Business success can be attributed to countless factors — a marketable product, great leadership, an efficient business structure, etc. It’s an intimidating list, making it difficult for many business leaders to form a winning, sustainable strategy.
So let’s make things easy and boil it down to the essentials — the three core elements that often mean the difference between high-performance success and eventual failure: innovation, customer centricity and collaboration. While many leaders have a basic understanding of the concepts, many have a tough time effectively applying them to their businesses to drive remarkable performance.
Innovation: How are you driving value?
At its core, innovation means driving continual value so a business stays relevant in its industry. It starts with a vision — realizing what a particular process or product can be at its potential and then creating a roadmap for the product or process.
More than the big idea, however, innovation should also come in smaller, incremental steps. For example, let’s say you realize a task is taking your team eight hours a month to complete. High-performance companies work diligently to figure out how to whittle that process down to eight minutes a week. They are continually assessing variables and uncovering new ways to streamline and automate (or remove) every part of the process. It’s a companywide mindset and culture that is never content with the status quo.
To use innovation to drive business growth, leaders should:
- Monitor. Stay close to the changing needs of your customers. Consistently monitor changes in the marketplace so you can be aware of disruptive technologies, changing business models and new methodologies, processes or services.
- Learn. Don’t just monitor changes, understand them. It’s critical that you understand technological and behavioral developments and how these dynamics could affect your industry or customers. Business-to-business organizations are especially prone to being so wrapped up in the status quo that they lose sight of evolving customer needs and expectations; they often fail to adequately adjust, allowing more innovative and nimble players to take root.
- Apply. Deliver new value. Whether that means solving a growing problem for your customer, making a service faster and more efficient, or stopping a problem before it starts, you need to consistently evaluate how changes in the marketplace and technological advancements can help your industry and clients in new ways. This is the kind of thinking that helps a business stay relevant. Look to Zipcar; it’s a service that provides rental cars by the hour. Enterprise or Hertz should have been monitoring their customers for insight into how and where people wanted to rent vehicles; they could have been the first to market with such a service if they had a more outward, customer-focused culture and business strategy based on continual innovation.
Customer centricity: Is the customer the main focus?
If customers’ success can be attributed to your product, their success is ultimately your success. That means your customers should be at the center of everything you do.
Take the customer’s point of view: How can you simplify his life? How can you make what he’s trying to accomplish just a few clicks away? The key word here is simplicity. Study and master the nuances of the customer experience related to your product or service, and find ways to continually outperform your existing offering in the next upgrade or enhancement. Ensure you keep customer priorities as your priorities, rather than internal politics or personal agendas. Listen, adapt, adjust and repeat.
How often do IT or technology organizations build steps into a product or process without considering the end-user experience? The truth is that customers are increasingly sophisticated in their expectations of how intuitive and simple technology products (and even service offerings) should be. Customers should be able to touch a button and get the result they expect or make a call and get a quick resolution.
Making the customer experience the cornerstone of everything you do creates a culture of awareness and sensitivity to the customers’ needs, whether it be developers, sales or every front-office and back-office employee. That focus ensures that all aspects of the product design and customer experience accurately reflect the brand and, ultimately, fulfill a need unlike any other solution.
Collaboration: How are you working together?
Collaboration is the true catalyst to seeing real results. By combining and connecting resources and people, collaboration drives innovation, tests weaknesses, builds strengths and matures teams to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible.
High-performance businesses leverage collaboration in three ways:
- Connect. Make a connection with your employees. Help them understand the different roles within the business and their impact on the organization. If all of your employees can understand the role of a developer, manager, salesperson, etc., collaboration within your team will increase, along with the quality and relevancy of your product.
- Engage. After forming these connections, each person inside the organization has the responsibility to consistently follow through, collaborate and engage with customers, peers and partners. Consistency is key. Find ways to build this into the culture and motivate team-based activity, with rewards for positive outcomes.
- Execute. Empower a collaborative, high-performance culture by recognizing and rewarding the people who deliver high value. Recognize teams who demonstrate innovative thinking, aid customer success, and practice collaboration as a habit. Encourage “B” and “C” teams to study the “A” list and help them map a course for continual improvement.
Every company, no matter what industry, has the opportunity to drive high performance and unparalleled success with a culture of innovation, customer centricity and collaboration. Remember: success comes in “cans,” not “cannots.”
Mario Martinez II is the CEO and founder of 360 Vantage, a leader in cloud-based sales and marketing technology solutions designed to solve the challenges of the mobile workforce in life sciences and health care. He can be reached on Twitter or Google+.