For Entrepreneurs, It Is Much Harder to Stay at the Top Than to Get There

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As you reflect on 2018 and start charting a course for the new year, you’re likely focusing on the trajectory of your business. Whether your are aiming for the top of your industry, your niche, or your competitive set, sustaining success over time is often the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs.

One of the main reasons it is so hard to sustain success is that entrepreneurs often lose their curiosity once they’ve succeeded. Curiosity is a business leader’s greatest asset. It drives constant innovation and improvement. When building their businesses, entrepreneurs identify the needs being neglected by competitors and capitalize on those gaps. This is a formula for success. However, only companies that stay curious and maintain relevance survive in the long term.

Here’s how to work your curiosity muscle so you can stay at the top:

Let Go of the ‘Expert’ Mindset

What makes you think you know what your customers need better than they do? Without curiosity about what our customers want, we develop blind spots in our businesses. In order to stay competitive in today’s fast-changing economy, entrepreneurs need to figure out how to find and fix their blind spots, thereby consistently creating new value for customers.

Ask Better Questions

The best way to uncover your blind spots is to go right to the source: your customers and employees. By collecting feedback on their experiences, you get a realistic picture of where you are succeeding and where your opportunities lie. Without an official measurement strategy in place, you will miss key insights that can increase loyalty and improve financial performance.

Focus on the Right Thing

You’ve asked the questions and received the feedback. Now it is time to take action. Data means nothing if you don’t put it to work.

However, before jumping into anything, you should take the time to plan out your next steps. While customer and employee feedback are key to making strategic business decisions, you must avoid a knee-jerk reaction. Take a step back and consider the big picture. The truth is you can’t fix everything, but you can focus on fixing the things that will have the biggest impact.

Look at Every Point of the Journey

Measuring customer feedback is a complex process in today’s omnichannel world. Brands are interacting with their customers in a variety of ways — in person, online, through apps and delivery services, etc. — and consumer perception is influenced at every point. It is important to think about the customer experience journey over the life cycle of the customer. Know what is driving their satisfaction today and what their expectations are for the future.

Keep Experimenting

Even if something feels like it’s working, don’t stop looking for ways to improve it. Too often, we end up protecting what we have rather than continuing to be curious and pushing ourselves to innovate. Customers want the next new thing that is better, faster, and more customized. Great companies always look for ways to bring new ideas to life to meet the evolving needs of their customers.

Remember: What worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. Without curiosity, you may fail to see what will work going forward and what customers want now. If we accept innovation and change as requirements for continued business success, then the only way for entrepreneurs to stay at the top is to stay curious.

Andy Fromm is chairman and CEO of Service Management Group (SMG).

By Andy Fromm