Are you a “yes, but” business owner?
I was talking to a local shop owner the other day who was bemoaning the typical seasonal business slowdown. As one of his faithful customers, I asked if he had considered adding a couple of services that could provide a lot of value to me and presumably to others. And I even threw in some low-cost marketing ideas.
“That’s a good idea,” he said, “but…” and then proceeded to tell me all the ways my ideas wouldn’t work. “I would need to buy this,” he said, “and then I’d have to hire someone to do that and it just wouldn’t work.”
And you know what? He was right. It wouldn’t work — because his mind was already made up before he even looked into it.
Attitude change is required
That kind of rigidity no longer works in this pandemic world. The only way businesses will survive is if they are nimble, open to new ideas and ways of doing things, new products and services and more.
We all need to change our “yes, but” attitude to “yes, and” — “yes, this is a good idea and I think this is how it can work.” Or at the very least: “Yes, this is a good idea. Let me do some research and see what I can find out.”
Getting good feedback from your own customers is a huge gift; they already do business with you and want you to be successful. But you also need to be open to new ideas from any source, including your employees, vendors and contractors, business coaches, mentors, the news media, neighbors and even competitors.
This “yes, but” attitude in a small business is really a shame, because small businesses have massive advantages over big businesses.
Small business, big advantages
- There are few — if any — layers between front-line employees and the top executive (probably the owner). This allows a direct line of communication from the people who deal with customers and the people who make the decisions.
- New ideas can be implemented almost immediately in small businesses — or at least they can get quickly on the road to completion.
- Small businesses have more flexibility in resolving customer issues immediately.
- The ability to adapt rapidly to changing conditions.
If you have a “yes, but” complacency problem:
- Change your mindset. Stop seeing only the obstacles and figure out a way (or multiple ways) you can make new ideas work.
- Get good feedback: Come up with three ways you can get good feedback from your workers. Consider a brainstorming, company-wide retreat or a “suggestions box” contest with a prize for the best idea.
- Look outside the company. If you’re a one-person shop, talk to your vendors and outside contractors. They have a lot of experience with companies like yours. Where do they see areas for improvement?
- Ask your customers! Good heavens…what a gold mine they can be. Many will offer ideas for free, but if you can offer a small incentive for implementing a great idea, go for it!
- What’s missing? What aren’t you doing that you should? Do you need better communications, more training, improved marketing, better tracking of results, upgraded technology, different hours, different products or services?
- Research. Start with your own business. What’s working and what isn’t? After that, look at your competitors and then at the industry as a whole. What is going on outside of your own business that you can adapt to your advantage? What trend can you capitalize on?
- Consider investments, not expenses. Yes, you many have to spend money up front. There may be the tax advantages to investing in your own business. Also consider how many new clients or new sales you would need to make that investment pay for itself.
As a small business owner, you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself…and your customers. How has flexibility worked for you in your own business? Please share what has worked for you — and what hasn’t — in the comments.