In 1987, a group of investors led by Howard Schultz purchased all six existing Starbucks locations for $3.8 million, one of the all-time great business decisions. Located in Seattle, Wash, the original stores were not like the retail locations we experience today; at that time Starbucks sold only high-quality coffee beans and coffee equipment, not coffee drinks.

Shultz envisioned transforming Starbucks into a much different type of retail operation, one that would recreate the quaint Italian coffee café, a delightful atmosphere he experienced in Milan, Italy a few years earlier. He was persuaded that in only 5 years the revamped coffee retailer would be perfectly positioned for an initial public offering with 125 store locations.

As it turns out, he was wrong.

In those 5 years Starbucks ballooned to 165 stores, and the company’s growth in the ensuing 14 years has been nothing short of spectacular. By December 2006, Starbucks owned or licensed operations in over 12,000 retail locations in 30 countries, with revenues of nearly $8 billion .1 In addition, Starbucks continues to be honored as one of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For”.2

The changes that Shultz envisioned became a reality, and he credits much of the company’s success to another part of his corporate vision—putting customers first:

Kelly Riggs is the founder of Vmax Performance Group, in Broken Arrow, Okla. Riggs is known as a powerful speaker, dynamic trainer and manager, with 18 years of experience in training and managing top-ranked salespeople and managers. His first book, 1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t, will be released this year.

“We are in the people business. You know I’ve been quoted many times by saying that… we’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee…and it begins with attracting people who have like-minded values. People who want to serve the customers.”3

For most business people, the New Year signals the time and opportunity to evaluate performance, both personally and professionally. This evaluation is intended to lead to a resolve to make changes—changes that may transform a business, like Starbucks, or simply provide the momentum to continue to grow and prosper. Unfortunately, the desire to change and understanding what changes can or should be made are two different things. An interesting irony in the Starbucks saga is that in 1982 Shultz, employed as the company’s director of marketing, suggested to the owners of Starbucks the very changes he would later make as the company’s new CEO.

They passed.

And That’s Why Change is Good…

Indeed, recognizing the aspects of our business that need to change is much easier than finding the will to make those changes. This is why many New Year’s resolutions often wind us as little more than vague ideas or weak promises. In this case, our business strategy could be best summarized by the words, “I hope…”

I hope business is better this year. I hope the economy improves. I hope the new hearing aid provision is passed by Congress. I hope our advertising is more effective. I hope…

Let me suggest that you write the following statement down in big, bold letters and put it in your office where it can serve as a constant reminder: Hope is not a strategy!

Business success will come only as a result of deliberate planning—not hope—and the courage to examine your practices and make revisions as necessary. Surely it is self-evident that another year of doing the same things the same way is highly unlikely to produce a different performance result. The objective of this article is to present a process of planning for success, and, after laying that foundation, to provide eight things that you can do to impact your business in 2007.

Where Are You Now?

As we roll into the New Year, your current business situation falls into one of four general categories:

  1. Business was outstanding in 2006 (excellent growth);
  2. Business was acceptable in 2006, but could have been better (sales were essentially flat);
  3. Business was down or not good in 2006 (slight or moderate decline in sales);
  4. You’re in trouble.

The first step to improving your business is to analyze what happened last year— to determine the status of your current business situation. In order to travel to a destination, we first need to know what our starting point is. Quite obviously, our distance from that destination will be critical in our travel preparations. If I intend to travel to Walnut Creek, Calif, from San Jose, it will be quite different than driving there from Kansas City or Orlando. Preparations will be different. The directions will be more complex. It will take more time.

So it is with business planning. The point is that circumstances often dictate that needed changes must be made incrementally rather than all at once. It might be completely unreasonable to make wholesale changes in your business in a single year—or it may be exactly what is needed. At the same time, small tweaks to a reasonably healthy organization may produce significant results—but, in either case, we won’t know how to proceed until we analyze where we are right now.

