Make 2015 Your Best Year Ever

December 3, 2014 Updated: April 24, 2016

For more years than I can remember, I’ve written an article encouraging businesses to make the next year their best ever.

As many business people commit to worthy-sounding resolutions for the New Year coming up, here are some suggestions to increase the probability that 2015 will be a great year.

Saying that we want to be smarter and better than the competition while maintaining a structure and business model that obviously is not working is, in a word, foolish. It is equally silly to be resolute and persistent pursuing goals that are no longer attainable.

Denial of reality is a form of insanity. Your customers speak with their feet and their wallets. Listen to them and accept the truth. (I believe you can handle the truth!)

Make 2015 the year of the customer, and do it for real this time!

We’re fascinated listening to business people who say they are customer-focused or customer-driven, while at the same time their business models are focused on internal issues or self-oriented profit needs.

Today, our capacity to produce goods and services is greater than the demand, and unless you have a distinctly innovative product or service that customers “have to” buy, there is a confusing amount of choice. In a market filled with customer-hungry competitors, protecting margins takes more than simply increasing or lowering prices and tinkering with administrative costs.

Whether we recognize it or not, the customer is clearly entrenched at the centre of our business universe. Incidentally, organizations that ignore or deny this reality are in deep, fundamental trouble. (We’re sure you can name names.)

Seeing Things from the Customer’s Perspective

As Dale Carnegie said: “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”

It seems we’ve been deluded into thinking that simply improving products or services, lowering prices, and aggressive marketing is the answer. Typically, we design products (services) that we think serve customer’s needs, and then aggressively take them to market using traditional mass-marketing or direct sales techniques. Invariably, the market responds with apathy, strong resistance, or resounding silence other than a giant sucking sound as they take their money elsewhere.

Today’s business climate is unforgiving, and innovation is critical, but blind guesswork or arrogant product development is the kiss of death. To paraphrase a character in the movie Network, “Customers are mad as H** and aren’t going to take it anymore.”

Some of them have symbolically thrown their televisions sets, radios, newspapers, and magazines out the window.

Recently, we led an organization’s one-day planning meeting, and only once was a customer mentioned and that comment was derogatory.

As an organization grows, the natural, organic flow is away from customers. A recent survey indicates that 80 percent of executives thought their service quality was 10 times greater than the quality as viewed from their customers’ perspective. [OOPS!]

Action Steps

Seek out forward-thinking customers. Listen carefully and visualize the picture they see of their future. Collaborate with these customers to anticipate and create with them genuine current and future value. Like an expert pool player, help them set up the cue ball for their next shot.

This customer-focused approach requires making tough choices based on a sharper focus on where profits will be created in the future. Follow the money.

Our commitment for 2015 is to work with our clients to stimulate our collective economies. Happy New Year!