I'd love to go into this diatribe about how the mirrors in Nordstrom's are rigged to make me look thinner and better in the clothes I try on there (probably not a bad sales strategy, come to think of it!) Today, I'll spare you the pain of that conversation. Take a moment, however, and reflect on this. Every morning you walk into your bathroom and look at yourself. Day in, day out... same thing every day. Then all of a sudden, you see a picture posted on Facebook. It's you! A much older/grayer/heavier version of that person you see in the mirror each morning. How did you not notice all that gray? Why did you think that shirt looked so great? There is this conditioned blindness that occurs every time you look in the mirror. Your brain is so accustomed to seeing things as they were, it doesn't always see things as they are.
Same theory applies in business.
In February, I spent some time with a small business owner who was nervous about sales. Her expectation was much greater for her newest location and she couldn't seem to figure out why, despite some very beautiful stores in prime locations, her sales had either underperformed or stagnated. She was contemplating firing one of her managers.
I went to meet with her. As she was standing next to me, she started to have that Facebook moment. It wasn't what I said as much as the fact that she was looking at her store through a completely different set of eyes. As we worked with her, she started to realize that the way she saw her business was not the way her customers saw her business. What she held most important to her, was not why her customers were shopping there. As we peeled back the onion and helped her connect the right message to her strategy and customer, her business has begun to soar. Today, only a few short months later, she attributes our support to adding over $100,000 in incremental sales.
One of the true joys that inspires our passion with Small Business CT/USA has been the continuous success stories. What we see differs greatly, however, there is one absolute. Until a business owner can see their business without blinders, they will never move forward.
Here are some tips to test if you have conditioned blindness in your business:
- Your sales do not continue to grow year-after-year (Please stop blaming the economy!!)
- You have not received critical feedback in over 30 days from a customer
- You have not made any changes to your operating strategy in over 1 year (even the absolute best companies re-evaluate their strategies year-after-year, complacency in business is death)
- You stopped goal setting (real, honest-to-goodness goal setting)
- Your top performers continue to be your top performers and your bottom performers continue to be your bottom performers
Lastly, remember that friends and business associates will never be the mirror for you. There is too much to lose, whether it be strained friendships or the need for continuous referrals from you. Add their lack of expertise or fear of confrontation, and it's even more challenging to receive value-added feedback.
In order to truly assess your business accurately, you need to leverage an accurate self-assessment. Just looking in the mirror at yourself is not enough. It's important to look at your business through a different set of eyes and different standards. A customer's needs and wants change rapidly. How customers want to be found also changes. Just because you've been in business for 10+ years does not mean you've figured it out, it just means you've figured it out so far.
Whether it's your customers, surveys, analyzing your sales, or a consultant or program like ours, it's important that you step back, pause, and TRULY see where you are. Although I'm regularly driven by instinctual behavior and would never challenge someone to not "go with their gut," be sure your gut has 20/20 vision first.
To your success.
Colleen Ferrary, Founder Small Business CT/USA