The root of all business

Written by Rick Spence

Which of these things have you done today? Delegated a task, written an e-mail, conducted a performance review, approved an ad, resolved a complaint, read a trade magazine, surfed a competitor’s website, chaired a meeting, lunched with a client, interviewed a job candidate, chatted with employees, fired the sales manager, revised your forecasts, made excuses to your accountant, transferred money between accounts, begged for more time from your bank or called home to say you’d be working late?

A few years back, I developed a theory that everything an entrepreneur does is rooted in communication. Running a business is really all about developing the continuous information flow — up, down and horizontally — that makes customers want to buy from you, employees more effective and other stakeholders (suppliers, investors) more eager to do business. Your job as leader is to keep these groups informed about what the business is doing, where it’s going and why they should be excited about sharing the journey with you.

I was thrilled recently to find confirmation in a textbook called Management: Concepts and Practices, which says on page 438: “Everything a manager does involves communicating. Not some things, but everything!” Note that this is probably the only exclamation mark in the book.

(By the way, the fact that this book was published in 1986, more than a decade before I developed my theory, should not detract from the originality of my insight. As if anyone would ever rush out to read a book called Management: Concepts and Practices.)

More to the point, I wonder how many entrepreneurs realize they are in the communication business. Certainly not the people I see muddling through impenetrable PowerPoint presentations or struggling to explain their business strategies in plain English on ROB-TV.

The problem is, few people will admit to being poor communicators. (After all, it’s not their fault if other people are bad listeners.) Given the difficulties involved in communicating clearly and consistently, I’ve designed this simple quiz to help you measure what I’ve dubbed your CQ, or Communications Quotient. Take the test and ponder the feedback as you will — but never forget that your ability to communicate is much better judged by others than by you.

  1. Could you clearly articulate to your grandmother, within 30 seconds, what your company does? And could she explain it back to you? (Could your employees tell Grandma?)
  2. Do you have a regular vehicle (examples: newsletter, meetings, intranet) for keeping employees informed of what’s going on in the business and of new developments being planned? Does this vehicle include opportunities for feedback?
  3. Would your customers say that your company is noted for timely, clear communications? Would they say you listen well?
  4. When talking with people, do you sometimes have to tell little white lies in order to solve problems or reassure them that things are proceeding properly?
  5. Twelve of the following 15 words or phrases are considered powerful, motivational components of every copywriter’s vocabulary. Spot the three impostors: announcing, average, exclusive, first, free, guaranteed, improved, love, mission-critical, new, special, successful, urgent, we, you.
  6. According to most sales experts, selling is mostly about:
    1. persuasion
    2. talking
    3. painting visual pictures
    4. listening
  7. When is the last time you invited a banker or supplier to lunch “just because”?
    1. Why should I? They aren’t revenue-producing prospects
    2. At least six months ago
    3. Within the past week, and I have another supplier scheduled for next week
  8. ‘Fess up: Do you have a whole pile of letters, voice messages and/or e-mails you’ve been meaning to answer?
  9. Do you keep notes of important conversations and any commitments you make? Do you store them so that you can actually find them again?
  10. Which of the following statements is an indication of the speaker’s active listening skills?
    1. “When you’re done, let’s go for a drink”
    2. “I know all this. Can you get to the point?”
    3. “So what you’re saying is …”
    4. “Did you see my new watch?”

Answers: Sometimes the best communication is open-ended; it encourages you to think rather than settle for an easy conclusion. So figure out your own “right” answers. Then share your findings with a colleague or a friend. Communication, after all, is about feedback, and the evolution of ideas from a voice in your head to a stake in the ground.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com