5 things to do BEFORE the competition moves in

Competition: regardless of how you feel it is here to stay!

My drive home takes me past an independent business called Coffee Connection. For the last six years I have been driving past, it looks like they have had a good thing going. Their location is busy and visible. Coffee connoisseurs and wifi surfers enjoy the full range of java beverages and light meals. The space is a mix of cafe, meeting lounge and courtyard. All this and there is off street parking to boot. Any business owner should be happy, right?

Now the 800 lb. gorilla has arrived!

Within the last month Starbucks has taken up residence on the corner directly across the street. What is a small business like CC going to do?

Whatever they choose to do first, it had better involve their people.

I have never had a remarkable experience with Starbucks staff, positive or negative. The same is true for Coffee Connection. I'd describe the experiences as fine, nice, pleasant.  That is okay for SB but horrible for CC.

Employers, particularly small independent ones, must train employees and provide the tools that allow them to WOW customers with every interaction.

Leverage your staff to insulate your business from competition with these practical ideas.

Clarify the mission. Why does the business exist? How are we going to change the world regardless of the size of our world? Who will benefit from our execution on delivering value?

Hire and train for the remarkable. Contrary to the old publicity adage, in business all press is not good press. Hire people that can deliver the value your customers seek out with their dollars. Each day sell your staff in word and deed on why the mission is critical. Set the standard that WOW is the mark of excellence. Remember your clientele will tell!

Answer the WIIFM (what's in it for me) for your staff.  People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. The job you provide should be a stepping stone in their career. Create community within the company, employees thrive on interaction. Make their path to advancement clear, even if it means they move on. 

Reward: Thank you's are always free so spend them generously. Say thank you to your employees in public, in front of other team members, customers, and in your media.

Build your rep: Just like you need a pipeline of prospective clients the same is true for potential employees. Hold interviews on a set schedule each month. Hold mock interviews for students who will be entering the workforce soon. Show up for career days at the local high school, JC and university. Even if you don't set up a booth, you could land your next superstar just by being in the room. Ask your staff for testimonials. You want to be the top (insert your industry) to work for in the area.

Empower the people. Your business is a platform for your staff to shine. Instill in them the confidence to take action without your explicit direction. Listen to them and act on the feedback they receive from customers. Your staff interacts with clients more than you do.

Your staff is the one asset that can't be duplicated. Treat them as the unique deliverers of value they are. Marketing, advertising and promotions can't beat a group dedicated individuals focused on excellence.

How has your staff staved off the competition?

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