Steven D. Strauss - Hallmarks of a Mature and Successful Company

Steven D. Strauss

Steven D. Strauss

SMB Expert
Steven D. Strauss is the country's leading small business expert. An internationally recognized lawyer, columnist, and speaker, Steve is also an author of 15 books. Steve's highly syndicated business column, Ask an Expert, appears weekly at USATODAY.com He is also the small business columnist for Microsoft, and AT&T who calls him "America's Small Business Expert."

A highly sought after commentator and media guest, Steve has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg Television, The O'Reilly Factor, and the BBC. He has been a regular guest on MSNBC's small business show, Your Business. Steve has been seen in many magazines and newspapers, including Time, Inc., Entrepreneur, New York, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Daily News, and scores of others.

Steve regularly speaks to groups the world over regarding business matters, including a recent visit to the United Nations. He has also recently acted as the small business spokesperson for Bank of America, Humana Insurance, and Capitol One, among others. Steve has given speeches for many companies and organizations, including HP, Staples, the United States embassies in Jordan, Korea, Japan, and Mongolia, the United States State Department, the Small Business Administration, and Bausch & Lomb.

Finally, Steve is the president of The Strauss Group, Inc: Strauss Law Firm, Strauss Seminar Co., and Strauss Syndication. He graduated from UCLA, the Claremont Graduate School, the Coro Foundation, and the McGeorge School of Law.

 

I love this story (and it gets bonus points for being illustrative of a valuable business lesson to boot): Back in the day, in that heady, unready, pre-dotcom-bust era circa 2000 or so, a hot tech startup needed a new CEO to guide the venture after launch. Armed with a bucket of VC money, the company’s CVO (“Chief Visionary Officer”)recruited an old-school CEO to head the fledgling company.

On his first morning, the new CEO dressed in his best, most stylish suit, drove his new Benz to the office, gathered the troops andafter a short intro speech, opened the floor for questions.

<Silence>

<Bird chirp>

<Silence>

Finally,chagrined and worried by the odd lack of any response whatsoever, the CEO implored, “Comeon people, ask me a question!”

Then, from the back of the room, an anonymous employee shouted out, “Why are you wearing a tie?”

Aside from being an amusing tale, the story is important for another reason:

It aptly illustrates just how different startups are from more mature companies. Can you imagine a company, say five or ten years old, actually worrying about whether someone wears a tie or not? Businesses that have been around the block a few times have more important fish to fry than such meaningless minutiae.

For starters, such a companywould likely find it much more important, for example, to understand the various new ways available to communicate with customers in this ever-changing high-tech, always-on, e-world.

Look, it is no secret that we are living in extraordinary times, but as an SMB, that makes your job doubly difficult. Not only must you be great at what you do – running your business and offering an exceptional product and/or service – but the fact of the matter is, you also need to be a bit of a techno-geek these days as well.

What I mean is that in this great new era of instant communication, one key hallmark of a mature company is that it understands that it needs to embrace both the new and the tried and true. Sure, smart phones and social media are important and here to stay, but guess what? So are desktops and telephones.

And the problem is that with the rush to stay up with the times, far too many companies, new and old alike, are treating this BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend as if it came down from Mt. Sinai or something.

Let me suggest that a truly grown-up, mature company knows that while wireless technology certainly has its place, nothing actually beats having a traditional grown-up business telephone system. The benefits to having an intuitive, reliable phone system, that’s  customized to your needs, such as  Synapse by AT&T, are almost too numerous to your business to mention, but let’s try:

  • Such phone systems make a great impression on customers
  • A business phone systemsaves time as it routes calls to the right person quickly and effectively
  • Customers feel your business takes their calls seriously versus being routed in an endless loop from one menu to another menu to voicemail to dial tone
  • Conference calls are easily handled
  • Lines and phones can be configured based on employee preferences
  • After-hours calls are similarly treated in a professional manner

The upshot of all of this is that a main hallmark of a mature company is that it takes productivity seriously and has the tools to empower its staff to in fact be productive.

(Oh, and they don’t really worry if you are wearing a tie or not.)