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Brilliant Start-Ups

If you’re reading this article then chances are you are seriously thinking about starting your own business. In which case people will have told you, ‘Oooh, how fantastic. Being your own boss. That means you can have as many holidays as you want.’

If you have already started your own business you will not have had a day off in 3 years. And your ‘holidays’ are spent doing emails and stressing about who’s looking after things while you’re away!

So, although starting a business is loaded with stress, it can also be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. I run a small business and am also a student of the relatively new field of ‘positive psychology’, I thought I’d take the opportunity of passing on some top tips and/or nuggets of wisdom.

I rather like this pyramid. Partly because it makes me look clever but mostly because it’s actually very simple.

With all pyramids, you build from the bottom. It is beyond obvious that you need to know who your customers are going to be. You then need to have a dialogue with them about what they want off you (note, some companies don’t actually do this. They just guess?). Once you’ve found out what they want, you are then in a position to give them what they said they wanted and you’ve reached the heady heights of level 3.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. I would argue that if you want your fledgling business to survive you have to get to level 4 – you have to exceed expectations. You have to make your customers go ‘Wow!’ It sounds a little harsh but if you don’t manage that, someone else will and your customers will soon become theirs!

So, level 4 will enable you to survive. Here’s the tricky part. To grow and prosper you need to maintain the relationship and be ahead of the game (level 5). You have to wow them again, and again. And again! (the dizzy heights of level 6)

That way, you reach the top of the pyramid, the nose-bleed heights of trust and commitment, otherwise known as ‘customer loyalty’. You are not the cheapest but your customers are happy to pay a little extra because you are world class. This is when your customers speak highly of you behind your back and the word-of-mouth jungle drums beat their magic. Your business grows, thus creating a whole set of nice new ‘problems’ for you (that you can worry about on your next holiday)

But, hey, maybe ‘level 7’ is too much to take in for now? In the first instance, work out what you’ve got to do to reach level 4. The beauty of this model is that the difference between level 3 and 4 doesn’t cost anything. It often lies in the smallest details such as service with a smile or simply going the extra mile with no fuss.

Which is where the science of happiness and well-being comes in. Here’s my blindingly obvious top tip, stolen from the Ritz Carlton hotel chain. Their staff practice what’s called the 10/5 principle. Anyone who comes within 10 feet of you, you smile at them. And anyone within 5 feet you make eye contact and say ‘Hi’. That could be the difference between you meeting customer expectations and exceeding them. Simple? Yes. Do lots of businesses forget to do it? Yes!

Running a small business can be pretty hard work so I reckon you may as well smile while you’re doing it! Who knows, it might even be good for business.

Words By Andy Cope, author of Be Brilliant Everyday. 

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