What squirrels can teach us about business preparedness

Mother Nature began October in Dane County with above-average heat, then spirit-dampening rain, and then the return of cold weather. Of course, along with the cold comes the promise of a colorful fall season.

On a recent day away from the office, I spent some valuable “me” time staring out our deck door at a bunch of squirrels doing their best to empty our bird feeders.  Squirrels, like many species of birds, enjoy feasting on sunflower seeds. Unlike the birds, who eat only what they need at the time, the squirrels are busily filling their cheeks and rushing back and forth from the feeder to their hidey holes, where they’re storing the bounty for the coming winter season. Watching them be so diligent in their quest to prepare reminded me of the coming winter and end of the year, both seasonally and in business. It’s time to prepare. Fourth quarter is here, and if your fiscal year is the same as the calendar year, you need to be diligent in your quest for a successful year-end bounty.

Besides thinking about the year’s end, fall is a good time to work on and finish strategic plans for the coming year. It’s time to get all of your ducks in a row and make sure you’re keeping your companies “open for business” 24/7.

This very competitive world now dictates that when someone says “jump,” we ask, “How high?” The internet has effectively eliminated the good old days of being a truly local business. If a company has not already developed an online presence and embraced social media, it’s time to get on board with the way today’s customers want to do business. Though it might be a reinvention of the way a company has done business in the past, a “fall renewal” can be an opportunity and an adventure for the future.

While it seems rare for a company not to be part of the online community, there are still a few hold outs. I know of a company that refuses to sell online because they believe that their customers will stay with them forever. Would that that could be true today!

I asked an online business expert whose company is enjoying major profits from its internet sales for some advice on creating an online presence appropriate to your company’s needs. Here are a couple suggestions he offered:

  • Decide how the company wants to be seen and perceived by existing and future customers;
  • Reputation is everything;
  • Make sure the company can stay on top of trends with product offerings;
  • Make sure the company can offer a personal type of customer service by immediately acknowledging an online interaction and following through with orders;
  • Do “little something extras” that will surprise a client;
  • Allow the customer to be able to track and adjust orders;
  • Complete all orders in a timely fashion. If an order cannot be completed on time, then immediately notify the customer;
  • Even though most internet interactions are done impersonally, make it personal; and
  • Show appreciation to the customer.

Yogi Berra, the legendary professional baseball catcher, manager, and coach, said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.” Alan Kay, American computer scientist, said “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Just like the squirrels, companies today have to make sure they always have a good plan in place for the future.

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