From my monthly column for the Kitsap Business Journal…
I remember attending a Wild Game Dinner fundraiser several years ago replete with exotic hors d’oeuvres featuring animals that I was most familiar watching roam the prairies and jungles on the old television series, Wild Kingdom. They served antelope, wild boar, alligator and cougar (which struck me as ironic as a Husky alum). The one thing that I most remember of the experience was hearing the servers proclaim about almost all the offerings, “Don’t worry… it tastes like chicken.”
That adage has become a part of American culture, whether you’re describing frog legs, kangaroo, or cane toads. Chicken has become the generic standard that we base all other meats on. If it tastes like chicken, we are “safe.”
Here’s the problem. If everything tasted like chicken, it loses that joy of adventure and curiosity. It becomes stale and uninteresting. It’s just chicken.
The very same problem can happen to you and your business. If your customers and target market consider you to “taste like chicken,” then you’ve sunk into the abyss of ordinary and generic. You’re boring. When that happens, your viability is as threatened as a chubby chicken wandering aimlessly on a poultry farm. Dead meat walking.
How do you know if you “taste like chicken?” Consider these three signs:
1. You have no new clientele. The same people and businesses use your products and services, yet nobody new seems interested in your work. This appears to be success, yet it’s a fatal trap. No new blood means no energy, no interest, and no sustainability.
2. You haven’t produced anything new in years. Whether yours is a service or product, stagnation is a killer. The world-renowned speaking coach Patricia Fripp has said that sameness is the enemy of a speaker. Sameness is also the enemy of a business. No innovation leads to decline.
3. You live in a culture of “same old, same old.” If that’s your mentality when you get up and go to work; if it’s the mentality of your employees; then you’ve got a serious problem. In the rapidly moving business world brought about by escalating technology and global thinking, being in “same old” mode will get you run over. That chicken trying to cross the road today can’t take the same path he did 10 years ago or he will be roadkill.
If any of these signs pervade in your company or in you, then you’re probably beginning to smell like the chicken dinner your grandmother used to prepare. Here are five strategies and tactics that you can implement immediately to mix up the menu to bring new flavors and add spice to your world and to your customers:
1. Create new intellectual property or products. Remember what I said about “sameness?” I don’t care what you do or what industry you’re in, you can create something new and exciting to offer your target market audience. It might be a workshop, a newsletter, a free webinar, or a new product that you created to help them when they didn’t even know they needed help! It doesn’t matter initially how successful it is. What really matters is that you have something new to talk about.
Do something different than what everyone else is doing!
2. Boost your marketing. In the height of the recession, many small businesses hunkered down and hoarded cash for fear of running out. One of the areas they stopped was marketing. It should have been where they placed MORE resources. Boost your marketing by utilizing more technology, ask for more referrals, send out more press releases, seek out more interviews, and attend more networking events.
3. Fix your own swing. My golf swing is terrible right now. I’ve been golfing for over 30 years and it’s time to get it fixed, so I need a lesson from a pro. Regardless of how long you’ve been in business, you can use your own “swing fix” from a professional coach or mentor. In fact, the longer it’s been since you’ve had one, the more you will need it! You can’t be brilliant or as creative by yourself. Seek help and utilize it to maximize your talent and opportunity. It’s worth the investment.
4. Get out of the office. We’ve become too tied down to our desks due to technology. Email has changed how we communicate in good ways (speed of information) and bad ways (stopped actually talking to people). Get out and see people face to face. Visit your best clients and customers. Make phone calls to those that you can’t readily see in person. Business is still about relationships. Remind them of what you look like.
5. Change the culture. If the chicken taste has seeped into your workforce, it’s time to shake things up. How do you do this? Simple. Make work more fun by challenging your employees to create new things; help them grow personally and professionally; and offer mentoring to them to help them more rapidly succeed.
Bottom line — if you are perceived to be chicken, your goose is cooked. The business world demands difference and innovation, speed and accessibility, and technological sophistication and savvy. These are now becoming the new normal and those norms will continue to change and evolve just like menus in the finest restaurants in the world do. Does your business taste like chicken? If it does, don’t despair. You can always change the menu as long as you have the courage to do so.
© 2014 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
• Dan Weedin is a strategist, speaker, author and executive coach. He helps business leaders and executives to become stronger leaders, grow their businesses, and enrich their lives. You can reach him at 360-697-1058; e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his web site at http://www.DanWeedin.com.