One of the key ingredients to running a successful business is having a sell-able product, something ready for public consumption. It is impossible to have business success without a product to sell to your clients. To have the best shot at running a productive business, your product must meet a few requirements: it must be something that not only is profitable enough for the business to survive, but is also user-friendly, easy to understand, easy to operate and leaves the client feeling satisfied, believing that they received much more benefit than what they expected. Something that meets these benchmarks can be considered a “complete product.” If you can produce a complete product, then your chances of running a successful business dramatically increase.
Businesses rarely achieve the complete product, rather it’s a goal to strive for; an ideal to be pursued. The closer we can get our product to this standard, the better our chances of business success. A complete product is easier for us to sell; it’s easier for our clients to buy and it is easier to maintain, causing fewer problems for everyone involved after the sale. The complete product can lead to an easier business life, and fewer problems in your business typically equates to a less stressful life all the way around.
And who wouldn’t want an easier life?
Well, you may ask, if this complete product cannot be attained, then why should I even pursue it? While the fact remains that you will probably never achieve the complete product, every step you take toward that ideal is another step forward for your business, an additional improvement in your product and one step closer to the ultimate goal of an easier life. Even though it may not be perfect, every small correction that you make in your product can result in a few more sales, a few less questions and possibly even fewer problems in your life.
Given enough time to ponder our specific situation, we can all come up with a laundry list of things that we can do to better our product. Unfortunately, having a large list of upgrades often overwhelms us, leading to stress and often causing us to give up the idea of upgrading altogether. We think that there is so much to be done; that we could never possibly finish this project. This type of thinking can prevent us from making any changes, regardless of how beneficial they would be for our business.
A year from now you will wish you had started today.Karen Lamb
In order to overcome this hurdle, we must realize that our own critical thoughts are just that: thoughts. It is estimated that the average person has between 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts each day. Just because one of these passing thoughts tells you that you cannot possibly tackle the Herculean-task of improving your product, don’t buy into the hype! Yes, your brain is correct in its assumption that you cannot possibly make every one of your ideal improvements all at the same time. However, this shouldn’t stop you from making regular, small and incremental changes to better what you’re selling.
Our brains are typically overwhelmed when we attempt to tackle a large, multifaceted project, as most people are simply not wired to handle this type of situation. Our brains are, however, perfectly suited to working on one small, specific aspect of the larger mission. The quote attributed to Creighton Abrams, who was a US Army General and Chief of Staff, explains that “when eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” This means that we should take advantage of our natural propensity for solving small problems, and work on one (seemingly) minor task at a time. Striving to make small gains over the long-term will eventually produce the elephant that you were looking for.
One thing that you can do to approach the complete product is to critique yourself on a regular basis. You may want to do this once a year, possibly setting a recurring reminder around an easily remembered date like New Year’s Day or the anniversary of the birth of your company. Or you may want to do it on a more regular basis: twice a year, quarterly or whatever best suits you and your specific industry. In my industry, home inspection, an annual or bi-annual review would probably meet most of my company’s needs.
For home inspectors, this means that you must sit down in a quiet place, grab a cup of coffee and actually read your reports. While I do advocate reading your report at least once in its entirety before you deliver it to your home inspection clients, in this case I am referring to sitting down and going over some of the home inspection reports that you have already delivered to your clients. Pick out a few recently produced reports at random and review them with a critical eye.
Your initial focus should be on the items that are mandated to be inspected by your standards of practice and code of ethics. An easy way to do this is to produce a checklist based on your standards of practice, using this checklist to guide you as you review your reports, checking all the items that you covered in your report. This will allow you to easily see if your report is missing any of the requisite items. Verifying that you have your SOP covered is one of the easiest ways to help reduce your chances of having problems after the inspection and is the first step along the road to a complete product.
Putting on your high school English teacher hat, be sure to check punctuation, spelling, grammar, layout, font consistency and any other item that affects the way your report is interpreted. Remember that your report must be able to be understood not only by you and the people that were at the home inspection, but also by anyone else that may eventually read the report, such as a judge, arbitrator, attorney or government official. Anything that calls into doubt your abilities or professionalism can (and will) be used in court by the other side to invalidate your qualifications as a Professional Home Inspector.
Be sure that your report is clear and concise. You certainly want to provide your client with the information they need to make an informed decision regarding whether to purchase the subject property. However, you don’t want to overwhelm them with home inspection jargon. While properly using such terms in your report may be impressive to an engineer, such material will prove to be too technical to the vast majority of your clients (and their agents), and will certainly make it difficult for them to understand the message that you are trying to convey. This will certainly lead to more questions for you about the report, and making your clients feel stupid because they can’t understand the language used in your report is a sure-fire way to decrease their satisfaction level and increase the possibility of problems for you down the road.
We are all too busy in our over-scheduled lives. The thought of spending time working on something that we are already using in our business may seem like a waste of our valuable time. But a small investment in bettering our product can easily pay big dividends. Take a few moments to review your product. Whether you are selling your services, your knowledge or a physical product that you produce, time spent improving the product you’re offering is an investment in the future of your business.
The time you spend will soon be forgotten, but the benefits of having a better product will last a lifetime.
We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insolvable problems.Lee Iacocca
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