Archive for the 'Problem solving' Category

Two reasons quality service can take you down

Successful customer service is the process of delivering value to customers in exchange for payment.

Surely this is the prime directive of any business. But that process isn’t truly successful unless the relationship can be sustained, and only quality produces sustainability.

But what kind of quality?

“Quality service” is a 20th century term that businesses use to declare a commitment to diligent customer support. But customers typically associate it with, and businesses too often tolerate it as promptly addressing a problem. Unfortunately, here’s what quality service often sounds like:

“We’re sorry we delivered the wrong size part. But we’re committed to quality service, so one of our trucks will be there in an hour with the correct part.”

It’s true. Sometimes quality service like that impresses the customer – and businesses even like to brag about delivering it. But while prompt attention is admirable, it’s not optimal because it has a negative impact on sustainability in at least two ways:

  1. The customer was inconvenienced by inaccurate service – you screwed up!
  2. Allowing an avoidable problem to occur is the worst kind of profit-eating inefficiency.

In the 21st century, successful small businesses have converted their problem-fixing “quality service” to the profitable and sustainable “quality process.”

Put simply, executing a quality process is serving customers correctly the first time. Accomplishing a quality process ranges from the very basic, accurate order filling, to the more complex, integrating into your operation only those vendors that share your quality process commitment. It shouldn’t be breaking news that your large business customers have been doing this for a couple of decades, to eliminate weak links in their supply chain.

The optimal goal of your quality process is sustainable customer relationships. That means 1) you did it right the first time; and 2) you made a profit and didn’t squander any of it on mistakes. Such sustainability is in evidence when customers return to find your profitable business still there, ready to serve them again with your quality process.

So why would anyone live with profit-eating quality service instead of managing with a quality process? Because cash is a drama queen and profit isn’t.

Delivering quality service is practiced by crisis managers. The crisis comes when you could lose a sale – possibly even a customer – because an order was filled incorrectly, creating a hit to your cash flow so quickly and dramatically that it takes your breath away: “OMG, get out there right now and fix this!”  Lots of drama for everyone.

Having a quality process is a commitment to profitability, requiring disciplined, long-view professional management. You’ll recognize it by the sound of no drama experienced by you or your customers … crickets.

Professional small business CEOs know that focusing on a quality process – doing it right the first time – takes a commitment to quality hiring, efficiency training, and a focus on what customers want, not just what they need. These practices produce sustained profitability and, in time, will eliminate your noisy cash flow drama.

Remember, the quality service you’ve been so proud of may seem admirable, but when delivered in response to something that was avoidable, it assaults profitability, threatens sustainability and ultimately will put you out of business.

Write this on a rock … Convert quality service into the more profitable – and sustainable – quality process.

The Out Basket

Harold Alexander, British field marshal during WWII, and 1st Earl of Tunis, had a habit at the end of the day of “tipping” the remaining work left in his In basket into his Out basket.  When asked why he did this he replied, “It saves time and you’d be surprised at how much doesn’t come back.”


For small business owners, the Earl’s management style could be dangerous; many of us don’t have anyone to come by and take the stuff from our Out basket.  If we don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. But I wonder about this method for dealing with worry.

What if, at the end of each day, you “tipped” all of your left over problems into your mind’s Out basket — the problem customers, the bank payment, the new competitor — go ahead, put all of those alligators right in there. Don’t worry. Those that need to be will be there in the morning.  But you might be surprised at the ones that just “don’t come back.”  And there you were worrying about them.  Pretty silly, huh?

In his book, Blue Highways, William “Least Heat Moon” Trogdon reported that his grandfather, who was full-blooded American Indian (Osage), once told him, “Some things don’t have to be remembered.  They remember themselves.”

So, there you have it.  If it’s important it, will be there in the morning.  If not, it will go away and wasn’t worth the worry.  And worry is one of the greatest inner demons small business owners have to slay.

Give that “tipping” thing a try. It just might save you some worry. Now where did I put that Out basket?

Three fundamentals of small business capitalization

The first sentence in the job description of every CEO should be, “Get the capital your company needs.”

Webster defines business capital as, “any asset, tangible or intangible, that is held for long-term investment.” Capital blended with operating cash flows becomes the financial fuel your company’s engine uses to operate with and fund growth.

