Milton Collins is an Australian business coach and author whose new book, Delight Disrupt Deliver, quickly became an Amazon bestseller. He joined editor Cec Busby on the Flying Solo podcast to share some practical ways businesses can delight, disrupt and deliver for their customers and clients and tips for bouncing back when times are tough.
From humble beginnings growing up on a cattle farm to Federation Square CEO, business coach and now bestselling author, Milton Collins’ career has been quite the ride.
His new book, Delight Disrupt Deliver, shares advice from Milton’s decades of business experience, delving into ways businesses can shake things up to boost sales, customers and their brand.
Early in his career, Milton realised that excellent business was about more than simply getting an idea off the ground – it was about building good networks, customer satisfaction, and a willingness to change when things aren’t working.
“I learned early on that it’s about showing what you can do and building networks. I’ve learned so much that it’s not what you know; it is so much whom you know. Rightly or wrongly, those contacts are very important.”
Aside from building a solid network of supporters and mentors, Milton has learned that business success – particularly recovery after difficult times – really comes down to doing right by your customers.
But how can we achieve that in a crowded marketplace, especially now that so many businesses have adopted a digital and online approach?
The key is to delight, disrupt, deliver
Milton says business recovery or success is not about how big your budget is or how many people are in your team; it’s more about understanding the fundamentals of customer satisfaction.
“I believe that building a business requires a whole lot of small things put together properly,” says Milton. “It’s about growing your business using the power of small surprises because it’s the small surprises that delight people and create raving fans.
“If you provide a service or a product, that’s what they expect – no matter how well you do it, you don’t stand out. Whereas if you add the little extras that they talk about and are delighted with, that’s what can build raving fans and customers for life. It’s not the product that’s exciting; it’s a little extra that they didn’t expect.
“For example, when I had the Country House Hotel, we’d memorise all guest names. The receptionist would write a description of the guests when they arrived that was circulated to all the team members, from the chefs to the cleaners and gardeners. Whenever they saw any guest, they would use their first name and greet them. That level of service really surprised people.”
How to disrupt your way to success
The next step is to disrupt things by improving on your competitors’ offerings and examining your business operations to plug any gaps that are holding your business back.
“Try and do things differently,” Milton suggests. “Look at what your competitors do and what you don’t like about it, and how you can improve that. Better still, ask your customers what they want and provide a solution to their needs.
“Don’t try and sell your product or service – it’s all about providing a solution. By finding out what their pain points or problems are, you build a relationship. Ask lots of questions and get to know what’s important to them – what they need either in their business or personally. Provide that solution they need, not just what you are trying to sell.”
You may need a significant overhaul in business operations, but Milton says it can be as simple as making minor changes to your processes.
“The first thing I do is look at what their major problems are that I could help them with – not a quick fix, but something to address straight away. Usually, it’s to do with financials.
“For example, in a restaurant, staff wages and the cost of food are the two most important things to fine-tune. And then, of course, it’s about maximising customer service and repeat business.”
Listen to Milton Collins on the Flying Solo podcast:
Time to deliver the goods
After you’ve delighted your customers and used some clever disruption to your advantage, Milton says it’s time to deliver. From product or project delivery times to expanding your product offering during COVID, over-delivering on your promises is the hot ticket to boosting overall sales and customer satisfaction.
“It might be little things like always delivering before the briefed time,” Milton suggests. “I used to train my team to surprise clients by getting in early.
“COVID has been a hard time for many, but those that pivoted, changed their operations and looked at what else they could do, have done exceptionally well. For example, restaurants that have started doing takeaway could build a whole new business they’d never done before. And in some cases, they’re making more profit because they have lower overheads and a bigger market to source.”
What if my business is really in trouble?
Milton says focusing on your ultimate goals for the business is the place to start, and the key may be in finding the right people to join your team.
“I like to start with an exit plan – what are we trying to build here, and what’s the end result? Do you want to sell it? Do you want to put on a general manager to run it? Do you want to pass it on to the family? Then we work backwards – what do we need to get in place to maximise that for the future? We work that down to 90-day plans to achieve the long-term goals. Then we meet fortnightly and set a focus for the next fortnight of three or four issues that they’re going to try and achieve towards their 90-day plan and their eventual goals.”
To help you achieve this, putting the best team in place to achieve your goals is the next logical step.
“When I look at any business, I try to create a profit or enterprise that can work without them – so it needs to be built around good systems, good teams, good culture, good clients and customers.
“When we talk about staff shortages, there’s a lot of people out there working. And studies show that over 60 per cent of people working are not engaged in the work they do – which means they’re ripe for the picking,” says Milton. “What turns people on is not just money – money is never top of the list.
“Look at the business, look at the feeling in the business – how is your team getting on, or where are they looking for future development? What else can employers do to improve both the working life and the private life of employees? Work-life balance is important – yes, it’s give and take, but it’s making time for both.
“I do a lot of work with leadership because team culture starts with strong leadership. Then we develop teams around that strong leadership, breaking that down into better communication and setting good key performance indicators – because people like to know how they’re being measured and what they should be trying to achieve.
“It’s up to individual business owners to be more attractive to the workforce and provide a workplace that’s the first choice for people, whether it’s flexibility, career advancement, training, great environment, or just a fun workplace.”
For more practical ideas to grow and develop your business, check out the Delight Disrupt Deliver by Milton Collins.
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