I recently attended a forum addressing the economic recovery and its effect on small businesses. The term Business Relevance was used repeatedly to describe how “external” factors found in society, or the global marketplace, or the economy, such as heightened lending requirements and liquidity restraints, for example, are relevant to, and have an impact on, the bottom line. As appropriate as the discussion was, however, my mind couldn’t help but wander beyond this simple and self-serving view of business toward a different interpretation of the term — one that measures not only how the world is relevant to me and my business, but how I and my business are relevant to the world.
By the time the conference was over, I had written six pages of notes expanding on my new interpretation of business relevance and how I could immediately apply it at work. I’ve summarized my notes into six categories:
Product relevance: Product relevance is a good starting point because we’re dealing with something tangible. Take a good look at the products your company offers, and ask yourself the following questions: How relevant is your product in the marketplace? How well does it satisfy your clients’ needs? Does a competitor have a more relevant product? How can you increase your product’s relevance by improving it to better meet the ever-changing needs of your clients?
Service relevance: Service is critical to any organization’s success whether they’re pure service-providers or not. Customer service, for example, can affect an organization’s relevance in our increasingly competitive world as much as anything else. I like to use my local Kmart pharmacy as an example. In essence, by filling my prescriptions, they’re selling a product — a product which I could buy at any other pharmacy. But I choose to do business with my local Kmart pharmacy because of their stellar customer service. I don’t necessarily feel the same way about the rest of the Kmart store, just the pharmacy inside. Their team gets it. Understanding how your services, and/or customer service, connects you to your clients by meeting their needs is essential to ensuring service relevance.
Team relevance: Business is all about relationships, and one of the most important relationships you must nurture is the relationship with your team. One way of ensuring team relevance is by communicating your company’s vision and purpose. When team members accept and embrace the meaning behind their work, their work becomes relevant to them on a more personal level. At that point, there’s no telling what you and your team can accomplish. This sense of shared vision must be protected. If someone in your organization does not buy into your team’s purpose, for their sake as well as your company’s, you’re better off parting ways — and the sooner the better.
Environmental relevance: The importance of environmental relevance is on the rise. Not only are a greater number of companies adopting a more ecologically responsible approach to their business practices and processes, but more and more consumers are demanding it. What impact does your business have on our environment? How can you employ sustainable practices in your processes? I’ll cover this topic in greater detail in a future column. For more information on how to get your business to go green, visit www.greenbiz.com/browse/business-operations.
Cultural relevance: There are times when one’s culture can be of relevance to a particular business transaction. As a Hispanic business owner, I understand my relevance among Hispanics and among non-Hispanic corporations looking to tap into our demographic — the largest and fastest-growing demographic in our nation. If you don’t think that cultural relevance is becoming increasingly more important in corporate America, just look at prime-time television and notice the number of Hispanics on hit television shows and commercials. It’s all about the numbers, and the numbers confirm that cultural relevance is a strength for achieving success, not a weakness.
Social relevance: Last but certainly not least, this one’s the biggie. You can consider the first five as the warm up to answering the all important question: What is your company’s relevance to society? How do your products and service impact your community? What is your organization’s reason for existing — beyond profit…? How is the world a better place because of you and your team’s work?
Sure, we can think of business relevance in terms of how external factors are relevant to our businesses and the bottom line — and as well we should. But today, let’s challenge ourselves to flip that equation around and consider how we and our business are relevant to the world and those around us. At the end of the day, isn’t that the ultimate bottom line?
Manny García-Tuñón is president of Lemartec, an international design-build firm headquartered in Miami. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.mgtunon.com.