On your marks, Get set…SERVE!

…Starting the New Year in the Spirit of Service

Even at that early age, I always knew there was something not right with the way the older boys in my neighbourhood said those words. In our ears, it sounded like “Anio Mass, Se Se, Go! We were not too bothered though, because all we waited for was the word GO, and we were off like Road Runners being chased by a pack of coyotes. Who cared if the chap was speaking Latin or Mandarin? There was no time to analyse what words had just been uttered to initiate the neighbourhood race. Run we had to and run we did!

Thankfully, we eventually grew up to discover what all of us had been trying to say all along. The actual words we had been struggling with since our infancy were “On your marks, get set, go!”—that universally-accepted phrase and its various translations that is used to begin athletic competitions all over the world.

As this year begins, it is important for every business entity to realise that what this and every New Year brings is a race and with the race an opportunity to do one’s very best so as to win the prize. Like the runners on the track about to begin a new race, every business is about to take on the race dubbed 2018. As a matter of fact, the race is already on. Businesses that mean business started planning for this year’s race some time last year.

There are various elements that must come together if an athlete is to do well in a race. Aside the vigorous training that good athletes endure as well as the strict dietary requirements they have to comply with, there are other things that all great athletes do, all in an effort to increase their chances. Some of these are:

VISUALISE BEFORE RACE: Top athletic coaches advise their runners on the importance of being able to visualise a race even before it starts. Elite athletes use visualisation to set into motion the Law of Attraction. They picture the entire race from start to finish. They visualise how they want to run the race, the pace they want to go and see themselves crossing the finishing line first. They know that the image they develop and keep in mind before and during the race goes a long way to determine how the race turns out.

Former British Olympic and 3-time World Heptathlon champion, Jessica Ennis-Hill had this to say about the power of visualisation before a race.

“I use visualisation to think about the perfect technique. If I can get that perfect image in my head, then hopefully it’ll affect my physical performance. You are creating the sights and sounds and smells, the atmosphere, the sensation, and the nerves, right down to the early morning wake-up call and that feeling in your stomach. It helps your body to get used to performing under pressure.”

By going through the race several times in their mind before the word Go, these athletes are able to condition themselves well ahead before the D-day. This makes them a little more relaxed before the actual race.

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Every business owner, manager, supervisor, etc., must also have an image of success in mind before the New Year starts. What does the one want to see this year? What will profit look like? What are some of the things that would be needed for 2018 to be considered a success? The answers to these questions will help set the tone for how the rest of the year pans out. Some smart businesses already did their visualisation even before last year ended. Strategic meetings have been held during the last quarter to ensure that this year they hit the ground running. For such organisations, the race started even before the clock struck midnight on 31st December.

FOCUS: Every athlete will tell you that at the start of every race, concentration is key. One of the finest sprinters of our days, Linford Cicero Christie of Great Britain was a symbol of concentration before every race. Referring to one particular race, a July 1996 article in UK’s Independent newspaper described his face as “an Easter Island statue of concentration before the start.” This was a man who was in it to win it.

In much the same way, the earliest days of the year are times for every organisation to be much focused on what it wants to achieve that year. It is not uncommon to see companies with images of something they want to achieve in the coming year on noticeboards. The targets for the year are also boldly displayed for all to see. This serves to motivate staff as well. Every business must learn to focus on what brings in the customers and then to ensure that service becomes the key that holds everything in place. Serious businesses are serious about service.

CONSCIOUS OF THE COMPETITION: Every runner knows that he or she is not running alone. There is always competition on at least one side of you. Sometimes, as in a marathon, you are actually hemmed in by the competition. The competition would be all around you, jostling for space. They are all doing the same thing you are also doing—the only difference is that they want to beat you to the finish line.

It pays to know at least the people you are running against. Knowing the competition can change the way you run that particular race. We have seen races in which the presence of a global superstar like Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, etc. changed the entire dynamic of the race. I must add that no one wins the race by looking at the competition from start to finish. You must concentrate on your own goal, i.e. the finishing line.

Too many businesses would change strategies mid-year not because the strategies they started the year with are not working but just because they saw the competition do something that seems to be working. It pays to use the general direction of the industry to modify one’s strategy for the year but it hurts when all you do is based on what the competition is doing. Standing out in the positive sense of the word is important for business growth and profitability.

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BEST FOOT FORWARD: To “put one’s best foot forward” means “to act or appear at one’s best; to try to make a good impression.” According to www.phrases.org.uk, it also means to “embark on a journey or task with purpose and gusto.” However, this phrase is more than just an idiom when it comes to running. To ensure that he or she starts right, a good athlete must ensure that his or her stance is right when the announcer begins the “Anio mass, se’ se’, go.”

If you have the wrong foot forward you will be left behind or you might even embarrassingly get your feet tangled and great will be your fall—and all this would be at the very start of the race. If the race is a sprint, then your position at the blocks could mean the difference between a gold medal or a wooden spoon at the end of the race.

I daresay that in the world of business, this last one is one advice that is of utmost importance. If you ask me, I will say the best bet is always to lead with great service. Every business must know its capabilities and capacity to offer quality service to its clients. A lack of this kind of knowledge is what causes some businesses to bite off more than they can chew and end up causing all kinds of embarrassing customer encounters.

I must however add, that it does not matter how strategic the plan for this year is; if it does not have service at its very core, the business would run the race, with all its might, but would still end up losing by the time the race wraps up at the tail end of this year. Business is nothing but an act of service and if the spirit of service is taken out, what is left leaves much to be desired.

It is my prayer that if there is one resolution every business in this country will have, it must be that they will go all out this 2018 to provide the best of service to their numerous clients. This year we need to see better customer service all around. Those charged with managing the front desk of the various organisations should all put their best feet forward. They must add it to their individual New Year resolutions—that is, if they have any.

I am sure we would have been at least two weeks into the New Year by the time readers get to read this piece. So the race would have been well underway for 2018. If it has however not begun for you, then “Anio mass, se’ se’……SERVE!

#AskJNHalm

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