As a speaker and experienced business professional, my goal will be to challenge you to think of your business and your relationships with your key constituents in new ways. As lifelong learners, we are compelled to see important things in a new light and our quest should be to go to where the puck is going not to where it has been. This has also been a prevailing theme in my career. From part-time trailer loader at UPS to President of The UPS Store and later UPS Supply Chain Solutions, this approach has helped me shape simple yet thought-provoking lessons into tangible results. I challenge myself and others to not stop at the first right answer and to consider these same things as they are managing their operations. It also is what led me to write my book “Tighten the Lug Nuts.”
As you are reading the signs of your industry and looking for ways to stay ahead of the pack in a dynamic market, I encourage you to holistically look at your business through the lens of what I call, Balanced Leadership. These are principles to manage by that, I believe, help optimize business performance while satisfying the needs of your customers, your people and your stakeholders. After 40 years, I continue to use this philosophy. For me, it has become invaluable, because I see so many leaders who focus only on one area of their business – usually the bottom line. By using such a myopic approach, these leaders are neglecting two very important business components that drive true success: the people and the processes.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what your job and level, as a leader you are responsible for balancing the needs of your three constituent groups: your people, your customers and your stakeholders.
• Balanced Leaders think like a customer and ensure their people think like a customer.
• Balanced Leaders act like an owner and understand the business and what makes it profitable.
• Balanced Leaders ensure their employees and stakeholders feel valued.
But where do you start? Which is the most important? How do you keep them equally in balance?
Let me address your most important constituent – your customer. For without them, your business wouldn’t exist.
Think Like Who?
Think like a customer. It a simple statement – pretty straight forward. But how do you breathe life into this concept for your customers to experience it and your people to understand it? The answer is fairly simple: It’s essential to create a brand identity from a customer perspective and then get your team to execute the organization’s customer strategy.
Here’s an example from my days at UPS Supply Chain Solutions. We were focusing on customers in the healthcare industry, and as a solution was being developed in concert with a large customer, the question was asked: who is the customer? Some in the group responded, “the patient.” Others said, "the healthcare provider” or, “the vendor network.” Still others felt that the customer was, “the hospitals, clinics and pharmaceutical companies.”
At times, all may be right, but in this particular solution and for this strategy, the question had to be answered before they could move forward. Who is the customer? Once you establish this critical point, then you can establish some very important next steps in the process:
• What are you solving for?
• What won’t you compromise?
• What are your boundaries?
• What keeps the customer awake at night?
• What are the key metrics that you will hold yourself accountable to?
• What does good look like?
There are many other examples, but this is a fundamental question that must be answered to ensure everyone is in sync.
For us in UPS Supply Chain Solutions, and in particular our health care vertical, it became our mantra and part of our branding: “It’s a Patient, Not a Package.” Now, the branding is: “United Problem Solvers.” That’s thinking like a customer!
Constantly Question Your Status Quo
For you to think like a customer, you have to think and be a solutions provider. Ask yourself, how do I help my customer by providing them the best possible solution? It starts with asking your customer, “What keeps you awake at night?”, that begins the solution process. You’ll need to think about new opportunities to participate in the aftermarket industry or create new solutions … new ways of doing business that don’t currently exist.
Think like a customer by approaching each challenge as a true solutions provider. By watching you and seeing your example – your people need to embrace this concept so they will think like a customer in all they do. Doing so will help your team view the business from the eyes of the customer. This mindset and vision will better guide their decisions and actions.
Someone is going to be the best, so why not you and your team? Make sure you are tightening lug nuts in your control as you lead by example.
Rocky Romanella speaks, consults, trains and advises on leadership development, customer service and business optimization. The author of TIGHTEN THE LUG NUTS: The Principles of Balanced Leadership can be reached @ 949-551-2669.