Be committed. What’s the first thing you think when you think of commitment in the context of your business? Without commitment in three particular areas of business, success is unlikely.
Commitment to succeeding in the business. What’s your backup plan if your business doesn’t prosper? Some professionals (especially the risk-averse, like lawyers) need to have a backup plan to feel secure, but having an acceptable fallback can in some instances be a sign of serious trouble.
I recently spoke with a lawyer who commented that she was excited about opening her own practice and determined to make it work, but that if things didn’t go well, she could always go back to the job she’d left. Plan B so permeated our conversation that I virtually guarantee she’ll be back at the job within a year. And that’s ok, except that she’ll return with a feeling of failure if she doesn’t recognize that she was never really committed to building her own business.
I don’t know a single person (especially over the last couple of years) who hasn’t wondered at least occasionally what if this doesn’t work… But having a clear fallback position makes it too easy to put that plan into action instead of executing the plan to make the business work. The reason is often simple: Plan B is familiar and safe, which may not be the case with one’s own business or practice, especially during the start-up phase.
Let me be clear: sometimes a business doesn’t work or a practice lacks the clients to survive, and you still have to pay the mortgage. If that happens, adjust course. You may need to take on some part-time work or even throw in the towel on the business. But if you’re starting every week (or every day or every project) with Plan B in mind, you’ll end up with Plan B before you know it.
Commitment to business development. To get consistent results, you must be consistent with your business development efforts.
When I consult with a potential client who wants to bring in more business, I always ask questions to uncover not just what business development activities they’ve tried, but how consistently — and when a business is underperforming, consistency is always lacking.
Create a schedule of your activities, divided into daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly activity. Otherwise, you’re leaving it up to chance. Even when you’ve developed a habit, a change in outside circumstances can undermine that habit, and you’ll never even notice unless you have a system in place.
One client wrote articles for publication every other month, but when the journal that published those articles went out of business, he neglected to put writing for publication on his task list, and guess what? It just didn’t happen. He searched out a couple of journals eager to publish his articles and added writing to his quarterly task list so it wouldn’t slip through the cracks again, and his stalled list of publications began growing again. Checklists and schedules will help to keep activity consistent.
Commitment to clients. I have observed professionals who are so committed to growing their businesses that they focus almost solely on getting the next new client, leaving behind current clients. Some professions mandate a minimum level of client service, but when’s the last time you felt good about receiving adequate service?
To succeed in business, make it part of your habit to deliver exceptional client service. That means providing the substantive service the client needs, plus providing it in a way that surpasses need. For example, one of the top complaints about lawyers is that telephone calls go unreturned. (I haven’t seen statistics, but I imagine unanswered emails are a growing area of dissatisfaction as well.) Of course, you must respond in some way to your clients’ communications to provide adequate service. Take adequate to excellent by setting a policy that you or someone on your staff will respond to every client communication within X amount of time, and then stick to that policy.
For ideas on crafting service that will delight your clients, read Seth Godin’s excellent book Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.
How committed are you? Are you willing to do what it takes to grow your business or your practice, applying a “no excuses” approach?