With St. Patrick’s Day approaching entrepreneurs might be tempted to wish for the luck of the Irish to help build their business. The reality is that success is far more likely when preparation meets opportunity – an insightful definition of luck attributed to the philosopher Seneca. Preparation takes many forms, but in our experience working extensively with entrepreneurs, organizing leadership efforts around three focus areas greatly increases the odds of success. These include customer focus, employee continuing education, and networking.
1. Customer Focus
A customer-focused business aligns its success with its customers’ success. What does the customer want? What do they need? What do they want/need that they’re not even aware of yet?
A major component of focusing on customer needs is establishing strong communication channels. Communication should be consistent and content must be relevant to their needs. For example, customer trust will not be established with emails that constantly push unnecessary products or services. A widely accepted rule-of-thumb is that 80% of the content in email campaigns should contain information that is beneficial for the client while only 20% should promote your business. Re-examining current campaigns with this metric may reveal some surprising insights.
2. Employee Continuing Education
To plan strategically businesses must understand societal trends, regulatory policies, and emerging technologies. One way to achieve this is by providing educational opportunities and support for employees. Continuing education also encourages innovation and boosts employee retention. Surround yourself with a strong team with the skill set necessary to carry the company forward through any situation.
Continuing education does not have to be expensive. Encourage employees to enroll in vetted online certification programs that are relevant to your business and to complete them (within reasonable limits) during business hours. Many platforms provide free certification programs that provide a wealth of knowledge. Examples of highly regarded, free online certifications include:
- Google AdWords (https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/9702955?hl=en)
- Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) Certification (https://cloud.google.com/certification/workspace)
- HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certification (https://academy.hubspot.com/courses/inbound-marketing)
- Microsoft Certifications and Exams (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/certifications/browse/?resource_type=certificatioN)
Networking is far more than glad-handing other people in your industry. At its best, it provides an opportunity to exchange ideas with like-minded business persons, gain fresh insight, and find answers to difficult questions. Building relationships through networking leads to long-lasting, mutually beneficial professional support and opportunities.
Naturally, professional networks can consist of family members and friends, but it’s also important to make fresh connections. Other avenues of making connections such as joining community organizations, local small business owners associations, and larger industry-based networks can lead to professional growth.
Rather than putting it off, why not set a networking goal now? Within the next 30 days put a local networking event or Zoom call on the calendar. Go in prepared with business cards, a thought-out two-sentence introduction for yourself, and a way to collect business cards and take notes. Be attentive, ask questions, and show sincerity. After the event, don’t forget to follow up with personalized emails. Examples of networking resources include:
- Trade Shows (https://www.eventseye.com/index.html)
- Rotary Club (https://www.rotary.org/en)
- Women in Business (https://womeninbusiness.club/)
- Meetup.com (meetup.com)
- LinkedIn (linkedin.com)
- Facebook Groups for Small Businesses (https://smallbiztrends.com/2018/04/public-facebook-groups-for-business-advice.html)
- Local Chambers of Commerce (https://www.chamberofcommerce.com/chambers)
- Development associations
- Trade associations
By all means, enjoy St. Patrick’s Day, but choose to make your own luck within the next 30 days! Review current email campaigns and check that all correspondence is meaningful for the customer. Ensure they’re receiving value and not just a sales pitch. Next, identify a weak area or area of interest within your workforce and choose to make it an educational opportunity. Make a team member responsible for researching a course or certification program and then reporting back to the team with actionable insights. Lastly, but importantly, schedule a networking event to attend within the next 30 days. By focusing on your customers, investing in your employees through continuing education, and building strong business relationships, your “luck” will never run out.