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Getting a new business up and running is not an easy task.  Making that business successful is even more difficult.  Too often business owners, especially small business owners, pay too much attention to what they think will help their business to be more successful, and completely overlook some of the things that have the greatest impact on making a business successful.  In order to help give you the best chance of making your business successful, here are...

Some Secrets To Running A Successful Business

By Keith Rawlinson
Volunteer Budget Counselor

The most important person in your business--the customer.

It just is not possible to overemphasize this point.  It is a simple matter to hire more employees or buy fancy equipment, but it is very difficult to gain new customers while retaining the old ones.  Without customers, you are out of business.  The success or failure of your business is quite literally defined by the quantity and quality of your customers; yet, so many businesses don't seem to understand, or believe this.  Just look at how the level of customer service in America is deteriorating.  Personally, it has now gotten to the point that when I hear a company say that one of the reasons to do business with them is because they offer great customer service--I just roll my eyes and disregard it.  How sad that it's gotten to that point.  Well, because customers are just so pivotal to the success and growth of a business, I'm going to start there.  Herein, I am giving you an honest and open discussion from the point of view of one who is often a customer, but due to being a financial counselor, is also keenly aware of how customer satisfaction affects the bottom line of any business.  If you own or are starting a business, here is a opportunity for you to gain some valuable insight that can mean success and growth to your business.  Please take advantage of this opportunity to learn.

The customer is (not) always right.

I've heard it said that the customer is always right.  Well, I'm sorry but that just isn't true.  I'm speaking from the perspective of a former point-of-sale employee as well as from the perspective of a former manager.  The customer is not always right--but, the customer is always the customer!  I say this because even though customers can be wrong, irritating, rude, difficult, etc. etc., it is very important to deal with these situation calmly and professionally.  One of the keys to success in a business is understanding that we customers are tired of being lied to, misled, shorted, cheated, disrespected, and treated as though we are disposable and replaceable.  If you want to succeed in your business, use the information I just gave you to your advantage.  How?  By being a sort of oasis from all of those things.  Trust me, we customers are more than willing to be loyal to businesses which address those issues.  In fact, due to being treated properly, I have returned again and again to businesses at which I knew I would have to pay a little more.  I gladly paid the higher price in order to do business at a place where I was treated the way I thought I should be.  And trust me, I am not the only customer who feels that way.

A business success "to do" list.

Be willing to go out of your way to make sure you have satisfied customers.

If you own any kind of service business, you can greatly outshine your competition just by showing up when you say you will, getting the job done on time, doing good work, and going the extra mile if necessary to keep your promises.  Pretty basic isn't it?  It seems like something customers should always be able expect; but sadly, it is becoming rare these days.  I don't think that enough businesses today realize how valuable are repeat customers and word-of-mouth advertising.  

I've heard it said that it costs three times as much to attract a new customer as it does to keep an old one.  Yet, too many businesses treat old customers as "we've already got you, so it isn't as important how we treat you."  But if I become a dissatisfied customer and leave you, it will cost you three times as much to get a new customer to spend the same amount of money you just lost from me.  From a business perspective, how does that make sense?  But it happens every day.

And once I am a dissatisfied customer, what am I going to tell other people about your business?  If just one person takes my advice and does not do business with you, you haven't just lost one customer--you've actually lost two.  And chances are that I can get more than one person to listen to me.  From a business perspective, how does that make sense?  But it happens every day.  Want a perfect example?  Read my article about Toys R Us and how I was done very wrong by this company.  Not only will I never shop there again, but I tell other people about it both in my personal life and in my work as a financial counselor.  Not only that, but I have posted it here on the Internet for anyone and everyone to read!  How many old and new customers did that one, really bad decision on the part of Toys R Us cost them?  Who knows--but I hope it's a lot and I hope that you will read the article and decide not to shop at Toys R Us.