Let’s start with three questions to analyze your current situation.

Question #1: What was your business strategy last year? For many small businesses, the answer to this question is simple: there wasn’t one. Little thought was given to a customer acquisition strategy beyond the traditional newspaper ad campaign or bi-annual open-house. Budgets are not developed, or not adhered to, so costs are not forecast or controlled. Little time and attention is given to employee training and development, so their frustration grows right along with yours. The performance result is predictable—more of what occurred the year before, and yet another year of disappointment for you. Same song, second verse, you might say.

If your business strategy each year is little more than “we need to dispense more hearing aids,” chances of improving last year’s performance are unlikely. There are too many competitors selling the same products and services that you are providing, and very few of them look much different than you. How will a customer choose between you and the dispensing professional down the street?

Undeniably, customers are the most important component of business success, but small business often spends very little time discovering what attracts and retains customers, and they consistently fail to develop a marketing strategy tailored to their customers. To be fair, this is often the result of a Catch-22 situation in which the primary revenue producer is also the business owner. In the hearing industry, a significant number of hearing aid dispensers and audiologists (about 2 in 5, according to the HR Dispenser Survey) have the dual responsibilities of working with patients all day and running the business itself.

Consequently, the aspect of the business that suffers most is strategic planning and implementing needed organizational changes. Business management becomes reactive in nature rather than proactive. Most importantly, time becomes the enemy—there simply is never enough to get everything done.

Question #2: What were your business goals for last year? Again, for many small businesses, the answer to this question isn’t encouraging. Few small businesses have tangible business goals other than to work harder and “sell more,” which sound much like the business strategy employed. However, without established goals, a business cannot determine what should be done to reach a specific performance level.

For many years, physicians and athletes alike considered the 4-minute mile an unbreakable barrier. Until Roger Bannister broke the tape in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds at Oxford in 1954, the world was convinced that the human body was not capable of running that fast. In breaking the 4-minute barrier, Bannister stunned the world and crashed through a psychological barrier as well. Only 46 days later a second runner, John Landy, ran 3:57:9 in Finland. Within 3 years, 16 different runners had reached a goal once considered impossible.

Goals are the primary driver of performance. Those goals can be “end-result” goals or they can be “performance” goals, but an end-result goal must always be supported by a performance goal. For Roger Bannister, his end goal could have been to be the fastest miler in the world, but without the performance goal—a mile in 4-minutes or less—he couldn’t know what was needed to reach that objective.

So it is with business. Without a cogent business plan and established performance objectives, how can you even determine if last year’s results were good or bad? Perhaps Yogi Berra said it best: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

There is a second consideration to setting goals. If you manage a business with multiple dispensers or audiologists, a compelling end-result and/or performance objective can be the glue that holds the team together. In 1989, ground-breaking research determined that the common element to all high-performance teams was a clear and elevating goal that unified and challenged the team:

“First, high performance teams have both a clear understanding of the goal to be achieved and a belief that the goal embodies a worthwhile or important result. Second, whenever an ineffectively functioning team was identified and described, the explanation for the team’s ineffectiveness involved, in one sense or another, the goal. The goal had become unfocused…”4

Good employees want to believe that they are a part of something special, something with a driving purpose to excel and succeed. An elevating goal provides a common “language” for an organization and also provides a standard for performance reviews.

Question #3: What measurements do you use to gauge performance? To adequately analyze the current situation of the business, it is important to have reliable data from which to make assessments. Do you have access to any metrics beyond totals sales (units or dollars) and returns? Net sales volume provides only a vague impression of actual business performance. After all, annual sales can grow while profitability plummets!

It is more important to the business owner to understand why sales increase or decrease, so we need data that suggests the reasons for performance changes. Was it the result of higher prices or more clients? Did a higher percentage of clients purchase hearing aids? Are we dispensing a different product line? A different style of aid? Are we providing deeper discounts? Is one dispenser or audiologist having more success than another? As we use the data to answer these and other questions, we will necessarily be led to dig deeper and determine root causes. The bottom line is that without good data it is practically impossible to know where and why to make changes to positively impact performance.

