Beating the mean

Too many companies operate in the middle of the pack. They would rather be average than be great.

Many stay in business because there is a need for their product or service, or they have a convenient location. But most companies can be great if their owners want them to be.

My parents told me two things: If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. And whatever you do, do your best. It was simple but strong guidance that unfortunately is not universally followed in business.

It’s easy to be average, but it’s not much more difficult to be great. It just takes awareness and commitment — awareness of what constitutes the difference between being in the middle of the pack and being the leader, and a commitment to move into the lead.

When I work with clients to develop strategies, I urge them to set lofty goals. I want them to strive to be the best and be disappointed if they don’t reach the top. When encouraging them to set their goals on greatness, I’m often told, “We’re a small company with limited resources. How can we be the frontrunner?”

But being the best does not mean being the biggest. Nor does it equate to spending extraordinary amounts of resources. Being the best means finding out what the best possible practices are for your company to differentiate itself and exceed customers’ expectations.

A smaller business can have an advantage. A small staff is more cohesive and consistent with service delivery. But it will not happen automatically. The culture must be strong, and it must support, communicate and reinforce the mission to be the best.

Understanding the requirements for being the best is only the start. Achieving those requirements is where commitment counts. Being the best requires you to go beyond commitment to passion.

You need to have passion and show it. It’s imperative to have the passion to never let a customer go away unhappy, to make others try to imitate your company, to set the standard for excellence and to be the best.

To settle for less is a disservice to yourself. Joel Strom ([email protected]) is director of Joel Strom Associates LLC, the growth management practice of C&P Advisors LLC. The firm works exclusively with closely held businesses and their ownership, helping them set and achieve growth objectives while maximizing their profitability and value. Contact him at (216) 831-2663.