Dealing with “The New Normal”

bigstock-Business-man-in-front-of-a-hug-40875844A client recently asked me to speak to their company about “the new normal.” It reminded me of an interview I conducted with Sir Richard Branson on the same topic a couple of years ago. As you know, Sir Richard is an expert on operating in the new normal. His international investment group, the Virgin Group, is one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands and runs successful businesses in several different sectors.

During our interview, I asked Sir Richard how he chooses the different sectors he invests in.

His reply was that he looks for sectors where the current competitors are not as customer focused as they could be. If they are not taking care of their customers, he’ll go into that industry.

But that was just the beginning. In addition to being customer focused, he shared that you have to be fast and flexible, you have to be cost effective, and you have to be continuously improving.

I couldn’t agree more. Customer service and a focus on meeting customer needs are a given in today’s competitive work environment. First, you’ve got to have Raving Fan customers—people who find their experience so exceptional that they brag about you to others. Second, you have to be fast and flexible. That means you’ve got to empower the people closest to the customer by providing skill training and giving them the authority to do their jobs well. Third, you have to do it in a cost-effective manner. Put it all together and you have a plan for success that I often depict as a sturdy three-legged stool with customers, employees, and financial success as the three legs—and the seat that holds it all together is continuous improvement.

So how do you succeed in the new normal?

If your organization is like most, you have many different areas of focus. In a situation like that it’s easy for people to become stressed, unclear about priorities, or even drag their feet. Don’t let that happen. Keep moving forward—because if you don’t move forward and adjust, your organization risks becoming obsolete.

As you look at the challenges and changes of the new normal, the advice I’ve been giving for years applies more than ever: Keep your eye on the customer. Create a motivating environment for your people and empower them to meet customer needs.  And remember, never stop learning. Adopting a culture of continuous improvement will keep your company moving forward and help it adjust to whatever the business environment brings.