Business managers in Denver have a lot on their plate. Success means running an efficient operation that can address evolving customer and market demands. But, how do you know if you’re as efficient as you can be, or that you are aware of the latest market trends and opportunities? It doesn’t really matter your company size or industry, it is challenging to stay on top of it all. As a customer, we want high value. A high value relationship is one that’s relevant and having significant bearing on the matter at hand. Relevance is not about being modern or fashionable. It’s about being impactful to what’s important to your customers, partners, and employees.
Is your business relevant? The first place to look is in a mirror. Being relevant means your management team and operations are in tune with how your operations impact value to your customers. Are your operations designed to exceed your customers’ price, quality, service expectations? Does your management team understand what market factors threaten your company’s unique selling proposition? Do your employees, suppliers, banking partner, and other key partners understand and believe in your vision and the plan to get there?
As Bryan Williams, president of Aurora-based builder, Schlegel Williams Construction, explains, it is about staying close to customers. “We started the company in the 80’s with a handful of guys and a vision. To grow we found out early that it was much easier to keep a customer, than to find a customer. And the best advertising is a happy client. For us it is critically important to be onsite and intimately engaged in the work and getting direct client input.” Williams added that his company hosts regular forums with customers, partners, and employees, as well as one-on-one meetings with various market segment leaders to help monitor market developments.
Pella® Windows and Doors, a Colorado distributor of the national manufacturer, conducts comprehensive surveys to benchmark their customer satisfaction rate and gain feedback on product quality, customer service, and other factors. “We have twice-a-month staff meetings to review survey results, competitive information, and opportunities,” stated Graydon Bevis, the independently-owned distributor’s CEO. “We believe that profitable growth can only be achieved by exceeding customer expectations. So we focus our team on what must be done every day to achieve this.” Bevis also emphasized that his team also collects feedback from prospective customers that didn’t go with his company and how they can meet the customer’s needs next time.
The big challenge of staying relevant is not just to hear and collect the information. It’s about ensuring customer feedback, known issues, and market opportunities are effectively addressed in your operations and strategic planning. It’s one thing for a frontline employee to hear a complaint, shop a competitor, or read an article about a new technology. It’s another thing for the CEO to make the findings a companywide priority.
Joan DiMaria, CEO and executive director of the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network, says her organization setup a specific internal team to collect and review frontline feedback from a number of outlets. DiMaria also hosts in-person, town hall meetings throughout the year with clients and their families. “Information from these sources, along with extensive annual customer service evaluations by external agencies, is reviewed by our Continuous Quality Improvement team. Recommendations are then forwarded to the Executive team for immediate action or inclusion in the strategic planning process,” explained DiMaria.
“One word, Dynamic,” explains Terry Cekola, president of Elite Brands of Colorado. “In order for a business to stay competitive and relevant, a business has to be able to adapt quickly to the rapidly changing business environment. The advent of technology and social media has resulted in an informed public with rapidly changing tastes.”
For most companies, staying relevant means you are continually looking forward. Hot trends will come and go, and too often can distract management teams. The secret is about staying above the current noise to clearly view your company’s direction from a long-term perspective. Leaders need to be vigilant and understand how disruptive technologies, regulations, or other external market factors in your industry may force change to your business model. For example, in healthcare there’s a lot of varying scenarios about the impacts of reform. As DiMaria explains, the practical approach is to identify steps that will keep your operations evolving at the right pace. “We know that healthcare reform is going to open up access to mental health service for thousands in ADMHN’s two county service area, so we are implementing efficiency measures and increasing awareness of our services.”
Englewood-based E2 Optics, a national structured cabling and IT infrastructure provider, is in an industry rampant with frequent technology innovation. As CEO Kristi Alford points out, staying relevant to customer demands, business operations and market opportunities is a challenge for all businesses. “I review my top three goals and execute at least one task to support these goals on a daily basis. I read something related to the industry every day. I make it a priority to stay closely connected to my employees and customers.” Alford has also aligned the company in strategic partnership program with the top tier manufacturers. These relationships enable her team access to information and training on new and emerging technologies.
The main point is that relevance, and the sustained pursuit of it, breeds success. The opposite of relevant is complacent, a dirty word for any business. Complacency goes against the three key principles of being business relevant: understanding your customers and market, executing on that knowledge in your operations, and continually planning for the future. So, it’s time to ask your team again…is your business relevant?
Check out other articles in this special section celebrating Citywide Banks 50th Anniversary, originally published in the Denver Business Journal in September 2013.