So, using the preceding three questions as a guide, the first things that any business should do to positively impact performance, this year or any year, is to:

  • Develop a clear and concise marketing strategy;
  • Set specific performance goals with appropriate measurements;
  • Determine the specific tactics to accomplish your primary strategies.

The remainder of this article will concentrate on these three points, then provide eight specific ways for you to grow your business in 2007.

1) Establishing a Marketing Strategy

By most any measurement, Wal Mart is a wildly successful company with over $300 billion in sales. As successful as they are—the world’s largest company—they still cannot be all things to all consumers. Their marketing strategy is to be the low-cost provider of key consumer goods, illustrated by their advertising slogan, “everyday low prices.” However, Wal Mart cannot sell every consumer product to every single customer any more than you could sell every last hearing aid to every hearing-impaired person in your city. It is practically impossible to be everything to all people. Therefore, the first objective of any marketing strategy is to determine your target market; the segment of the market that you will position your business to serve. As Jack Trout stated in his book, Differentiate or Die:

“If you ignore your uniqueness and try to be everything for everybody, you quickly undermine what makes you different. If you stay in the shadow of your larger competitors and never establish your ‘differentness,’ you will always be weak.”5


  1. Which product lines? Why?
  2. High-end or economy? Why?
  3. High-volume or specialty products?
  4. Does our product/service appeal to our market segment choice?


  1. What are our products/services worth?
  2. What value do we provide?
  3. What price point will we use?
  4. Should we discount? Why? How?
  5. Volume dealer or specialty/customized?

Place (location distribution channel)

  1. Is our location easily accessible?
  2. Is it well presented?
  3. Do we need a satellite office or mobile location?


  1. What is our brand? Our image?
  2. How do we differentiate our company?
  3. Do our products and pricing support our brand and image?
  4. How can we most effectively promote our company?
  5. Which advertising is most effective?

TABLE 1. Key components of a marketing strategy.

A primary reason that small businesses struggle today is their failure to specialize and “own” a segment of the market. Today’s sophisticated consumer wants to do business with experts; that is why so many niche providers flourish, and in many cases, command higher prices. If you are a low-cost dispenser that focuses on basic BTE technology and the entry-level segment of the market, then your strategy will necessarily require a specific approach to marketing—one that is far removed from the dispenser who focuses on high-end digital technology and deals with an affluent client base.

Another grave mistake that many small businesses make is to fail to understand exactly what components constitute marketing. Take any first-year college marketing class and you will learn that marketing consists of four things: product, price, place, and promotion (the “Four P’s,” Table 1 above). Each of these items is vital to developing your brand or identity, and differentiating your products or services. However, many businesses will only scrutinize price and a single aspect of promotion (advertising) when developing a marketing strategy. To market your business successfully, all four items should be integrated to form a complete marketing strategy.

Decide who you will be—what market segments your practice will focus on and what market position it will occupy—then do everything within your power to dominate that position. What are the demographics of your ideal client? What promotion strategies work most effectively for that client? Is your business adequately positioned and prepared to influence that client to work with your business?

The first and most important thing you can do to impact your business in 2007 is to decide that a prominent part of your strategy will be to focus on your customer. If, as we discussed, customers are the primary ingredient to business success, then you need to do everything you can to attract them, keep them, and make them loyal to your business.

Too many dispensing professionals are focused on the hearing aid itself, or the technology. However, customers don’t buy technology; they buy what the technology will do for them. Your clients are buying your service and what you can do for them. They buy results! And they will continue to buy, and refer others, to the professional who makes the experience memorable.

