times for me to listen to what others are saying. Having lived and survived more difficult business issues related to the economy than I care to want to remember I find listening is what I like to do most.
What I listen for are ‘Catch Words or Phrases’ people use and last evening the ‘Catch Phrase’ was ..
Verb: – the act of propping up with shores
In today’s economy businesses should be looking for ways to secure their basic revenue stream. How else will they know how to budget through the tough times ahead. OR, that at least should be what businesses should be doing. I find it interesting how many businesses I am finding who are not looking to or seem interested in ‘Shoring Up” their cash-flow. Many businesses, especially many who are based only here online, feel their revenue streams are secure.
In order for businesses today to survive, including those based online on the internet, they are going to have to ‘Shore Up’ the three most valuable assets businesses have or will ever have.
Business’ Primary Assets
Yes, all of these have to deal with Real Live People. The one thing too many businesses forget is Real Live People (RLP) are able to think and sometimes their thinking results into decision making. One of the decisions RLP will make that affects a business’ cash-flow is to not purchase or not to do business, work for or supply the business anymore.
What happens if the RLP’s make the decision to not do business?
Too many business people today forget about the assets they have acquired through the millions of hour of time spent meeting with customers, training employees and negotiating contracts with suppliers. A few of the people at dinner last evening were not aware of the value of these assets which indicated to me that there is an even larger number of people out here in La-La-Land who cut the Business 101 classes and just jumped into doing business.
So, maybe you are one of these people who have really not thought about the importance of hanging onto the RLP’s who make you money. If so, then like the two executives who bought me drinks after dinner, you probably want to know of a way to now “Shore Up” your business assets. Right?
The one thing every business has is customers. If not, then the question becomes..are you in business? Some businesses have employees. This could range from having only one to managing several thousand employees. And nearly every business I can think of has a supplier or vendor they repeatedly go back to use for supporting their business with materials or services.
So how do you ‘Shore Up’ these three major assets?
First you need to find out what these RLP’s needs are… yes, you are going to have to talk to each of them. You need to know what the RLP interests are, what their likes and dislikes are and more importantly what they think about you or your company. Hummm..I can hear you asking…
Wouldn’t that have been easier to find all of this out when I secured them in the first place?
I think you know the answer to that. Now lets look at what you can do now to find out their needs.
There are a number of ways you can go about staging something to gather this information. Let me run down a few that DO NOT WORK…it should save you time and money.
The first mistake most businesses with a large customer base make is send out a survey. What a waste of time and money. According to the interviews I have made, over 85% of the people who receive surveys from a business either throw them away or will, in hopes the business will get the message the survey was a waste of their time, fill the survey out with all kinds of absurd remarks and answers to questions making their input even more worthless.
Kind of like some of the online golf sites that allow their members to filling their unbelievable low golf scores to establish a very low handicap in hopes it elevates their social status in the group so they can meet the elite golfers who they feel have very deep pockets or very desirable sexually. Yes, that is happening. But I digress..
Personal Memo – Unbelievable
The next strategy businesses will use to attempt to find out what their customer, employee or vendor’s needs are is to send out a personal memo inviting them to have a ‘Chat’. Over 75% will dismiss the memo as a ‘Form Letter’. The remaining will reluctantly make the call but will leave still feeling they did not get anything out of the call.
Rubber Chicken and Vegetable Medially Dinners – To Removed
For the businesses with hundreds of customers, the dinner for 200 RLP’s does allow for the customer to put a face with the person who owns or manages the business, but does not allow the owner or manager enough time to get to know each person well enough to find out about their true needs. In some cases these gatherings backfire and irritate the RLP since they want more time to find out who it is they are doing business with or for.
So, what does work?
As much as the large businesses hate to hear it, the only way to ‘Shore up’ cash-flows is to face the RLP off in a one-on-one meeting in a casual informal environment. The large businesses will write this off as being absurdly impossible and rationalize the RLP’s they loose to not attempting to find out their needs as being “disposable collateral”(another Catch Phrase I will have to write about soon). Coming from a very large business environment I really challenge this attitude since there are ways for large businesses to accomplish finding out the RLP’s needs.
The fact is, for businesses who have a large RLP base it is going to take time. When dealing with large numbers the only way to get through this very important process is to break the number of RLP’s to visit into a smaller number of people per meeting. Or, as probably more feasible in the large corporations environment, delegate the meetings to the front line managers to handle.
What Activity Works Best?
I have tried everything..bowling, tennis, bass tournaments, yachting, NASCAR Races, cruises, social gathers like wine tasting and even two hour charter bus rides to casino’s or horse races…none of them work better to get to know RLP’s needs better than playing a round of Business Golf with them.
But, I Don’t Play Golf!
Granted, knowing how to play golf does make the experience more genuinely purposeful for both parties. Not every business owner or RLP knows how to play golf, but there are ways to get the effect of playing business golf without knowing how to play golf. One of them is to invite the RLP’s to join you in going to a golf school.
Beginner Golfer Affect
The act of learning golf has to be the most humbling experience a business owner or RLP will experience. In fact, 40% of business people will not attempt to learn golf on their own due to there being no peer motivation. The golf school environment places people on equal ground. Every student, even the ones who play golf, are brought back down to the basics of the game’s fundamentals. This psychologically will place all who attend the golf school on the same footing. This breakdown of barriers will, over the time of the golf school, be easily moved into the business/social environment that is held after the golf school concludes.
Most business owners who play golf have been playing for sometime. Those who have many years of experience playing golf usually enjoy a little test of their golf skills. This interest in completing places Golf Tournaments as a great vehicle for business owners to use to gather up larger numbers of RLP’s to to play golf. Plus, for the non-golfing business owners, golf tournaments offers them an opportunity to mingle with the golfing RLP they invited and capture some of the business golf experience.
Charity Golf Venues
Organizing a golf outing for a large number of people is a headache and if not done correctly will cause more problems than is wanted. In this case, a business owner should look to the Charity Golf venues in their area and use those events as their Business Golf outing. I get contacted every year by the sponsors of my charity Pro-Am asking if they could bring more of their RLP’s to the event and let me wine and dine them instead of the business owner having to spend work time organizing a company golf outing. To me, this is a Win-Win situation that most business owners should support.
Business Golf Affect
Going back and getting to know your RLP’s that you have dealt with over the years will not take place with a wave of the hand. It is going to take time. However, if thought out correctly all of the RLP’s can be connected with if you start today mixing your new and old RLP’s together in frequent rounds of Business Golf throughout the year.
The Business Golf Affect is life long. Unlike other functions businesses use to develop business, golf is something that moves fluidly back and forth between business and social environments making the experience more cost effective and rewarding financially than other types of business development activities.
So, if you are interested in ‘Shoring Up’ your business assets I suggest you start now to learn how to play business golf.
At least one of the business owners I visited with last evening saw the benefits and is giving BG a try…guess that is what I get for being a good listener.
Let me know how I can help