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Opinion: Engineer a turnaround with individuality, employee insight

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It is now 2011. If the economic recovery hasn’t quite hit your business yet, you may be wondering what you can do to turn things around for your company, or whether it’s time for an extreme business makeover.

Set a course
First, you need to make sure you understand your unique value proposition. A UVP is the unique value that your business brings to its customers. It represents why customers buy from you and not from someone else.

“Good to Great” author Jim Collins found being the best at something to be a key component of company success – not just good at it, but the best. The word best means you are unique.

There’s also the unique selling proposition to consider. While different from the UVP, it also is needed for success. The USP is the one-of-a-kind offer made to customers to get them to buy. A company’s UVP and USP may be the same, but not necessarily. The UVP really refers to the company’s internal strengths applied to the market, while the USP refers to how the company gets customers to make the emotional decision to make the purchase.

The classic USP example comes from Domino’s Pizza: “Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes.” When Domino’s started using this, no other company could make such an offer. The UVP at the time was the convenience of delivery.

Knowing your unique value requires a solid and brutally realistic assessment of the organization and the market. To get that brutal honesty, ask your employees and customers, as well as people who aren’t currently your customers. It may be an eye-opening experience.

A word of warning: It is easy to get down on yourself or your company when collecting honest input. My response to you is simple – get your mind right. The purpose of this exercise is to learn about the organization so that it can be the best.

The people factor
The right approach is to make sure the company and all employees – including the leader – are in a position to do what they do best every single day.

Great organizations utilize the talents and strengths of their people.

One business I worked with recently was brainstorming in the boardroom for ways to get more clients. Having hit a wall, company leaders asked for my input, and I simply suggested getting the employees involved.

We pulled together a group of hourly employees and asked them for ideas on how to get more people in the door. They proceeded to have a discussion that led to one of the most powerful marketing ideas I have ever heard. I can’t share it with you, but I can say that it is amazing – and it came from the employees.

Now, it’s time for a confession. The truth is, effective change doesn’t really occur as an extreme makeover.

Companies that have transformed themselves into something great didn’t accomplish the change overnight or through any single initiative. What such change really requires is discipline, which comes from good habits. The first habit that you need to form is empowering your people and utilizing their strengths to accomplish a common purpose. A UVP and a hard analysis of the company should help define that purpose, which will serve as a beacon of light.

Changing a company’s direction doesn’t happen in one retreat or a series of meetings. It is a wave that gathers momentum in time and gradually just becomes the way things are done.

Make 2011 the year when your employees lead the recovery and start something special.

Don Harkey is a professional speaker and entrepreneur who owns Galt Consulting and co-owns Leadership Book of the Month in Springfield. He works with organizations to employ strategic systems that allow them to be more effective and find renewed passion and productivity. He can be reached at donharkey@galtconsulting.com.[[In-content Ad]]

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