Stop for a moment and ask yourself what creates customer loyalty. Think of one place that you shop—for clothes, automobiles, insurance, or perhaps a restaurant or a resort—a business that you are completely loyal to; in fact, they are always your first choice for that particular product. What made you loyal to them? In the majority of cases, it has nothing to do with price. Instead, the likelihood is that you get exactly the product or service you want, just the way you want it, with incredible service and/or attention to detail. The staff is friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and never pushy. They know you by name; perhaps they even call when they have something they have learned you are interested in.

Sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer says it this way: “Satisfied customers will shop any place. Loyal customers will fight before they switch—and they will proactively refer people to buy from you.”6 I would add that the customer is not always right, but they are always the customer. Translation: sometimes the customer is abrasive, hostile, angry, misinformed, and/or wrong, but they are still someone that can tell 100 people not to get their hearing aids from you!

The fact is that very few clients are bad people. My experience is that most “hard-to-please” customers are that way because companies talk about customer service as if it is important, but they flat out stink when it comes to truly serving a customer’s needs. Here are some common culprits:

  • Company policies and procedures that fail to take customers into account—policies that are good for the company, but horrible for the customer;
  • Poorly trained personnel that cannot answer questions or provide information;
  • Situations where a customer gets a different answer from everyone they talk to, or each time they call;
  • Companies that do not follow-up, or otherwise fail to do things they say they will do.

If you truly want to make an enormous impact on your business this year, take apart your company piece-by-piece and reassemble it from your customer’s perspective. Or, even better, you should invite 20 or 30 of your best customers to help you with the process. We will talk more about this idea in particular when we discuss the idea of “investing in your customers.”

2) Setting Performance Goals

The next step is to immediately set goals for your business. Goals are absolutely essential to the health of any business organization because they create a purpose to excel and a target to shoot at. Goals also provide milestones that allow you to determine if you are making progress. Without the ability to determine progress, it becomes almost impossible to make adjustments—or to know where to make adjustments.

In the broader sense, goals also establish performance benchmarks for each individual in the company. No one does their very best work without incentive. It is not uncommon for a client to ask me to teach their employees how to be accountable, but there is little within the company’s culture that creates an atmosphere of accountability. If employee accountability is a problem in your organization, it is almost certain that you don’t have well-defined performance objectives in place, and your expectations for each employee are not communicated clearly.

Decide on your company’s annual performance goals (eg, gross sales, profitability, growth) and then break them down into quarterly goals and monthly goals. Now, diligently keep score and review your progress as often as possible—at least on a monthly basis.

The most important performance goal you can set for your business in 2007 is a customer satisfaction standard. There is no doubt that will require significant effort on your part. You will have to figure out how to measure customer satisfaction and how to get accurate, unbiased data. Some hearing aid dispensers are doing this already, and a few are even doing it well. However, there are ways to do it effectively, and there are many ways to do it poorly and get bad data. If you’re not sure, get a consultant to help.

This tactic alone will tell you more about your business than any single thing you do. It will force you (if you have the courage!) to listen to your clients and make changes to your business; changes that may prove painful at first. On the other hand, if your objective in 2007 is to become a customer-driven company, you will need to measure your success toward that objective. Otherwise, how will you know where to make improvements?

3) Tactics

You’ve determined what your marketing strategy will be; you’ve established performance goals for the year. Now what?

Now is the time to actually begin working on specific tactics, in line with your marketing focus, that will help you reach your objectives. At this point, you will have created a situation that actually allows you to look at specific tactics and measure them against your objectives. So, if you fall short of your established goals in a particular time period, you can more accurately analyze the cause and effect of each tactic.

When we discuss “tactics,” it is important to differentiate it from “strategy.” For instance, one tactic that is very important to any hearing aid business is how the product and pricing choices are presented. You may be tempted to call this a strategy, but in reality it is a tactic—and distinguishing between the two is more important than just differentiating between two words.