•  Investment Capital — from you or someone else.

•  Borrowed Funds — for most small businesses, from a bank loan.

Additional capital is required just to STAY in business beyond what was necessary to START the business. And the stay-in-business capital is much more than the get-in-business capital. Success begets growth and growth eats capital like Cookie Monster eats chocolate chip cookies. So without a capitalization plan you can grow yourself out of business.

Here are three capital allocation guidelines. Don’t use operating cash to purchase assets. Don’t borrow money for operating expenses. Funding growth with borrowed money is okay, if you have a plan to convert growth funding from debt to retained earnings.

Retained Earnings

As the CEO or your business, it’s your job to acquire, manage, allocate and maximize all sources of capital.


Jim Blasingame is the author of the new book,”The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

Video-Are you prepared for a business interruption?

In this week’s video I list the top three business interruptions that you should focus on for your small business.

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

It’s the Age of the Customer - get over it!

Markets were born when humans chose to acquire what they needed by trading with each other rather than producing it themselves or taking from someone else by force. The moment of proto-market conception was when the first seller offered to trade with the first customer, and that offer was accepted.

For millennia, this marketplace dance was as beautifully simple as it was exquisitely effective, having at its nucleus three primary elements:

1. The product, controlled by the seller
2. Information about the product, also controlled by the seller
3. The buying decision, controlled by the customer

From that first transaction, when shells were the reserve currency, to about 1995AD, the marketplace dance was performed zillions of times with little variation. I’ve termed this period “The Age of the Seller,” because the Seller controlled two of the three elements.

Then something happened that had not occurred for 10,000 years: A new age – I call it The Age of the Customer™.

This new Age was born as micro-computers and associated innovations converged with high-speed Internet and associated applications. As this convergence shifts marketplace paradigms, it conveys the balance of power from the seller to the customer.

The millennia-old marketplace dance is still beautifully simple. But when the dancers come together in the Age of the Customer, a new leader emerges, because control of the three major relationship elements has changed:

1. Products and services are still controlled by the Seller.
2. Information – including customer experiences – is now easily and abundantly available to the Customer without being controlled, filtered or distributed by the Seller.
3. The buying decision is still controlled by the Customer.

The Age of the Seller is succumbing to the new Age as customers resist the restrictions of the former Age and embrace the empowerment of the new. During this transition period, Sellers are operating in parallel universes, but not for long.

Your small business is now operating in a new age where customers rule. They like this new-found empowerment, and increasingly expect sellers to connect with them on Age of the Customer terms. Sellers that transition to the new Age with their customers will be successful. Hidebound sellers, nostalgic for when they had control, will become irrelevant and perish.

It’s the Age of the Customer – your world has changed.

Recently on The Small Business Advocate Show I talked more about the Age of the Customer and how you can avoid becoming irrelevant. Take a few minutes to click on the links below and listen. As always, leave your comments on what is working for you in the 21st century marketplace.

It’s the Age of the Customer - get over it!

Avoiding irrelevance in the Age of the Customer

Don’t just adjust to change, lead it and sell it

As I have said many times before, our challenge is not change - the computer is just a fancy wheel.  Indeed, the only thing that’s really different about change in the past 3,000 years is the velocity of change. What’s taking our breath away is the time between generations of change, which is being significantly compressed by technological innovations.

In this high-velocity change environment in which you operate your business, sustained success requires that you do more than merely accept change.  In fact, 21st century success means you embrace change, are able to sell it to your organization and customers and then lead that change - everyday.

I know this sounds hard. It is. If it weren’t, monkeys would be running small businesses.  But here is a piece of advice that will help you embrace, sell and lead change.  I hope you’ll write this down somewhere and remember it. I call it Blasingame’s 21st century Small Business Attitude on Change: “It’s okay to fall in love with what you do, but you can’t fall in love with how you do it.”

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I discussed this new attitude on change with Brett Clay, including tips on how to incorporate this leadership attitude about change to find solutions for your customers. Brett is the founder and CEO of Change Leadership Group, LLC. and the author of Selling Change: 101 Secrets for Growing Sales by Leading Change.

Take a few minutes to listen to what Brett and I have to say and, as always, leave your own thoughts on leading with change. Listen Live! Download, Too!




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