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We've collected them from clients, companies and professional practices over the past thirty years. They are guaranteed to keep your business from growing -- and promise to save you the annoying problems that more business can bring.
1. Don’t keep in regular contact with clients and customers. They ought to know by now that you value them. They don't need to hear it.
2. Don’t plan. After all, planning is for the weak. It holds you back. By not planning you are free to shoot from the hip and aim for the stars. Just because successful companies plan doesn't mean you should. You don't want to be big anyway.
3. Don’t go out and meet people. Stay in the office. Wait by the phone. It’s sure to ring. And if it doesn't, blame the economy.
4. Don't pay attention or watch trends. Don't ask your clients what they want or how you can improve your service. And don't watch for changes in people's wants and needs. Just because they keep changing, it shouldn't affect the way you run your business.
5. Don't thank people for referring business to you. It's too time-consuming to call them or write a letter or note. They don't need to know your business depends on referrals, whether or not you appreciate the recommendation, or how things worked out.
6. Don't worry about building a brand or standardizing your company’s identity. Change your look, logo, typestyles, and colors – even your company name – each time you do something new. Make people guess which company is you and what you stand for.
7. Avoid talking about the value of doing business with you. Don't tell people exactly how you can help them and what they'll gain from working with you. For instance, don't tell them how you can solve their problems and save them time and money. Instead, bore them with the details of how you go about doing the work. Don't talk results — stick to explaining the process and what it costs.
8. Make cost more important than effectiveness. For instance, make sure everything you put out looks ordinary and unimportant. Just because you always notice when something is cheap or poorly done doesn't mean they will.
9. Assume everyone already knows about you. All that talk about how 20% of people move every year doesn’t apply to your business. You’ve been here a long time and people know you. When they are ready, they’ll call.
10. When something does work, don't do it again. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and move on to something else. Never repeat something that worked. What fun is that?
11. When something doesn't work, don't ask why so you can fix it. Try it again.
12. Forget consistency. Do something different each time you do a marketing project. It’s important to be creative and have fun — and if people don't get it, it's their problem.
13. Don't put up great signage. People might get a good impression of you and call or stop in. This will interrupt you doing something important.
14. Don't summarize for people. Even though we all see thousands of advertising messages a day, your clients and prospects will take time to read every word of your material. After all, you sent it.
15. Ignore what leading companies are doing. Their success is probably just luck. Trying to learn from them isn’t likely to be worth it.
16. Ignore what your competitors are doing. What – they have new products, a terrific and cool website, and professionally-prepared materials? They are just wasting a lot of money. Your customers know you and trust you. They won’t be fooled.
17. Avoid new technology. Your old answering machine is just as good as voicemail – and Gladys usually gets those messages right, especially the long, personal ones. And you just got the hang of the fax machine. Why use email – or texting – or even a database? Nobody you know does.
18. Tell yourself you are not narrow-minded, you’re focused. Why add new services or capabilities? That’s just more work and expense. People still need what you’ve always provided.
19. Keep doing what you’ve always done. The newspaper ads were good enough back then, why change now? Besides, our ad rep is so nice. And the restaurant placemats really get our name out there.
20. Don't ever get professional help. It costs money. And what could they possibly know that you don't?
If any of these 20 guidelines sound familiar, take heart. They all can be reversed — often with astoundingly positive results.
From our archives. We first wrote this in 1985. It was such a favorite with our clients and friends that we updated it to include here.
AS A LEADER, CAN YOU STRATEGICALLY, CONSISTENTLY, AND LOGICALLY EVALUATE NEW IDEAS OR CONCEPTS – regardless of where they come from? Can you determine whether or not it is a valid, worthwhile concept to pursue – or simply a time- and resource-wasting distraction?
One of the greatest strategic challenges facing leaders like you today is choosing the few best opportunities from the choices you have. This selection process is also one of the greatest threats – largely because pursuing the wrong opportunities distracts attention, saps energy, and wastes resources.
Very few leaders have an intuitive ability to make only wise choices. If that is true, where does it leave the rest of us?
The challenge comes in developing innate skills at sorting opportunities from distractions. Opportunities advance a company – helping it move forward and eventually become more productive and more profitable. Distractions usually begin as very appealing and profitable ideas. But somewhere along the line, they turn ugly.
How do you tell the difference? How do you figure out which to pursue – and which to abandon from the start?
Here are three clear – and immediate – steps that you can use immediately -- and get better at over time.
- Develop a few strategic questions to help you quickly sort out and evaluate opportunities on their merits – and to permit you to discard those that are likely to become distractions.
Add to these questions a simple rating system (say 0 – 5) to bring more objectivity to your thinking. In this case, zero or one is little or no value. Two or three is possible. Four or five is very promising.
- Fit us and our skills, capabilities, and our company?
- Fill a need or a hole in our offerings? Is this a logical extension of what we offer that people might buy in addition to what we are already selling or doing for them?
- Provide new value to our customers/clients/patients?
- Would they recognize this value – and think it’s important?
- Would it produce value for us – as revenue, profits, or in stature, reputation, or relevance?
- Enable us to do something we’ve wanted to do – or do something better?
- Help us strategically move forward and advance the company in some way or open other doors?
- Allow us to eventually leverage it into other areas or opportunities?
Don't expect perfection, especially of early ideas. The point is, if the idea makes it this far, there’s one more step. The concept or opportunity should be able to stand up to further scrutiny. Here are a few more questions you could ask (before others do):
- Is this a straight-line opportunity – meaning, can we immediately take advantage of it with the knowledge, skills, and resources we have now, or must we learn or develop something that we do not have at present?
- Do we have the resources, funding, skills, connections, logistics, and so on – in order to adequately act on this, or does it require other commitments (i.e., borrow money; hire people, etc.) that might be distracting all by itself?
- Would this make us more competitive – or perhaps give us a competitive advantage – or even keep competitors from entering this market?
RECOMMENDATION Develop your questions and use them – along with a simple rating system. And then teach your team to do the same thing. Improve your questions and judgment over time. Write them down and teach them to empower others. If you do, you will become a more strategic leader – surrounded by a strategic team – which together can consistently find opportunities amidst the distractions.
From our archives