In war, strategy is choosing the battleground; tactics is choosing which weapons and troops to use to win the battle. As noted marketing guru Seth Godin has observed, “Strategy is choosing the right ski area; tactics is choosing to carve your turns better.”7 If your strategy is to become the leader in high-end digital aids in your area, posting advertisements at a local flea market is probably a poor tactic. Determine your business strategy, and then fashion your tactics to support that strategy.

Eight Ways to Make a Difference This Year

Marketing strategy, goals, and tactics. These are the planning basics for any type of organization. Every organization has a customer, and every organization with a purpose can create a set of goal and objectives.

If you get started immediately, you can easily have an impact on your business this year, and here are eight ideas to get you started with marketing strategy and business tactics:

1) Make an investment in your customers. It is not uncommon to forget that the customer is what keeps us in business. As a result, sizeable investments are often made in many aspects of the business, but we forget to invest in the customer. This is certainly not the case at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. Everything about the hotel “platform” (eg, the room, the food, beverage, the amenities) is configured with the guest in mind. Every service that The Ritz provides is an investment in making the customer’s stay a memorable one. Says Simon Cooper, COO of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company:

“As for the value proposition for our guests, they don’t even notice there’s a platform (the hotel operation) if everything works. So then the value promise becomes ‘making their stay memorable.’ Well, people create memories, not things. If we ask guests what color the carpet was in their guest room, they probably won’t know. The real value comes from the ladies and gentlemen who bring that hotel to life. Ten percent is the platform, but the rest is people.”8

One excellent way to invest in your customers is to take a number of them out to dinner. Choose a dozen or so customers—some new and some old – and tell them you just want to say thank you. Assure them that there will be no selling and no promotion, period. Once you are together, thank them sincerely for their support, and tell them that you are interested in discussing how your might improve your service to customers like them.

Invest in other things that will make your customer’s experience memorable, like a personal, hand-written “thank-you” card for each customer when they buy. Write them personally and include your business card. Don’t sell and don’t make any offers—just thank them for their business and let them know you will always be available to help them with any future needs.

When customers know you care about them personally, it can transform your relationship, and once you begin to look at your practice through their eyes, you will create a number of ways to invest in your customer.

2) Join and/or speak to community and civic organizations. Are you a member of the Rotary Club or Civitan? Do you volunteer in any community organizations? Surely you are part of the local Chamber of Commerce. All of these organizations need speakers each month, and a professional presentation on the “Dangers of Hearing Loss,” or something similar, would be a welcome departure from some of the usual yawners. If you can speak in front of people and deliver a compelling message, you will get a lot of attention.

If, on the other hand, speaking isn’t your game, join these groups anyway. The network connections will prove invaluable (see No. 3 below), and they are a great place to promote free workshops for the hearing impaired or individuals concerned about their loved one’s hearing loss. Provide a 1-hour workshop on “Identifying the Warning Signs of Hearing Loss” and teach participants why hearing loss deprives individuals of the quality of life they are used to.

3) Learn effective personal marketing skills. You may already belong to a number of community or civic groups, but your challenge may be in developing contacts in these organizations. If so, you need to learn effective personal marketing skills.

One of my clients is a group of attorneys who readily admit that they have little confidence in approaching other people about their services; it makes them uncomfortable even in natural networking situations (eg, at business conferences or civic organization meetings). One of the partners described how the firm conducts an annual social event for many of their client groups, and she noted that the result is usually two separate huddles: the attorneys on one side of the room and the clients on the other, with only nominal interaction between the two.

Why? Many professionals readily admit that “selling” or “socializing” is not their strong suit and they are afraid that they will never be effective at personally marketing their services. The reason for this is that they perceive selling or personal marketing to be primarily a “sales pitch,” but in reality, this simply is not true. In the case of my law firm client, a couple of hours with them reviewing the basics of personal marketing improved their confidence dramatically! What they learned is that professionals often make great personal marketers because they have trained to be good listeners.