I used to go to a local restaurant which ran really good breakfast specials if you got there before 11:00am.  In fact, my family and I went every week and took several friends along with us.  One day, we got there in plenty of time, but because they were so busy our order wasn't put in until a few minutes past 11:00.  The waitress came back several minutes later and told us that the kitchen was now closed for breakfast and we would have to order something else.   I calmly informed the manager of the situation and asked if they could please just use one little corner of their grill to fill our breakfast order.  He told me "Eleven o'clock is eleven o'clock."  I asked him if it was worth losing customers over this?  He actually responded with "I really don't care if you come back or not."  Needless to say, we never went back.  They lost me and my family, all of the friends we used to bring with us, and several people whom I told about it.  Let's assume that they only lost 12 people (I bet it was more) and let's say those 12 people spent an average of $15 each time we made our weekly visit--that restaurant lost $9,360 in business per year just because of that one incident!  What a stupid, stupid decision for that small business owner to make!  If I had owned that restaurant, I would have gotten out a frying pan if I had to and cooked that breakfast order myself before I would let an angry, dissatisfied customer walk out the door.  If we were mistreated, you can bet that other customers were as well.  Not surprisingly, that restaurant went out of business a year or two later.  And that brings up another valuable piece of advice...

Don't let your pride interfere with your business.

I'm sure that part of the reason that whole, unfortunate incident at the restaurant took place is because the owner's pride was involved and he didn't want to back down.  His pride cost him not only customers, but ultimately his entire business.  Be smart.  Make your business decisions calmly and wisely.  Remember how valuable your customers are and treat them accordingly.  Instead of trying to boost your pride by 'winning' arguments with customers, boost your pride by knowing that you were right, but were smart enough to take very good care of your customers anyway.  That's smart--that's wise--that's making a good business decision.

Here's another little true story that helps make the point about pride.  I had just sold a house through a bank that I had never done business with before--National City Bank, in fact.  After all was settled and all of the money had been paid, the bank billed me for an additional $75.  I called the manager and asked her what it was for.  She told me it was for an 'inspection fee' they had forgotten to include.  I reminded here that the additional $75 was not in our original contract and I therefore did not have to pay it.  Granted, it was only $75, but it was $75 I didn't owe so I was not about to pay it.  This woman then began to loudly and condescendingly argue with me and eventually got to the point of threatening to refer it to her legal department, send it on to collections, and take me to court. I then informed her that the fee was not in our contract, the courts would, therefore, never enforce it, and I would file a counter suit for expenses and attorney fees.  At that point she finally backed down, told me it better never happen again, and then hung up on me.  We are talking here about a very large, national bank chain to whom that $75 would have meant nothing.  There is no way a company that size was going to miss the $75 I refused to pay.  But the woman got her pride involved, determined that she was going to 'win' the argument, and for $75 lost me as a customer along with everyone I could convince not to bank there.  And don't forget that I am a financial counselor and I talk to a lot of people about money and banking.  If this incident cost them even one mortgage customer, an average mortgage would have netted the bank over $173,000 in interest profit!  If I managed to convince just one person not to do their mortgage with National City Bank, that manager's pride cost her company more than $173,000.  Over a measly $75, this woman was willing to lose a potential new customer (remember, it was my first time with their bank) along with everyone I have told this story to--which now includes you.  That incident took place years ago, yet has done damage to their business ever since.  What if I had been treated right and ended up being impressed with their bank?  I would have not only done business with them myself, but I would have been sending them customers through my counseling.  To this day I wonder how much money this one incident actually ended up costing them.  Be smart, never, ever let your pride lead you into making very bad business decisions.  Take very good care of your customers.  Your business literally depends upon it.  When I was a business manager years ago, I had a rule that no customer went out the door unhappy until we had done every  reasonable thing at our disposal to make them happy.

Follow these golden rules of dealing with customers:
If you want to really shine among your competitors, pay very close attention to that last rule.  The little things are just as important as the big ones.  There once was an elderly woman in counseling who at one time had pull-knobs coming loose on her kitchen cabinets.  She called a small local cabinet company figuring that they would know what to do.  They told her that they had a minimum order policy and could not be bothered with tightening knobs on cabinet doors unless she had additional work that needed to be done.  Next, she called an even smaller local cabinet company who told her that they would send someone right over to take care of it.  While driving in her neighborhood between calls the very next day, one of their technicians stopped by, tightened the knobs on her cabinets, charged her $20 and then went on his way.  A year or two later, this same woman needed to have her entire kitchen and her bathrooms remodeled in preparation to sell her house--guess which company she hired to do the work.  Treat the little things as just as important as the big things.  Quite often, the little things lead to big things.

