You may be thinking that the four areas I want to cover are revenue, profit, cashflow, and the market, but that’s not what I’m talking about. What I am talking about are relationships, communication, focus, and creativity. These are the four areas in business that I am continually focusing on and I have found that they produce the positive financial results you are looking for time and time again.
So, why did I choose to focus on these four over every other area out there? They are the most talked about subjects by the entrepreneurs and leaders I admire the most, and if something has been said ten times or more by people who are successful, then that tells me that I should take note. I have learned that the easiest way to become successful myself is to study the lives of successful people, and then implement what works for me.
Keeping with this theory, let’s look at each attribute in more depth, and how it can apply to you and your business:
1. Relationships matter because people are your most important business asset.
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” — Theodore Roosevelt
I’ve only worked for a handful of businesses along the way, but never have I worked for someone who understood just how important relationships are. Some of them would say that relationships were important to them, but their actions sure didn’t show it. They never made time for people, because they were more concerned about their revenue and profit margins than the people who made their businesses possible and profitable in the first place. From the employees who made these businesses function to the customers who funded the entire operation, there wouldn’t have been success without any of these people. And yet, far too often, it seemed that people were treated as disposable rather than valuable.
According to research conducted by Gallup, I can see that I’m not alone in this experience. They found that 87% of employees worldwide and 71% of U.S. employees are disengaged. And if nothing is done to fight it, the percentage will only continue to grow. How do I know this? Because by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be comprised by people between the ages of 20-35, and research conducted by the global marketing firm McCann WorldGroup shows that more than 90% of those surveyed rated “connection and community” as their greatest need. If entrepreneurs can get ahead of the curve and understand this fact now, then they will be able to retain more employees in the future. And not only that, but they will create a culture of appreciation, which can never go wrong.
But contrary to what most people believe, I don’t think that customers should come first. This may be why I place such a high value on the culture that is created within a company. Instead, I believe that employees should come first, because this is the only possible way to create an extension of yourself. Leaders, your job is not to handle every little thing yourself, but it is to create a culture of leaders who can make decisions themselves. Yes, we need more leaders on the macro level, not the micro level, and the only way to do this is to shift your attention to your employees instead of yourself, right now. As a leader, since you don’t personally come in contact with customers every single day, your focus should be your employees, because happy employees provide exceptional service time and time again, which results in more followers of the brand you have created. I love what Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, said about this very thing — “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
So, how exactly do you create this foundation of relationships in your business that I am talking about? Meet one-on-one with each employee as often as you can. I don’t care if it is a 5-minute meeting or a meeting that lasts five hours — spending time with your employees is your very best move.
2. Find your own voice, find the voice that you want your business to convey, and communicate your message.
“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” – Anthony Robbins
You are you and there’s no one else like you, so I can’t tell you how to find your own voice. But, it is finding your voice that will help your business stand out from the rest of the market. Your uniqueness forms the way you see the world and will help guide you in finding your place in the business landscape. As a leader, you impact your business environment in the biggest way, so how you see things will influence the atmosphere and even the products and services you and your team produces. Of course, you must take your perception and dig a little deeper, seeking to find what people need from you and your business, but everything starts with you and your team.
As for your business, I can tell you that the most important question you will ever ask yourself is: “What do I want my business to be known for?” This one question may sound simple, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. The answer to this one question can provide clarity, and since research has identified clarity on company priorities as a top way to increase engagement in the workplace, this can only help the level of communication taking place in your business. The way you answer this question can help you form a mission statement, and you can then build your business around the concrete statement you come up with. This statement can even help direct you in knowing who your audience is, what you should say to your client base, and how you should deliver what you have to say.
Then, after you gather all of this data, you can then develop a marketing plan based on your findings. Where is your customer base? How do you get their attention? And why aren’t they a customer of yours yet? When you have these answers, you become unstoppable, because you can then remove barriers between you and your customers, and can begin communicating effectively.
At this point, you now know what you stand for, and that is the most important part of communication. Without understanding yourself and your business, it is impossible to clearly articulate your message. Not only is the communication you have with your team important, which builds trust and leads to better relationships, but what you say to your customers and how you say it are both extremely important as well. Don’t miss the opportunity to deliver your message in the best ways possible, and build your business exponentially. Learning how to best communicate with your customers can only grow your business.
3. Focus on your business and how it fits in to the greater business landscape.
“Here is the prime condition of success: Concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun on one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it, adopt every improvement, have the best machinery, and know the most about it.” — Andrew Carnegie
I know you have goals for your business, and it is focus that will allow you to reach success with those goals. Clarity brings focus, which encourages productivity, which produces good time management, which in return produces results. There are so many distractions that are trying to pull your attention away from what is truly important, but you’re better than that. You have too much to do and too little time to waste. Always remember that focus is a gift to yourself, and time is a gift that you give to others. People need you and your time, so it then becomes our responsibility to focus. As Jeffrey Pfeffer, Author of Power said, “You are more likely to acquire power by narrowing your focus and applying your energies, like the sun’s rays, to a limited range of activities in a small number of domains.”
So, as a leader, where is another area that you should place your focus? According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report, you should be focusing on your organizational design. The business landscape of old is changing at such a rapid pace, your focus should be on making sure that you and your team are ready for what’s coming next. Can you add new positions to your company’s team in order to give a better experience to your customers? (If you think that you are only selling products or services, you are mistaken. In fact, I would even say that the experience you offer your clients is the most important representation of your brand.) Stop remaining stuck in the past and even in the now, and instead, focus on the future, because when you do, you can capitalize on everyone else’s complacency.
4. Creativity is what leads to innovation, so you and your company must embrace it in order to grow.
“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” — Edward de Bono
In 2016 and beyond, I would go as far as to say that creativity is a top four resource for all entrepreneurs, and that they must begin using it to their advantage to thrive in business. I mean, look at how the presence of Uber has changed the taxi service industry forever, and how Airbnb has changed the lodging industry as we know it. Both of these companies saw a hole in the market and creatively filled it with convenience for their customers. You too, can apply this concept to your own industry, but it is up to you to execute properly, because without execution, your creative idea remains just that — an idea. To plan for the future, you must use creativity to disrupt the market.
Just ask Divya Nag, who leads the team at Apple that created ResearchKit, how important creativity is to her work. Her program is a toolbox that allows people to store and share health data, which now allows doctors and researchers to create apps that make medical research easier. She was able to use creativity to progress research and help people. Now that’s using creativity for good.
Another example of someone who uses creativity every day is Félix Lajeunesse. Felix along with Paul Raphaël, cofounded Felix & Paul Studios, in 2013. They have taken virtual reality and made it a beautiful reality for the rest of us to enjoy. In fact, they signed a deal with Facebook-owned Oculus in 2015, so we will only be seeing more of their work in the future.
These are only two examples of creativity, but pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box at the same time will only grow your business — I can guarantee it. If you need more examples of creativity at work, here are 98 other examples to give more inspiration. Whatever field of work you find yourself in, you need to make creativity a priority.