If you can learn to ask the right questions and then listen carefully, you can learn all you need to know to be effective in identifying potential new clients. The fact is the best conversationalists are those who talk the least! As Supreme Court Justice John Marshall has said, “To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.” Put yourself in a position to network with lots of potential new clients (eg, in volunteer or community organizations) and you can have a significant impact on your business this year.

4) Focus on improving all of your customer service functions—especially your receptionist. I can’t say this bluntly enough: The individual that meets and greets your clients, in person or on the phone, has to be an incredible people person. Kind. Courteous. Enthusiastic. Professional. If that doesn’t sound like your receptionist, consider a change. Now.

I am not asking you to fire the individual that greets your customers (especially if it is you!). Quite the opposite; they may be terrific in any number of other functions, but if they aren’t a brilliant asset to your company when greeting clients, it is probably costing you money. Make sure the “customer experience” at your business is delightful.

Recall the experience at a Ritz-Carlton hotel mentioned earlier. Perhaps the most well-known brand in luxury hotels, the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain is synonymous with luxury and customer satisfaction. They have an unwavering focus on satisfying their guests.

“When I’m talking to new employees about how to open a hotel, I ask them what guests can buy. Then I write down their answers. I write down things such as a room, or food and beverage service, or a spa treatment, and the like. Then I ask, ‘Now tell me what they can’t buy.’ Obviously, guests can’t buy things like smiles or relationships or caring service. Then I ask the simple question, ‘What do you think the guest values?’ That’s the value proposition—that’s how you engage a customer. You engage them emotionally by giving them things they just can’t buy anywhere else.”8

5) Revamp your waiting area. It might be time for a front-office face-lift. Does your front office appeal to your clients? Would it appeal to you in another business? Is it clean and comfortable?

When clients walk into your business, they almost invariably form immediate impressions of your competence based on what they see. You may be a tremendous professional, but clients are “sold” on your competence in a number of ways, including the way in which you present your office.

At the very least you need to clean your front office from top to bottom and get new magazines, pictures, testimonials, brochures, etc. If you need it and can afford it, get some new chairs and a couple of new tables. Replace those old, dog-eared manufacturer’s posters. Modernize the coffee area (if you have one), and please serve good coffee. If you want to make an impression on customers, pay attention to the details!

The front office is a great place to subtly sell your capabilities. This is done not with brochures and signs, but by communicating the message that customers are important in your office, that you are organized and competent, that they have arrived in a professional’s office.

6) Get some outside opinions. This is one of the easiest ideas to implement, and perhaps one of the most valuable. Bring in two or three different individuals—one or two from inside the industry and one from outside the industry. Since many hearing care professionals develop friendships with peers that practice outside of their market area, you might ask them to help. Enlist their help in evaluating your business operations and offer to do the same for them.

A couple of other good sources inside the industry are audiologist trainers and vendor reps. Many of these individuals have completely different perspectives on your business, and may provide some very valuable insight into your operations.

Why would you do this? Quite frequently, a dispensing professional is well-trained in treating the hearing impaired, but much less so in business management. An informed outside opinion can help you to avoid common mistakes or provide innovative ideas on new or different ways of dealing with particular issues. Sometimes we get so ingrained in doing things a certain way, we just can’t see any other possibilities—or opportunities.

One of my clients is a mid-sized accounting firm that consistently struggled to identify and hire good employees. In the accounting industry, this is a pressing issue because there is a significant shortage of qualified accounting personnel. For accounting firms, the failure to hire and retain quality employees has become the key deterrent to sustained growth.

In this case, it didn’t take too long to discover the issues creating the problem. Already understaffed, the firm struggled to find time to properly screen candidates and conduct effective interviews. The general partner in charge of hiring rushed the process and frequently did a poor job of selling the firm in an interview. As a result, offers were consistently made to sub-par performers who later became “casualties” or, at the very least, created more stress within the firm.

