1. Create a Great Culture-
Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or 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, the market and the competition all they want but these are not the reasons people and businesses are unsuccessful. These factors merely expose 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.