Are You the All-Star of Your Niche?

You know how I love my New York Yankees. But truth be told, I just love the game of baseball. And with the "All-Star" break, I am so excited to watch the best of the best.

But being the best is not only just for sports. It is something you should strive for every day in business. And just like in sports, you have plenty of people watching you that you need to please.

Three Strikes and You Are Out!

In your business, you have three key groups that determine your fate. They are:

• Your employees/company vendors
• Your competitors/industry colleagues
• Your customers

Let's look at each one of these groups to see how much influence they have on the success of your business... and discuss a few ways to ensure that they are helping move your business to the next level.

#1) Your employees/company vendors:
Have you ever heard the old saying, "Hire Slow and Fire Fast"? To me this is more than a saying -- it is a motto. And there is a reason for that. Every person you hire to be involved with your company AT ANY LEVEL is a direct reflection on you. This includes your full-time employees, your part-time employees, your contract and fee workers, your vendors, and your joint venture partners.

If they screw up, you screw up -- plain and simple. So you need to understand that hiring is about much more than the experience and skill set laid out on someone's resume. Instead, you should focus on a person's core characteristics. These characteristics include things like integrity, urgency, and the ability to constantly strive for extraordinary results. These are things you won't find on a resume. Fortunately, you can find employees who have exactly what you're looking for just by putting in a little forethought.

Many people looking to hire employees believe reading someone's resume is the first step to hiring. Guess what? It's not. The first step starts with you and the job description you write. You need to give an accurate description of the type of person you are looking for -- not just list duties that person needs to fulfill.

Founder of Zappos Tony Hsieh says he clearly states in his job descriptions that anyone applying must possess a little bit of "weirdness." By stating this "requirement" up front, he's able to immediately weed anyone who may be offended by it.

Next time you write an ad for a new job position, answer this question first. "What is your little bit of weirdness?" Do so and you'll be much more likely to find employees who are in tune with your personality -- and your business. And employees who have the characteristics you're looking for... the ones who "fit" into your business... are going to represent you best. And that's a huge "vote" in favor of your business's success.

#2) Your competitors/industry colleagues: People are often surprised to hear me say that your competitors can help determine your business fate. Their surprise surprises me!

You see, your competitors should be your best source of intelligence when it comes to everything from marketing to product development to customer acquisition and more. And when you work in cooperation with your competitors, they can help you grow your business faster than you can imagine.

Take a competitor to lunch. Share what's working for you in your business and what's not. Don't be afraid that they will "copy" you. A competitor can never copy your story, your originality. It just won't work for them. Sure, they can duplicate your strategies and tactics, just as you can replicate theirs. But that's okay. Those are the same kinds of things you can read about in books or learn by attending industry conferences. With a one-on-one lunch, you have the chance to dig a little deeper into the how's and why's behind your competitor's business choices.

The other benefit of sharing your experience is that you'll earn a reputation as a "giver," as someone others want to do business with. This in itself is more than valuable - it's the key to your survival.

You can have a great product and top-notch sales copy. But if your competitors want nothing to do with you, there will come a time that you need them... and guess what? They will not be there to bail you out!

But if your competitor feels that you have a balanced, give-and-take relationship... that you are honest and trustworthy... that you are dedicated to making every situation a win-win... Then they will "vote" for your business by returning the favor.

So go ahead and drop that 50 bucks on lunch. It will come back to you 1,000 times over.

#3) Your customers: Long gone are the old days when the business owner, the marketer, and the advertiser were in control. Today, the customer is in charge. And frankly, that is the way it should have always been. When your entire team understands this - in conjunction with your mission and values -- and understands the needs, desires, and challenges of your customers, you will win your customers' "votes" in favor of your business.

When someone tells me they have a "customer service team," I want to scream. You see, servicing a customer implies you are fixing a problem. In my company, we have a customer satisfaction team. Nothing but pure satisfaction is acceptable.

The easiest way to get to that point is to treat your customers exactly the way you want to be treated.

Do you WANT to receive 15 emails a week from one business about the latest "killer" product that will make you eight million dollars while you sleep? You know the emails I mean. The ones that assume we are so stupid and desperate that we will buy anything. The ones that have little respect for our time and hard-earned money. I sure don't. And, when I get these emails, I do three things:

1) I question the business owner's integrity.
2) I unsubscribe.
3) I tell someone -- another customer of that very same business owner!

Why? Because being inundated with patronizing emails was not the reason I signed up. The congruency is gone.

And hey, I am the first to admit that I like being marketed to, but only when it is done correctly. When transparency, authenticity, and honesty are leading the pack. When the business is there to help me solve my problems and meet my challenges. And -- when I trust and respect a business -- I'll "vote" with my wallet.

At the end of the day, trust and respect are the two most important elements in ANY relationship, including the relationship between you and your customer. If you ain't got those two factors, you got nothin'.