Table Stakes

Table-Stakes-300x300“The problem with a lot of strategies is that they are full of non-choices. You only know that you’ve made a real strategic choice if you can say the opposite of what that choice is, and it’s not stupid. So, think about ‘customer centric.’ The opposite would be what? We ignore our customers? How does that work? Can you point out many companies that succeed and make lots of money ignoring their customers? Well, then being customer centric is not a strategic choice.”

This extract from here by Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management on his thoughts around choices, planning and innovation is quite simply the best thing I have read all year. My previous Sales Manager, now dear friend, and I still talk about the concept of table stakes and Mr Martin has articulated it better than I ever could have.

Table stakes or non-choices, are the things that as an absolute bare minimum, a business should do well. They are not a strategic decision, nor should they be what make you unique, they are what your employees and customers should expect of you. They are simply what you do.

Here are my top 4:

1. Enable your people to be awesome at their jobs

How many jobs have you started where you have been thrown in the deep-end? Left to figure things out for yourself, there is no standardised way of doing anything – everyone is making it up as they go, or it feels like it. I’ve been there, done that, and it’s crap.

Having the right procedures, policies, templates and training programmes in place makes the world of difference for onboarding your people and ensuring on an ongoing basis that they know the expectations of their role and what it means to be awesome at it.

The result; things get done in a timely manner by people who know what they are doing and are trusted and empowered to make decisions on behalf of the business.

The benefits; quality product and service delivery; business continuity risk mitigation; employees are productive in less time, increased employee engagement and increased customer satisfaction.

2. Provide top notch customer service

Without our customers, we have no business. Period.

Imagine a world where your customers tell you that they wish all of their business partners and vendors treated them like you do. They feel heard and loved, you’re available when they need you and you know them well enough to make the right information available to them just as they need it – in my experience it doesn’t take much to stand out from the crowd in this area. It’s sad, but true, and a massive opportunity for you.

The result; your customers are your advocates and as a result you have people singing your praises all over town, all over your website and when you need them to be a reference for you.

The benefits; reduced customer churn and more business.

3. Be smart and realistic about your business tools

It seriously kills me to see people that are wasting the time doing things the way they did them 15 years ago because that’s how they have always been done – and it’s the only way their 1990’s Microsoft Access database allows them to do it. Not only are you losing out on productivity but it’ll be costing you a packet to maintain it on that server in the back room that is also on it’s last legs.

There are business applications available for just about everything these days without having the headache of worrying about developing a system from scratch. Figure out what it is you need and this doesn’t mean finding something that was developed in 2015 but to do exactly what the last thing did. Completely rethink your business processes with your team and your customers if need be, start from a blank piece of paper and then find solutions that do enough of the job to keep you moving forward. My other piece of advice is avoid customisation as much as possible, it’s a pain in the butt down the track.

The result; your people are less frustrated and more productive.

The benefit; more money and time for you and your employees to investigate other awesome opportunities that you haven’t even thought of yet.

4. Make sales and marketing activity a priority

Make sure you are able to be found on the internet and that you are proud of what can be found. If you’re not, do something about it now. If you’re on Facebook or you have a blog and your last post was 6-12 months ago, turn it off until you can commit to regular updates.

Sales and marketing activity should be frequent and be delivering a consistent message. This means the look of your logo and the tone of the language on your website, your social media pages and any other promotional material is the same. If it’s not, fix it.

The result; more leads with less effort, increased brand awareness.

The benefit; more business.

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