Got business problems or challenges at work? With his Two Cents page, Loaay Ahmed shares his expertise in strategic management consulting to help managers, employees and entrepreneurs thrive.
Q: I want to open a restaurant next to several other restaurants in the same street. How can I stand out?
Let’s just agree that if you don’t already know what fundamentally makes you different from your competitors then maybe you’re not ready to open for business yet. A gimmicky name or an attractive advertising campaign might make some noise for a short period of time, but consumers are smart. They can see beyond the surface and your business will be exposed if you don’t have something that makes you genuinely different in a good way. As for location hunting, consider being next to non-competing businesses. If you share the same target audience with a neighboring pharmacy, laundry, mechanic, or one of those dime-a-dozen hair salons, consumers won’t have to choose between one of you because you’re not competing with each other in the first place. They’ll buy from you both.
To take it a step higher, consider being next to a shop where you both offer consumers complementary products and services, like a dessert shop for example, to create an experience that is more pleasant for the street visitors and more relaxing for the retailers. Such a location-finding strategy is not only clever for retailers in general but also crucial for businesses that are average or barely above average because the consumers visiting that location won’t conduct an immediate comparison with the competition next door since they’re not there. Having said that, I’m not encouraging mediocrity but when many businesses can barely differentiate their offering from others they shouldn’t go out of their way to make it more difficult for themselves…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: I thought of joining a number of people I know in a new business but I can easily spot in each one a number of weaknesses in their management style or business skills. What’s the best way to choose a business partner?
What will happen if all the players in a football or basketball team were defense? They would likely lose their games. Can you make a hospital work smoothly if all staff from the security outside to top management were all medical doctors? Egos will get in the way and you’ll have waves of resignations. It’s also fair to assume that the majority of young couples in the world these days are both uncomfortable being in the kitchen. Give them five years with nobody cooking a proper meal and look at their health conditions then. Not pleasant. Selecting a business partner should be about working with people that have a different set of skills to yours to create a powerful team. Duplicating your strengths will not add much value because the weaknesses are not taken care of.
If you’re good at coming up with new products and services, find a partner who’s good at finance and maybe a second partner who’s good at business management and operations. The only area where founding partners may need to be equal is in their financial contributions to the seed money to avoid issues in the future; assuming that their involvement in managing and growing the business are relatively equal. One of the greatest values of having partners with complimenting skills is that you’re constantly challenged. By knowing that you need to pull your own weight in the area you’re responsible for, since the other partners see you as the expert in that field, you’ll always do your best every day, which is what your business needs and deserves. So think yin yang…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: Recently, I was promoted to group sales director. The stress level is killing me because of the weight on my shoulders knowing that the owners of the business trust me to deliver results. Is this anxiety normal in executive management?
Until you’re in the shoes of Dr. Richard Thorndyke in Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety movie, your stress level is not that bad. Stress and business are good old friends. Seeing this friend from time to time or getting in touch from a distance every now and then is good for you. See this friend every day all day and you’ll lose it eventually. If you come to think of it, you’ve had a certain level of stress in every new position you landed in your career. You just forgot that you controlled your stress gradually – until of course your boss came back again demanding more and pushing you to the edge again. Chances are, you are good at what you do and that’s why the owners trusted you with the sales director position. If they can see and trust your capabilities, then you need to stick with these qualities that got you the job the first place.
Instead of spending your time and energy worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to meet the targets, focus on meeting prospects, developing a sales process, training and mentoring your team, and creating opportunities to make what you sell shine in front of consumers and prospective buyers. The rest depends on other factors, like how good what you’re selling really is, if it adds value, if there’s a good after sales team in place, and so on, which are not things that you are responsible for – but you should flag it if you spot any room for improvement. Use your stress to keep you doing what you do best, not the other way around…and that’s just my two cents.
For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to [email protected] . Regrettably, only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.
Loaay Ahmed is a management adviser and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com .