If you want to make your business succeed and grow,  put yourself way ahead of most of your competitors by taking very, very good care of each and every one of your customers.  Not only will you get to keep your customers, you will eventually start winning over some of your competitors' customers.  Be courteous, professional, helpful, truthful and do honest work.  Show up when you say you will, get the job done on time and make sure the work is done as well as you can afford to do it.  If you do these things, you are already well ahead of most of your competitors; thus, word of mouth advertising and repeat customers will very likely make your business grow.

Your greatest resource--employees.

It is imperative that you take care not only of your customers, but also of your employees.  Regardless of at which level of the organization any particular employees work, your employees can literally make or break your company.  And don't be fooled into thinking that good pay makes good employees.  Granted, you can't keep good employees without competitive pay, but just paying someone well does not necessarily mean that they will be a good employee.  In fact, in most of the job satisfaction surveys that I have seen or conducted, pay wasn't even at the top of the list!  That really surprised me, but it has proven to be the case over and over.  It turns out that one of the greatest predictors of job satisfaction is whether or not the employee feels valued and respected.  If your employees are happy in their job, that will show in how they do their work and in how they deal with customers.  Never forget that a customer's opinion about your entire company is usually determined by the interaction with employees--sometimes, only one employee.

Case in point:  I once took my family to a local fast food restaurant that we had never previously visited.  When we went up to the counter, none of the employees were smiling.  Several of them were just standing around talking or doing nothing, and a couple of them were actually having a loud, verbal confrontation right there behind the counter.  I remember thinking "wow, if this place is so bad that this is how the employees feel, I sure don't want to eat here!"  We left, went to a competitor down the street, and have never been back to that restaurant.  Was the place clean?  Yes.  Was the food good?  I don't know since I didn't stay long enough to find out.  My entire opinion about that restaurant was formed quickly and permanently based solely upon the behavior of the employees.  I'm willing to bet that most, if not all, of those employees were not happy in their job.

My point is this:  If you want your business to grow and be successful, you have to seriously consider the condition of your greatest resource--your employees.  So how do you increase the job satisfaction of employees?  Here are some practical suggestions based upon my many years of being an employee--an inside peek into the psyche of employees if you will:


First of all, treat your employees with respect.  Talk to them in the same way you would with any VIP in your company.  If appropriate, try to address them by their first names and allow them to do the same at least with their immediate supervisors.  Try not to address an employee by their last name unless you put a Mr. Mrs. or Miss in front of it.  Addressing someone only by their last name tends to make them feel like more of a company commodity and less of a person.  When you address someone by only their last name, it implies that that person is somehow less valuable than you are.  The employee might not even realize it, but that is usually how it makes them feel.  It may sound trite, but basically just treat your employees the way you would want to be treated regardless of the employee's position within the organization.  If you don't think that a "lower level" employee is important to the success of your business, know that my family and I have also not returned to several different restaurants because their floors were not swept and the restrooms were not clean.  I wonder if the manager had any idea that the person who cleans the toilets was important enough to cost them customers?

One very important way to show that you respect and value your employees is to be willing to hear, and take suggestions from them.  Keep in mind that your employees are the ones 'in the trenches' so to speak.  They know the nuts and bolts of how your business is being run on their level.  I seriously wonder why so many employers fail to tap into the resource of all of the day-to-day experience and knowledge of their employees?  It is just too great a resource to waste!  So, ask your employees for suggestions on how to do things easier, more efficiently or cheaper.  Ask them what things would make them happier on the job.  You don't have to implement every suggestion you receive, but implementing just a few good ideas makes the whole effort worth it, not to mention the effect on your business of employees who feel valued and respected.

Thank you.

Take the time daily to thank any deserving employees for a job well done.  Even if the work was their responsibility and nothing out of the ordinary.  If day-to-day work is done well, that should be acknowledged. Be sincere, though, if an employee's work is not deserving of praise, don't praise them.  If you do, all of your employees will see the insincerity and not take your praise seriously.   If you don't believe me that sincere praise is a powerful thing, try it on a few employees and then watch their reaction.

An occasional pat on the back is a great idea, but don't let it be the only means of rewarding good ideas or exceptional work.  If an employee finds a way to save, or make your business extra money, then that employee should be materially rewarded if at all possible.  And I'm not talking about such things as coffee mugs, key chains or tee shirts.  (I actually once had an employer who gave out computer-printed certificates of appreciation--I honestly never cared if I got one of those or not, so please don't treat me like I'm in third grade.)  I'm talking about rewards that the employee will actually care about.  How about a cash bonus for ideas that save or make the company additional money?  Or maybe award tickets to sporting events or gift certificates to a nice restaurant.  Trust me, most employees will work for rewards like that.  Too expensive?  Okay, then how about additional vacation time?  Still too expensive?  Then how about letting the employee go home an hour early with pay, extended lunch time, or a special parking space?  See?  There are ways to reward employees that they will work for and which will show them that they are valued, respected and appreciated--which they very well should be.  They can, after all, make or break a business.

