When I started my first business 16 years ago, I had a clear vision and purpose for the company. I knew why I wanted to start the business, what the focus would be, and who would constitute the client base. Since that time, the business has stayed true to this purpose and vision.
But my company has also become much more than what I envisioned many years ago. In addition to our initial core services offerings, we now find ourselves providing a broad array of services for our customers. Much of the work we perform today was never planned nor intended to be included as part of the business.
The primary reason we have expanded our service offerings is not necessarily due to a strategic vision or calculated plan. It is because we responded to our customer’s needs. Over the years, we have worked with multiple customers who would come to us with problems or challenges within their business. More specifically, they wanted our help in finding or developing solutions to these challenges.
Our customer’s requests required us to go beyond our comfort zones. We had to learn about an unfamiliar subject, hire new talent, gain additional training, and even make financial investments. We certainly understood our boundaries and realized if something was beyond our skill set or capabilities. But in most cases, we accepted the challenge. We were never certain if we would succeed or fail, and our reputation, relationships, and money were almost always at risk. We did however, learn that by responding to meet our customer’s needs, we discovered avenues to create additional business streams and opportunities for the company.
Most successful companies are much different today than they were in the past. When you research successful long-standing firms, you will find those businesses have evolved over time. You will also learn that there is typically one common element to their success; the needs or wants of the customer necessitated what the company ultimately provided.
Having the opportunity to spend time with CEOs and senior management at a number of firms, I hear the successful ones continually share a common refrain: “We are adding a new product/service because our clients have asked us to. They have a need and turned to us because they know we can perform. Now we will work to figure out what we need to do and how to do it.” This mindset has served them well in the past and will ensure a greater chance of long-term success for their future.
It should be a goal of any business to be pushed into performing services or developing products for customers that go beyond what they typically provide. If a customer is asking for your help in solving their problems, it demonstrates you are doing good work. More importantly, it demonstrates you have become an important partner to that customer. And ultimately, it is one of the best opportunities to grow a company.
Responding beyond your comfort zone to meet a customer’s needs is not an easy task. It can be risky and may even be costly. The chance for failure is real. But to choose otherwise can be more dangerous. The business world is littered with companies who stuck to their guns, who did not venture out and offer new services or products when a customer’s needs changed or increased. While they made a safe decision in the short term, the long-term strategy is anything but safe.
Check out part 1 to this series where I discuss what I’ve learned customers expect from companies and what happened when my company didn’t receive the same kind of service that we offer our clients.
Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers, and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts, and via his blog.