Your Competitive Edge: Looking To Grow Your Business?

*Looking To Grow Your Business?*
**By Michael Hammond**

***It seems like every day we hear more and more bad news. When will our business turn around? It’s only as bad as you make it out to be. At first glance that may seem like an odd statement to make, but it’s true. I know of plenty of companies that are growing and thriving. How do you follow their lead? Don’t be caught in the self-fulfilling prophecy of doom and gloom, look to be a trailblazer. Here’s some things to consider:

****I read an article called, “4 Ways to Stand Out and Grow Your Business” by The Jon Gordon Companies, Inc. that really had some good points. Here’s their advice:

****1. Create a Great Culture – Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a five-person company it’s never too early to decide the kind of culture you want to create and determine what your culture stands for. For example, even when Apple was just a two-person company consisting of the two Steves it was clear their company culture challenged the status quo and as they grew they attracted and hired those that fit their culture. While it’s difficult to quantify the benefits of a strong culture, we can all agree that there is something about culture that speaks volumes to the marketplace. When you focus on your culture you create a strong foundation of values, beliefs, expectations and habits that cause you to stand out in the marketplace and ultimately grow your business.

****2. Lead with Optimism – Now, more than ever, optimism is a competitive advantage. Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, was asked the most important characteristic of a leader and he said “Optimism.” After all, it’s not the pessimists who will grow this economy. It’s the optimists who believe in a brighter future that will take the actions necessary to create it. Optimism will also help you navigate the set-backs, challenges, naysayers and Energy Vampires as you seek to grow your business. You have a choice. You can believe success is impossible or you can believe that with faith, hard work and an optimistic attitude all things are possible. To grow your business, choose the latter.

****3. Show your Customers you Care – I am convinced that the most successful companies find unique ways to show their customers they care about them. Les Schwab Tire Center employees run outside to greet their customers when they pull up in their cars. Zappos offers free shipping and free return shipping. My local cleaner replaces buttons on my suit if they notice they are missing and provides free pick-up and delivery service. Rosenblums, the place where I buy a lot of my clothes, sends a gift certificate on my birthday. I can’t tell you how you should stand out without knowing more about your business but I can tell you, if you want to stand out and grow you must create your own signature way to show your customers that you care about them. When you show your customers you care they will talk about you to everyone (even write about you) and you’ll stand out in a crowded and competitive marketplace.

****4. Pursue Excellence – They can blame the economy all they want but the economy is not the reason people and businesses are unsuccessful. The economy has merely exposed those with weak business models, bad cultures, poor leadership, toxic work environments, apathetic sales forces and mediocre products and services. On the contrary those who pursue excellence are thriving. From the carpenter who is in demand because everyone knows he’s on time, works hard and always satisfies the customer to the graphic designer who strives to make each project her masterpiece, to the Realtor who is passionate about helping her customers find the right home, to Apple iPads and iPhones, to restaurants that are jam packed… it’s clear that those who passionately pursue excellence will stand out and grow high above the competition. The economy no longer will support mediocrity but if you can find your niche, share your passion and work hard to be great then growth will be inevitable.

****What does this mean for you Mr. Mortgage Lender or Mr. Mortgage Technology Vendor? I challenge you to take a test, actually two tests. First, take these four principles and document how your company follows them today. Second, challenge yourself to think about how you can follow these four principles in new ways in 2012. Tests are usually a drag, but I guarantee you that these tests will be tests that you will not regret taking.

Michael Hammond
Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.