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7 characteristics of remarkable businesses

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Is your business remarkable – really remarkable? And if it is, how do you know? Do you even know what makes a business remarkable? At the most basic level, you might say that a remarkable business is simply one that people talk about. That’s because people don’t talk about stuff that is average or OK, they talk about things that are either unusually outstanding or particularly bad or disappointing.

Ignoring the negative stuff for the movement, what is it that businesses that generate positive remarks are doing that others are not? Regardless of size, it seems that they manage to strike a balance between three things:

  1. They create sufficient devoted customers.
  2. They develop committed, motivated and effective people.
  3. They maximise financial returns.

The challenges facing business leaders today are greater than ever. Ever rising customer and employee expectations, increasing competition (coming from further afield), greater transparency, reduction in trust and customer loyalty, the increasing pace and dramatic effects of change and squeezes on resources and margins – these are just some of the issues they have to deal with.

However, many businesses are not only surviving, they are thriving. How are they doing it? What makes them different? How do they differentiate themselves? We call them 3D businesses because they are dramatically and demonstrably different from their competitors. And what they have in common are seven differentiators that can point to a way forward for almost every business.

1: They Have That Vision Thing

3D businesses know where they’re going. All their people do too. They have a clear vision that inspires, engages and motivates everyone in the business (and often their customers too – that’s what they buy into!).

This vision isn’t a set of figures or pie-in-the-sky dreams, but a meaningful picture of the future that creates focus, direction, passion and commitment. 3D businesses develop committed, motivated and effective people at every level – it doesn’t happen by chance! They proactively get buy-in to their vision and values, ensure that everyone understands where they fit in and how they are doing.

2: They Keep in Control

In this ever increasingly fast-paced world, getting and keeping in control is critical. In 3D businesses the leaders ensure that the people get the information they need, when they need it and in a format they understand. This starts with the establishing and using meaningful Key Performance Indicators to lead and drive the business.

They establish systems for feedback – from customers, communities and networks, as well as from employees. 3D businesses measure things like Net Promoter Score (How likely are you to refer us to your friends and colleagues?) and use these to monitor, drive (and reward) performance. This is not simply about ticking boxes.

3: They Have a Dramatic Difference

Dramatic difference is an unmatchable bundle of products, services, skills, methods and practices that differentiate a business from its competitors. This can centre on what you do and /or how you do it. It is only any good if customers want it, recognise it, and are prepared to pay for it – better still, if they are prepared to pay more for it.

A dramatic difference doesn’t happen by chance. It often means breaking the rules, doing things that competitors aren’t doing or can’t do. The benefit of a dramatic difference is that it really is remarkable – people do remark about it. Dramatic differences maximise the power of word of mouth and, crucially, word of mouse.

4: It’s All About Experiences

3D businesses engage everyone in striving to create delighted and devoted customers who come back for more and tell others. It starts with being easy to buy from and easy to deal with. It means consistency and it means everyone focusing on customers wherever they are in the business and ensuring the systems and processes reinforce this.

They strive to delight their customers which means exceeding customer expectations. By definition, doing this raises customer expectations. But 3D businesses relish this and work hard to raise the bar and make their customers feel valued. It’s about building a brand that stands for something and everything the business does needs to reflect and reinforce that.

5: Dialogue, not Diatribes

3D businesses recognise the importance of relationships and know that these aren’t just one way. So they work at developing dialogue, not diatribes, and work hard at building engagement with customers, their networks and their communities. They create, sustain and develop recipes that work for their groups of customers (or tribes, as the best 3D businesses have). This is all about personalisation and getting customers to ‘feel’ part of it. The more personalised it feels, the more difficult it is for competitors to get in there.

6: UBER Cultures

No, not that Uber. We’re talking about UBER as in ‘great’ or ‘superlative’. An UBER culture creates real competitive advantage and reinforces Dramatic Difference. 3D businesses deliver this and they deliver it consistently. And customers experience that culture with every interaction with an organisation and its employees, whether it’s online, on Twitter, on the telephone or face to face.

Consistency comes from ensuring that everyone understands this culture and what’s expected of them. Systems and processes are built to reinforce and support that culture, employees are encouraged, enabled and empowered to live it and rewarded and recognised when they do.

But this stuff doesn’t happen by chance. Developing an UBER culture means championing your champions and challenging their challengers. It means finding, recruiting, developing and promoting people who fit and not being afraid to get rid of those that don’t.

7: Keep Working On

Finally, 3D businesses recognise that developing their dramatic difference is an ongoing process. They know that standing still actually means going backwards. So they work at evaluation – systematically checking on progress against goals and targets. They focus on innovation – having proactive processes to improve what they do. They work at communication – keeping people informed of plans and progress. And they never forget the importance of motivation – getting and keeping people on board (which takes us nicely back to Characteristic #1, the vision thing).

Finally, four questions to get you 3D Thinking.

  1. What is your dramatic difference?
  2. Do all your people know and live it?
  3. Do your customers and potential customers recognise it?
  4. And what are you going to DO as a result?

Remember, 3D Thinking is a way of doing things. It’s a philosophy. It’s an attitude. Crucially, it’s one that is shared at every level of the business and drives performance. It looks different in every business, and there are no simple lists of things to do, or rules to follow. It’s about leadership, it’s about culture, it’s about processes, and above all, it’s about PEOPLE!

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