Keeping your company relevant is about change. And to make effective change happen, you have to have strong leadership that is willing to take the necessary steps to move forward. Although staying viable in the industry you serve is all about providing goods and services to your customers and helping them with the challenges they face, you must first have a leader or leaders who embrace the following four steps.
- Plan Ahead. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a crystal ball? We could see what tomorrow would hold; and even the days to follow. However, we don’t have the luxury to predict our future, so we need to lay our own groundwork to plan ahead. In agriculture, there are some variables out of our control, but we can still study history, read, talk to those heavily involved in each segment and continue to plan ahead so our business stays sustainable and we help our customers succeed.
If you haven’t already, now is a great time of year to implement a strategic plan that can help you grow. As you develop your plan, think about what is important to your customers during the different times of year, and plan to have products available when they need them instead of waiting. Plan your marketing and promotions accordingly. Finally, plan some time to engage with your customers at different times of the year to hear what is on their minds.
- Communicate. Communications is a two-way street. However, we are often times guilty of doing all the talking, and not enough listening. As you plan producer meetings and open houses, set aside some time to ask your customers questions. Hear what is important to them. Do they have a common challenge among them that your business can help solve? Is there a new product that a customer could benefit from? It’s vital to listen and hear what your customers are saying. When you make sales calls or deliver product, take the time to find out what is truly on your customers’ minds.
- Get Involved. For most people in our industry, this should not be a challenge. However, for some less hands-on businesses, getting involved and becoming engaged with others is a struggle. If you are in a managerial position and spend a lot of time behind a desk or on the phone, it’s time to get up and be seen. Get out in the store to see how customers are treated. Visit the warehouse to see how employee morale is, and check on the efficiencies of loading and unloading orders. Visit your customers. Talk to your employees. Chat with truck drivers to see what they have seen or heard or how your business can work to create more opportunities. A little bit of movement and a whole lot of engagement with others will help you hear and learn about things your business can do or shouldn’t be doing to stay on top of its game.
- Be Responsive. All the listening, engaging and being active in your business means nothing if you don’t respond. Do you need to act on every suggestion? No, but if you hear the same suggestion more than once, maybe that deserves further research. Have you heard that there are better more efficient ways to get things done in your company? Perhaps that is worth looking into. If you rest on your laurels, and are afraid of making any changes, you will stay the same. Your competition will likely grow, and unless you are the only game in town, you could lose customers and ultimately watch your business decline.
Being complacent is not an option if you want to stay successful in the business world. If you want your business to stay relevant and grow, effective changes are needed. Don’t make those changes on a whim, but make sure they are driven by sound business practices and doing what is best for your company, employees and customers.