The journey of leadership is often full of highs and lows that can feel a bit like whiplash.
It can feel a lot like barreling down a high-speed interstate with a broken steering wheel and everything you love and own in the seats beside you…Oh, and your brakes just went out…
As a leader, how do we keep going and stay in the game?
- It’s the other leaders beside us that will never forget the risk we took on them.
- It’s spouses that always step up to believe in us when we aren’t sure we believe.
- It’s the team member who stops to thank you for the opportunity and the time you invested into them.
- It’s the customers that reveal that your extra attention to ensuring their success really made them a hero to their customers – knowing they are now your biggest advocate.
I know I have been blessed with these stories. And I’m sure you have too. That’s why we keep stepping up and moving forward.
In the article, “Secure Your Business’s Future with One Repeatable Process,” we explored the Business Hierarchy of Needs model created by Mike Michalowitcz and the levels our business moves up and down as it continues to grow and evolve.
Most businesses move up and down the lower three levels of the pyramid for the first five years of business. Naturally any business will evolve. Shifts in strategy, changes customer needs and expectations will mean the business requires focus on different levels.
Some businesses never reach the top two levels and they might have no intention of getting there. Whereas some businesses’ journeys begin with impact and legacy right from the start.
Creating transformation isn’t for everyone.
In this industry however, we are blessed to be surrounded by change makers and transformative leaders. It’s what keeps us here and makes our passion for the industry so “sticky.” Until you’ve lived it…it’s just hard to explain.
When National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) announced “The Road Forward: Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050” the first thing that came to mind was the impact level.
It’s so relevant because this is where our businesses and the organizations we love change the world. One by one and all together, as NAPA members.
So, what does impact look like in our businesses?
There are five key areas where we need to ensure we create transformation if we really want to leave a mark and develop a brand identity that makes an impact.
- Are we transforming customers beyond just the transaction?
- Do you have a mission that motivates every level of your team to focus beyond their individual roles?
- Do the dreams of the people on your team align with the bigger goals of the company Mission and Vision?
- Does positive and constructive feedback get encouraged and flow upstream easily from all relevant stakeholders (team members, customers, community)?
- Does your business intentionally build a strong network to collaborate with (vendors and even competitors) to enhance the customer experience and industry as a whole?
I could give an incredible story or build a scenario for each one of these points. Instead I will pick one and show how we can apply strategic solutions. Solutions that don’t just grow our business but also create waves of impact.
Let’s look at number 4, the free flow of both positive and constructive (even the less than positive) feedback we need to really understand this level.
Let’s imagine you are running a business named Top Line Equipment. You sell heavy road construction equipment to contractors across the Midwest region. You are known for your customer support but you want to offer more for all the customers that have put you where you are.
You have identified that your business is strong and healthy on the lower three levels. You’re ready to give back a bit and really make an impact while also continuing to grow the business. They do not have to be mutually exclusive.
First, we look at our business and ask:
- Are we known for technology?
- Getting in the field and dirty with our customers?
- As incredible communicators with our customers and across teams?
- Where are we already strong? What could we leverage to have a supercharged feedback loop?
These questions help identify how we are different and to find a unique sustainable advantage.
Top Line, we know we are always known for our willingness to get out there and get dirty with our new customers. Every level of our team gets a chance to experience job sites and the equipment in action whenever possible. We decide to build a more intentional process to make sure this is a strategy with outcomes that really impacts our customers.
Site visits are scheduled at the time of purchase. We follow up if the first or second job for the piece of equipment isn’t scheduled yet. We go one step further and bring someone from sales and a customer service technician to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Customer service focuses on a smooth operator experience. Sales focuses on gaining additional insights into what really matters to this customer on a job site.
What makes the company look like a hero to their customers?
They are intentional about finding ways they can solve problems, whether they have the answer or they can find the solution (key area #5).
Weekly or monthly meetings with team members help highlight the things that went well. And the struggles that had to be overcome on each project. The notes go on the client file for future reference. This information is also shared with a key Customer Service rep who’s a spreadsheet whizz and collects the feedback to look for trends and opportunities.
The salesperson checks-in with the client. Encouraging them to share feedback and asking about support they might need to keep operating smoothly. This follow-up process allows the client to express their views and ask for additional help.
So where does the magic actually happen?
After a few months of this process being implemented, we start to see payoffs.
- Your customers already thought you had great customer service. Now they’ve been blown away by how much you really cared about their success.
- A few customers have commented that your team’s proactively helped solve issues they didn’t even remember sharing.
- Due to the process being geared to openness and encouragement to share feedback, the Customer Service rep spotted a trend!
- Some of your growing customers are having frequent breakdowns due to missing regular maintenance.
- The team devises an opt-in ‘maintenance reminder program’ for customers. With a successful soft roll-out, which encouraged feedback, the program was expanded to include all their equipment, even if it wasn’t purchased from your company.
- Another follow up step was to proactively provide monthly reports on maintenance requirements approaching in the next 30 days.
- Customer feedback was good. Taking advantage of the opportunity the system is expanded. Customers can now sign up for the new monthly “low maintenance” plan. Which allows them to focus on other areas and you send a customer service technician out to tackle all the maintenance needs and update their records in your system.
- Your customers are so thrilled about experiencing less downtime and costly equipment issues that they are singing your praises!
- Your team morale has never been so high. Everyone feels connected to making this happen and they love the weekly meetings that share feedback from the field!
Their business is benefiting and your team is pumped about being part of the solution. This is what creating impact in just one key area can look like.
Imagine finding a strategic solution like this, implementing it, and then doing it all over again. Your business grows, you support your customers, and their business is growing too, all while building a thriving happier team!
This is what happens when we want to do more than just solve the external problems our customers are experiencing. In fact, we are committed to solving more than the internal problem (how they feel about the problem they are trying to solve). This is when we are driven to solve problems with strategies that make a real impact.