Globally good advice for small business owners

On November 6, I gave a keynote speech at a small business conference in Mexico City.  

I did a great deal of research to prepare my remarks.  I looked into the state of the Mexican economy, the climate for small businesses and consumer trends.  The idea was for me to leverage my global expertise into a set of useful remarks for small business owners in greater Mexico City.  

During my talk, I outlined a big opportunity for Mexico ( US Dumps China For Mexico) and predicted that economic recovery would eventually find its way to Mexico — giving all bold and creative business owners a great opportunity.  Business would need to offer world class products and services, and be able to scale to the opportunity in the future.  

The trick, I argued, was leverage human behavior to help your business help itself.  Get these right, I promised, and you’ll attract customers and make profits.  These behaviors boil down to four pieces of advice: 

1. Behave Like A Leader – Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “the leader’s role is to define reality, then give hope.” You’ve been measuring reality for over a year.  You cut, saved and sharped the pencil to a needle point.  Now it is time to give your people hope — a belief that they will be successful over time. 

2. Convince Employees To Behave Like Owners – Too often, employees behave like employees, and the quality suffers: workmanship, service, arbitrage.  Why? The employee isn’t staked in the activity OR their is a code of silence where there’s no present ownership and the other employees are loyal to each other. 

First I recommended sharing either profits, savings or power with employees.  Build a profit sharing plan for when the business turns around.  Reward great ideas with increased power, even if you can’t afford a salary bump.  Next, I gave this simple tip: Give your customers access to the big cheese

3. Get Customers To Act Like Employees – Deliver a “wow” customer experience that is memorable and engaging (using your products as props or your services as a stage) and your customers will take your business to the street/web.  Ask your customers to write reviews for you at websites (like Yelp here in the United States).  When your customers join your marketing team or quality oversight commission, you are likely growing your profits. 

4. Treat partners like partners.  Your suppliers are very important to you. If they fail, you’ll fail too. Practice the art of being a great client.  I also told the Elmer Letterman story that illustrates how one partner can help another.  

5. Improve quality – As business comes back from China to Mexico, a new attribute of quality will emerge: Sustainability.  I talked about the new eco-Sandal that Dow is producing in Mexico with Groupo Riva.  I provided a case study of the banquet manager in Cancun at Le Meridian, that’s helping to restore the resort’s score on the new environmental scorecard that companies, association and tourist management groups are using.  I shared advice from my book Saving The World At Work, as well as a recession friendly green strategy. 

These ideas will work in Mexico, as well as most other markets in the world.  They aren’t culturally based, but based on the Law of Reciprocity — something I’ve seen everywhere I’ve traveled.  

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