In past columns, I have outlined the Five Keys to Business Success.  The “Five Keys” are core characteristics we help business owners develop in order to achieve real, lasting business success.  These characteristics are: 1) living to serve, 2) making a profit, 3) owning a business (not a job), 4) making time for the “business” of business, and 5) managing systems, not people.

Each key opens a door to the next segment of a transformational journey that will help you change from product seller or service provider to owner of a profitable, scalable business.  The first step of your journey begins with the realization that the most important thing your customers buy from you is not the “thing” your business sells. Instead, they purchase the EXPERIENCE of obtaining that “thing” from your business.  Your success lies in profitably maximizing the value of this experience and in advancing the life-quality of your customers and community.  In short, you business will succeed by “Living to Serve.”

This then is the first key to business success.  It should be the foundation, the spirit, and guiding principle of your business.  It is also the key that opens the door to the other keys to business success.  Your role, as owner, is to constantly polish this key by making all customer interactions as rewarding, easy, and meaningful as possible.

Building a Live-to-Serve business is a four-step process.  You must: 1) identify your business’s real product, 2) make that product the basis of your customer’s experience, 3) communicate your real product in a meaningful way to your customers and community, and 4) take your Live-to-Serve identity with you as you travel through the remaining four phases of your journey.

Uncovering your business’s real product is not as easy as it may seem.  Consider my friend Matt, a master electrician who recently formed his own business. Many would say that Matt’s “real” product is the electrical wiring of homes and businesses, and Matt does indeed perform such activities on a daily basis. These activities however, are not his real product. To uncover his real product – the need he serves – we must dig a little deeper.

Consider this: electricity is both purposeful tool and perilous menace.  The electricity used to brew your morning coffee also causes 67,800 fires, 485 deaths, and $868 million in property losses each year, and the cause of vast majority of these tragedies is improper wiring.  Hiring Matt means your home and business will be safe from such loss.

Electricity is also expensive.  Fortunately, Matt is a solar power and energy conservation expert who knows which appliances, light bulbs, insulation, and wiring systems will save you money (and help the environment).  He also knows which systems and products qualify for state and federal tax credits.  Since the average U.S. family spends well over $1,500 per year on electricity, Matt’s expertise can save households and businesses hundreds of dollars annually, an investment that can quickly pay for itself.

The product that Matt’s customers purchase is not simply electrical wiring.  His “real” product is safety, reliability, peace of mind, and expert consultation that saves hundreds of dollars per year.

Since Matt has discovered his real product and knows how his business “lives to serve,” he will make his real product the basis of each customer’s experience and develop a plan to share this experience with the larger community.  His business’s live-to-serve identity will also help him unlock each remaining segment of his business success journey.

To discover how your own business “lives to serve” ask yourself the following questions: Why does the community need your product or service?  What difference does your product or service make in the lives of your customers?  How would their lives be negatively affected if your business did not exist?  Your answers will help you discover your real product and unlock the door to first part of your transformational journey. 

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