Good work, though…Productive work.
Pay attention to the messages you are sending. Subtle messages can be misconstrued and the resulting miscommunication throws a wrench into your business operations. But you can turn this around and make it work for you.
Yesterday I wrote about the interesting small business conundrum:
- Being flexible and able to creatively adapt to your customer’s wishes WHILE…
- Serving your customer with clear-cut products and services that you do best.
Part of the fun of owning a small biz is that you can do both. You can adapt when needed or change course if you want to, with no corporate operations-driven standards to which you must adhere. You can also hone your strengths, serving your customer with unparalleled excellence in your niche.
The ability to excel at both is a double-edged sword. And as it rears its head, communication usually breaks down. However miscommunication, though it causes inconvenience, signals and opportunity for new growth.
In the case with my daughter (in the previous post), my wish not to have a mess in my car was interpreted by her suspicion that I simply didn't want her to finish her coffee for health reasons. It was a funny miscommunication between mom and daughter.
But there are other times when miscommunication seriously ruffles feathers. We've all been there.
Small business people tend to rely less on established systems, and more on case-by-case intuition. While that personal touch is at times a wonderful thing, it requires more attention and better communication.
While you are busy being flexible, your clients may become confused as to what your core services really are.
The stuff you know you can deliver on gets pushed to the back when you spend time trying to go over the top. Meanwhile you might miscommunicate your good intentions or your core competencies.
I’m not saying you can’t go above and beyond occasionally. There are three very good reasons for doing so:
- In doing so, we push our business into new territory and begin to envision expansion into those areas.
- Adding services or new products challenges a small organization to better streamline the operations of its core business.
- Small measured steps in a new direction gratify you both personally and professionally.
- Your customer usually appreciates the extra effort or indulgence.
One way to assure clarity (both for yourself and your customers) is to establish guidelines for the really critical parts of your operations, while allowing flexibility in other areas. That way you won't have to think on your feet about the stuff that's really important to you. Go ahead and write it down; consider posting an FAQ page. Share it up front with the people who need to know. Make sure everyone knows where you stand, both internally and those you serve.
Then when it comes to less important details or new projects outside of your usual scope, you'll have created the freedom to explore them. When you have the basics under control, you can judge when it’s appropriate to tackle something new and different.
That's the kind of flexibility that allows you to grow, deliver on your core value propostion…
and stay sane at the same time!
Let's bring that analogy back into the coffee/car example. Pretend your teenager is your customer. If "No Spill Ride" is your core value proposition, then you would provide certain cup sizes inside the car – not those huge latte cups that are more like soup bowls than coffee mugs. A rule regarding cup size is simple to communicate and to follow.
However, if your agenda involves educating your passenger about the dangers of becoming hooked on caffeine, that's another issue entirely. Now you’re in fuzzy territory. You want her to be healthy, but at the same time, you’d like to share the enjoyment of a coffee drink with her in the morning (in an appropriate cup). Your concern is not about spilling the coffee; this is extra.
Clearly, communicating about cup-size is easy. Helping your daughter learn her limits with caffeine, while still enjoying it with her on occasion, takes a bit more work to establish. But what a sweet little treat – enjoying coffee and convo on the way to school!
Adaptability carries with it those warm perks and fosters goodwill; absolutely! But it makes no sense to sacrifice the core value that your customer depnds on. As long as you understand your own strengths, and know where you are getting off the beaten path, your small business can grow.
Miscommunication has its upside. If you find communication falling through at certain points or events, if you are frustrated by expectations from yourself or your customers; that's a sure signal that it's time to develop a policy or system that you can repeat and duplicate.
Look at it as an opportunity to clarify your message and move forward.