In discussing the issue with the firm’s executive management team, they were convinced that they were unable to attract good employees for two reasons: 1) the shortage of qualified candidates, and 2) the competition for those candidates among larger firms. In fact, they were somewhat skeptical when I suggested that their hiring process was flawed, but further discussion convinced them that a number of changes would improve their ability to hire good candidates. In addition, I encouraged them to list the many benefits they could offer to potential employees that a much larger firm could not. This exercise further bolstered their confidence, and they became enthusiastic about filling their open employment slots. Within 90 days, they hired six highly talented people, including two CPAs.

Remember, it is difficult to make good decisions without good data. Data comes from measurement and it also comes from observation. An outsider will sometimes see things you don’t, particularly if they aren’t predisposed to look at things a certain way. Your perspective on your business is probably locked in, so get an opinion from outside the industry as well.

7) Review all of your business processes. Again, some companies have done the same thing the same way for so long that they can’t imagine doing it any other way. As I mentioned earlier, one positive exercise is to mentally dismantle your business completely and put it back together, thinking about the customer experience in every function.

In addition, you should closely examine your business operations: how inventory is ordered and processed, how every accounting process is handled, how compensation and benefits are configured, how personnel are reviewed, how repairs and returns are processed, and so forth. When was the last time you really inspected the way your operation works? Every function within the business presents an opportunity to make mistakes, to save money or waste money, to create efficiencies or create barriers for your customers.

Your objective is to identify any areas that you can lower costs, improve efficiency, or improve the customer’s experience.

Additional Reading

‘Selling’ in the Professional Setting,” by Kelly Riggs. February 2006 HR.

Effective Employee Supervision,” by Kelly Riggs. April 2006 HR.

Why Quality Matters,” by Brian Taylor, MA. August 2005 HR.

MarkeTrak VI: On the Issue of Value: Hearing Aid Benefit, Price, Satisfaction, and Repurchase Rates,” by Sergei Kochkin, PhD. February 2003 HR.

8) Change your perspective. You must decide if you want to be your business or grow your business. Why? Because it is next to impossible to do both. Usually, professionals wind up being the business while the functions of planning and developing the business languish. In order to build your business, it is critical to make time to develop your marketing strategy, devise effective tactics, and consistently review your key performance indicators—in addition to all the day-to-day business processes which usually includes the testing and fitting of patients. Can you do all of those things effectively?

Perhaps the more pressing question is which role are you best suited for? Make that decision and you will be a long way towards find peace in your career. If you love patients and prefer to test and fit hearing aids, you need a partner, someone that will manage and grow the business. If you are ideally suited to manage and grow the business, it might be time to think about hiring professional staff or an administrator.


This article presents a template for establishing a new direction for your business in 2007, and eight ideas that could, individually, have a dynamic impact on your company. Let me add one final thought. If you bear down and pursue these ideas vigorously, you are almost guaranteed to improve your business significantly. Why? Because when you do so, you will separate yourself from your competitors and offer your customers an attractive alternative to the status quo. Remember, many business people make resolutions and hope for the best. But hope is not a strategy. It’s follow-through that drives high performance.


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  2. Available at:; Accessed January 8, 2007.
  3. American Public Media Website. Conversations from the Corner Office: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz talks with Kai Ryssdal. Available at:
  4. Larson C, LaFasto F. Teamwork: What Must Go Right, What Can Go Wrong. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications; 1989.
  5. Trout J. Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley; 2000.
  6. Gitomer J. Customer Satisfaction is Worthless; Customer Loyalty is Priceless. Bard Press (; 1998.
  7. Godin S. The difference between strategy and tactics. Seth Godin’s Blog. Available at:; Accessed: Jan 4, 2007.
  8. Robison J. Interview with Simon Cooper, Chief Operating Officer and President of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. The Ritz-Carlton Is Reinventing Itself. The Gallup Management Journal. Available at:; Oct 12, 2006.

Correspondence can be addressed to HR at [email protected] or to . More information on the Vmax Performance Group can be obtained at