If you have seen a segment called ‘Stupid Human Tricks’ on David Letterman’s Late Show, you may have noticed quite a bit of people who are happy to showcase their special talent to a nationwide audience. Their goal is to gain exposure and capture that elusive 15 minutes of fame. Some of the more entertaining videos are posted on Youtube, and, quite often, they become subjects of break room conversations across the nation the next morning at the office. Consequently, those "interesting" videos often get much more than just their 15 minutes of fame and are shared for all the world to see.
As a business owner offering a product or service, you'd welcome, with open arms, the opportunity for widespread exposure. However, you should avoid trying any of these five stupid human tricks guaranteed to make your business fail:
Don’t sweat the details
When Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks took over the losing franchise in 2000, he sweated every detail--from filling arena seats to revamping the visiting team’s locker room to changing the game-day experience, all while upgrading the team’s roster. The Dallas Mavericks team became NBA Champions in 2011 and, most recently, Mark Cuban joined the cast of the successful reality television show, Shark Tank.
In an interview with Inc., Cuban stated the real reason businesses’ fail isn’t because of a lack of cash or attitude, they fail because of a lack of brains or efforts. He advises to sweat the details and to out think, out work, and take care of customers better than you would take care of yourself. He goes on to say it’s about being prepared and putting yourself in your customers’ shoes to understand what they want.
Moral of the story: Do sweat the details.
Remind Yourself: You Know Best – Not the Customers!
In Sir Richard Branson’s book “The Virgin Way” he is quoted as saying, “One of the keys to 'the way' we do things is nothing more than listening – listening intently to everyone.” He also advises in the book that management should not get so caught up in strategy that they forget they are providing a product or service for the benefit of customers. Branson has been known to call into his companies pretending to be a customer, with the intention to check how employees handle different situations with customers.
Blackberry, which was a fastest-growing company in 2009, failed to listen to its customers' demands of wanting a cheaper phone with apps and a more powerful operating systems. The NY Times reported that Blackberry announced a $4.4 billion loss and 56 percent revenue decline in its fiscal 3rd quarter in 2013.
Moral of the story: Listen to your customers; they know what they want, and contrary to what you believe, they do know best.
Pretend Social Media doesn’t exist
Now, more than ever, customers can express their opinion through a variety of ways. Within a few minutes, they can send their comments via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and via a handful of other social media channels.
Remember the old saying? For every positive comment, expect maybe 1-3 people to hear. For every negative remark, prepare for 10+ people to hear. Now multiple that 100 or 1,000 times over; thanks to social media!
The wonderful thing about social media is that it provides FREE advertisement for companies and when used correctly, can be hugely successful. According to Business2Community, Ben & Jerry’s used Facebook and Twitter to announce their launch of new core flavors of Hazed & Confused, Peanut Butter Fudge, Salted Carmel, That’s My Jam, and Karamel Sutra -- and it provided amazing results. The promoted Facebook post gathered almost 35,000 likes, more than 8,000 shares, and more about 2,400 retweets--not bad, given the Twitter post was not promoted.
Moral of the story: Use the 'social media beast' to your advantage. It's a tool in your toolbox, so use it, use it often, and use it strategically.
Take the Road Heavily Traveled
If your business is doing well, you might be tempted to adopt the reasoning of “If it isn’t broke – don’t fix it.” While it is very important to be concerned with day-to-day operations, it is also very important to metaphorically ‘see around the corner.’ If you continue down the road with your competitors or do not seize or look out for new opportunities, you may miss out. Take the time to look at current trending topics in your line of business. Take a look at what your customers are saying, and encourage your employees to come up with new and bold ideas.
There are several visionaries who have seen ahead of the curve and come up with innovative products. Enter Steve Jobs, CEO at Apple and several popular, innovative products: iMac, iPhone, iPod, iPad, and iTunes. Slimming undergarments are not new products; however, Sara Blakely introduced Spanx – an innovative product in the hosiery industry since it contained different waistbands to suit different sized customers. Now at age 43, Sara Blakely is the youngest self-made billionaire.
On the flip side, some established and profitable businesses have been blindsided by competitors seeing an opening and taking advantage with their offering. For instance, Mattell’s Barbie Doll has been given a run for their money with the rising popularity of the Bratz doll.
Moral of the story: Sometimes roads that are the most heavily traveled mean a bottleneck traffic nightmare--everyone trying to get to the same place using the same road. Define a new path.
Save Your Money! Do not invest in new products or your employees.
Over time, trends change and so do your customers’ needs. Loyal employees don’t happen by chance. By keeping an open mind and staying focused on what both your customers and employees have to say, you may learn something new and improve your bottom-line and the organizations’ overall well-being.
Although Starbucks is now the largest coffee shop in the world, it hasn’t kept Howard Schultz from coming up with innovative ideas for his customer- and employee-base. When word spread that Starbucks was launching their version of instant coffee, the media and critics on Wall St. slammed Schultz. Guess what? Starbucks’ Via instant coffee became a runaway hit. Schultz famously closed 7,000 stores nationwide in 2008 for “Expresso Excellence Training” for Starbucks’ employees, aka partners. Financially, this was a major expense, but he saw it as an investment in his employees, which in turn would yield positive customer satisfaction. Most recently, it was announced Starbucks would fund their employees’ college education.
Moral of the story: Never become complacent. Customers will always want more; be the first to offer it to them. And, invest time and money in your most valuable assets--your employees.
As a business owner, you are quite aware it was your talent and hard work -- not stupid human tricks that have made your company what it is today. Sometimes, we all need a reminder how important keeping an eye on the details, welcoming innovative ideas, utilizing social media, and caring for our customers and our employees are at contributing to the ongoing success of our company.
What are some key takeaways you've learned in your tenure? Comment below.