I’ve discovered that many businesses face the same fundamental challenges. We are often so absorbed in our own thoughts that we overlook critical elements of our success. This is not to suggest that we should not be enthusiastic; on the contrary, you should be passionate and confident in your endeavors. Only when we return to self-interest do we overlook the most critical element in entrepreneurship, the client.
There are four characteristics that define a successful entrepreneur, all of which are equally important:
The first is decency.
It is the bedrock of every good company. Is your product really what you claim it is? Can your consumers really rely on you and your business? Is your service beneficial? Are you more concerned with the pleasure of your client than with earning a sale?
The second is to treat every individual as if they are a million-dollar client, because they may become one or introduce you to one.
Those you treat well in the beginning will stick with you throughout your path to achievement and may even be a contributing factor in your success. Regardless of accomplishment, everyone needs to be treated equally. I adore Rudyard Kipling and his philosophy of treating kings and paupers equally.
This is something my mother instilled in me as a child when I sat in the back of the delicatessen where she worked behind the counter. I saw her treating both the bank manager and the street sweeper with the same elegance and deference. It has had a significant impact on my business efforts. Whoever you are interacting with at the time has become your most valuable client, regardless of whether they make a purchase from you.
As an entrepreneur, treating them as if they were a million dollars would never hurt you. That street sweeper took particular pleasure in keeping the pavement outside the store beautiful, and he became one of the business’s largest clients years later after being recruited as the town’s livestock auction messenger. One of his responsibilities was to provide lunch for all farmers attending the twice-weekly auction.
The third characteristic is modesty.
It’s amazing how quickly senior company executives forget that the customer always comes first, and that they cannot possibly thrive without the consumer. They often seem to believe that interacting with customers is beneath them or is the duty of their staff at some point. Businesses become dysfunctional when the leader ceases to listen to the consumer. I’ve seen this difficulty with CEOs whose egos spiral out of control.
They are more concerned with what they will get from it than with what they have to give. I’ve even had entrepreneurs tell me about their fantastic company idea, only to confess that they’ve conducted no market research or are unable to give me with prospective consumer feedback. These meetings are shortened.
Fourth is your objective.
Consider what your client will get from your efforts, whether as an entrepreneur, a CEO, or a business. What advantage do they receive? That advantage clarifies your objective and keeps you on track and in perspective. By continuously reminding yourself of the client’s advantages, you ensure that the customer will always come first.