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Posted: September 26, 2011

Can you spell V-A-L-U-E-S?

Here's what's important for today's businesses

Roy H. Koerner

Comprehensive studies over long periods of 30 and 65 years show clearly that companies that are value-driven using ethical business practices as their foundation outperform those that don't by a factor of five to 15 times. So let's use a mnemonic as a reminder of what is important for today's business.

V is for Vision: We are in business for a reason. Maybe it started with a dream. But what is it specifically? Can we envision it as a vacation spot... that warm sandy beach at Aruba or that golf course on Maui? Now, describe the picture we see of our company when we "arrive" and are sitting in the "cat bird seat."

That is our long-term goal. It's why we work so darn hard and long. Now, we know the destination and can concentrate on how to get there. We, the owner/manager, are the only one with the vision but everyone else can help find the best way to arrive. The vision must consider things like the business environment, our unique service or product, our employees, suppliers, competition, the economy plus other factors.

A is for Attitude: We can develop a negative attitude in bad times, even when passionate about our business. It doesn't help! A positive attitude makes achieving the vision more likely. People like positive happy people around them and that includes customers and clients. Employees like to work for positive bosses that feel good about themselves. Creative ideas come from positive people. If we get depressed, acquire a positive outlook by pretending and it will come.

L is for Leadership: Who knows what's going on, knows the business, is respected, solves problems and encourages the team? Who do we trust? If that is one person, we must take real good care to keep them. Most likely, there is more than one person that can exhibit leadership in a specific area, when needed. An astute owner/ manager will let the emerging leader take the ball, in a particular situation, and follow their lead.

Some leaders are natural, some emerging and some have it thrust upon them. Good leaders are also good followers. So we should take advantage of these people when we see them rise up. Encourage his or her leadership to instill confidence in everyone. Max DePree authored a timeless little book on leadership, Leadership Jazz. Also, check out www.all-about-leadership.com

U is for Understanding: So much to learn-so little time! Understanding means knowing the root cause and factors affecting our business. Understanding, we can perform triage to find those matters that need immediate attention to preclude business death! Then, separate those we can control from things uncontrollable with which we have to work.

What matters? First, review our business-plan to reach the vision. Does it address current forces in the marketplace? Other matters need our attention such as cultural differences within our customer base, changing customer-buying behavior, the ever-changing big picture or world-view of global competition and stability of the dollar. We might not like the fast changing electronic technology but not understanding how society is using it can put us in jeopardy. We can "Google" these topics to get quick reads regarding each critical factor and more.

E is for Ethics: Three key words describe conducting ethical business, honesty, integrity and trust. We have to be above reproach. Even the perception of questionable behavior affects our reputation. Stealing, cheating and lying cannot be tolerated. So, we must take immediate remedial action. Complaints from customers, even if undeserved, must be dealt with quickly.

The power of the spreading word as to shoddy work, overcharging, impoliteness and all the other things customers find distasteful result in the kiss of death. We can't afford those things, and besides, doing business ethically is just the right thing to do. The companies honored annually by Colorado Ethics in Business Alliance (CEBA) are selected because they adhere to ethical values. None demonstrated this more than those honored last March 31, 2011. (See written and video clips of their stories at www.ceba.org).

S is for Service: Business success requires three primary things: Service. Service. Service. We work hard to get returning customers so treating them like royalty, to keep them, saves the cost of replacing them. Simple things like being polite, using words of respect, as "Ma'am, sir, Mr., Mrs., and Ms." Home jobs require "booties" and a thorough cleanup after a pristine job. Do something extra like upgrading materials, if possible for free and ALWAYS follow-up with communication as a note, phone call, email or an inspection visit to insure the job went well.

Remember, while in someone's home, criticism of previous wor, by someone else, is a direct criticism of the homeowner who hired them, and some take it personally. Remember the business golden rule," i.e., "Serve our customers as we would like to be served." We may need a consultant sometimes. This site might fit: www.successconnectiongroup.com .

Try these "V-A-L-U-E-S" hints and become a candidate for a CEBA award.
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Roy H. Koerner is a past president of the Colorado Ethics in Business Alliance.

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Readers Respond

The BBB (Better Business Bureau) has promoted ethics in business since 1912, a time when big mustaches and hats were required workwear. They've done it so long that their first phone number was 19. Consumers care, and rightly, that business support ethical practices; and consumers benefit from the BBB as well as from CEBA. By David Ess(EveryoneHasABoss) on 2011 09 26

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