Whether directly or indirectly, all companies struggle during economic downturns and other times of difficulty in some way. Great companies, however, find ways to survive and even thrive during times of transition in the marketplace.
They read the market indicators and react quickly. But most often, they recognize the secret to survival has been there all along, turning to their core values to find the guidance they need. You, too, can be the resource your customers turn to and can’t live without during tough times, as long as you stay connected to your values and remain deeply in tune with your customers’ ever-changing day-to-day needs.
Here at ATS, we believe staying close to our values is the very thing that has helped us weather disruptions in the global supply chain throughout 65 years of history. Using the ATS core values as an example, here’s a glimpse at how you can connect the guiding principles within your company to strengthen relationships, even — and especially — when the going gets tough.
- Keep good company: Warren Buffet recommends you “associate yourself with people that are better than you and you’ll drift in that direction.” During rough times, it’s easy to fall into a trap of gossip and unproductive speculation. Force yourself to avoid negativity and focus on an optimistic mindset.
- Build Trust: Your customers are sizing up how much they trust you before they give you any opportunities to succeed. Putting the right information in front of them to show you’re a trustworthy person within a trustworthy company can speed up the process of building trust. What documents or testimonials can you offer that help build this trust? Does your social media presence make it look like you have it together? First they’ll search your company, then they’ll look you up.
- Invest in yourself: Put the amount of work in it takes to achieve your goals and objectives. Who hasn’t looked back on a successfully performing business and said “I wish I would have invested in that in the early days.” Our best days are still in front of us. Put the time in and it will pay off.
- Be resilient: In times of high anxiety or indecision, people are drawn to those that have a calm demeanor and don’t fold under pressure. Customers are sizing you up when they’re talking to you. Do you sound like you have everything under control? If you do, you’ll find more opportunities coming your way on a regular basis.
- Protect your brand and your customers: Along with your employer, you have a personal brand to protect. Being entrusted with your customer’s freight and brand is a big responsibility; take it seriously. Come through on your commitments and do what’s right to get the job done.
- Be on time and responsible: Make sure your reputation as a service provider and as an Employee is someone that can be counted on. Customers are facing stiff competition in their own industries. If we help them look good by doing something as simple as honoring our commitments, we’ll have more opportunities come our way.
- Be Inventive: A big part of our service is tied into creativity. Use the team around you to help customers tackle unique issues they’re facing. Keep in close contact with operations teams and help customers coordinate unique service instructions, labor, storage, loading/unloading equipment, whatever it takes.
- Be Proactive: Find a solution where others only see a problem. A lot of opportunities come our way because someone else couldn’t overcome the problem with a solution that was practical and achievable. Listening to the customers while they’re telling “the story” on an issue they’re facing is a great time to proactively address issues. Let your customer know what they might have missed and how you’ll react. “This might happen. If it does, I’ll do this.”
- Challenge yourself and others to do more: Benchmark yourself against the right people. What share of your customer’s freight do you have compared to the competition? What spot on the “sales leaderboard” do you have compared to last week? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “I have enough to keep me busy.” Keep the competition going in your head and you’ll continue to grow your business when others are fooled into going on cruise control.
- Not an Expert? Find one. You’re able to bring your entire organization’s experience to the table. Lean on your coworkers’ experience and look for opportunities to collaborate. You’ll build credibility with your customers by bringing other people into the picture who have unique skillsets to help serve the customer. Customers know you don’t know everything and it’s okay to say I’m bringing in “x” to help with this subject.
Remember, your core values exist for a reason. Do your best to work them into everything you do, especially when working with your customers. After all, there’s a reason they chose to work with you and the company you work for to begin with — and chances are good it’s because their values align with yours.