Over the past 20 years I can trace all business successes and certainly challenges to one root cause. Communication. Either good communication or the lack of it when things didn’t go my way.
While it may seem an obvious topic, there are many subtle nuances to how we choose to communicate and as an entrepreneur it is very easy to ignore those small things that make a real difference. Take selling for example. We spend time presenting our products and services or maybe submit a tender to a prospective client. If we lose, we suddenly have a huge array of “excuses” and reasons as to why we didn’t win the business. Price, resources, lack of information, sometimes we blame the company and even suggest they had already made their mind up, but were simply going through the motions.
However, I can tell you that often in business price is not the most important factor. After all, it’s not very useful to take the cheapest price and then spend 100’s of hours fixing, coaxing and trying to get an inferior product or service to meet our needs. If we lose on price, it simply means we haven’t done a good enough job of communicating the benefits of going with us versus any other option.
This week I joined 60 business owners at Croft Myl for a Business for Calderdale networking event. We heard from Halifax-based Internal communications specialist Catherine Bonner of Ambient Tribe. There were lots of great takeaways, but here’s a couple that I certainly took away for my business:
Entrepreneurs underestimate their presence internally We often assume that everyone is on the same page as we are. That they intrinsically know what we are thinking. We are all on the same team right? At a start up level, you are sitting in a room with 2 or 3 others, but once that grows, staff are looking up to the leadership for a bellweather as to how the organisation is doing. If you are an introvert, are you keeping the team up to speed?
Two way communication is always best: Sometimes business owners are great at communicating downwards but can find themselves in a bubble when it comes to two way communication. Catherine mentioned Waitrose who needed to save a £1m to avoid major cuts. Instead of hiring external consultants, they asked the staff. One small change reducing the length of receipts, saves £800k on printing and paper!
A great example of someone doing this proactively (rather than when there is an issue) is Venture Forge, an ecommerce consultancy that specialises in high-growth Shopify stores. Venture Forge chose to focus on developing their culture and communication strategy from day 1 before they even had an established team. This has resulted in their ability to communicate with clients openly and with candour as if they were part of the internal team. By shifting to this way of working and communicating they are seen more as part of the team and with significantly more value to the business than a traditional price-based supplier would be.
I know I can do better, how about you?
Managing Director at The Snowflake Media Group, a sales and marketing consultancy for business, based in Halifax but serving clients regionally, nationally and internationally.