Don't be afraid to lose excess weight.

Another thing that destroys employee morale is a 'dead-weight' employee.  You know, the one who makes the minimum effort if any, complains constantly, argues excessively, finds ways to get out of work and often tries to get others to do the work for them.  If there is any way possible, when you have such an employee either straighten them up or ship them out.  Letting them stay just 'infects' everyone else, lowers the morale and job satisfaction of everyone, and costs your business money and aggravation.  Of course I believe that any employee should be given the chance to straighten up, but if they don't, they should go.  I remember my very first day at a particular company where one of their long-time employees befriended me and offered to show me some 'great places to hide' in the building so I could get away with doing less work!  Imagine the drop in productivity of anyone who was lazy enough to take him up on his offer!  I told him no thanks because trying to hide out would make for a very long day of feeling like I accomplished nothing.  If any employees are nothing but excess weight, lose them!

The all-important pep talk.

Finally, don't be afraid to give your employees occasional , sincere 'pep talks.'  Let them know how important they are to your business and to your customers.  Foster a sense of pride in that it's a better place because they are there and a part of the team.  Help them to understand that the entire organization might be judged on how they deal with customers.  Give them some sense of  'ownership' of how the business succeeds and grows.  And, as the business succeeds and grows, be sure to try to find ways to reward the employees who made it happen.  Make those rewards ongoing.  An annual outing for the employees is nice, but it doesn't last the whole rest of the year.  Maybe even tie bonuses and incentives to company profits.  That way, bad employees know that they are only hurting themselves.

Final thoughts on employees.

Just always keep in mind that your employees are what keeps your business going.  Look for ways to be respectful, appreciative and sincere in your interaction with employees.  Make sure they are reasonably paid, that benefits, if any, are competitive and that every effort is made to maintain a safe, clean work environment.  Once your employees are well cared for, respected, and have a reasonable sense of job satisfaction, then you will have more loyal employees, less turnover and you are in a much better position to terminate employees who don't measure up.

The weakest ink is better than the strongest memory.

That Chinese proverb makes my next point.  If you want your business to be a success, put everything in writing!  This includes contracts with partners, customers, employees, suppliers, landlords, tenants, etc.  A dispute that gets taken to court can end up costing your company a surprising amount of time and money.  It has been my experience that if everything is in writing, and you are the one who is right, generally it won't even go to court because the other party already knows that the judge will tend to rule in favor of a written contract.  

If you have partners in your business--any partners--make absolutely sure that everything is in writing!  I don't care if your partner is a friend, relative, or even your own spouse--put everything in writing!  I also recommend that you have a competent, knowledgeable attorney help you draft the documents.  Generally, written agreements among partners are not needed when things are going well; it's when something goes wrong that a written agreement has the power to save you.  In the case of a spouse, the agreement may spell out what they are, and are not permitted to do with respect to running the business, but can also spell out how they will be taken care of if you were to die or become disabled.  Actually, the same holds true for agreements with your partners.  What happens if one of them fails to live up to their obligations?  What happens if one of them dies?   What happens if a partner goes through a divorce or a law suit?  What happens if the business becomes hugely successful?  What happens if the business goes under taking everyone's investment with it?  Trust me, if something goes seriously wrong in a business, and you don't have a written agreement with your partners, there will be ill feelings, and there will most likely be a fight of some sort.  I don't care if the partner is a stranger, friend, your mom or dear old grandma--put everything in writing, no exceptions!

With regard to customers, putting things in writing lets them know exactly what they can expect.  Sometimes, you finish the work but the customer thought you were going to do more than you did.  With a written agreement, you can politely and professionally show them what was agreed to.  At the same time, you can point out to your customer that they are protected as well, because you are contractually obligated to do everything you put in writing.  It is an advantage to both you and your customer, and it can save a lot of misunderstanding and grief later.

When it comes to employees, a written agreement can come in very handy.  As you may already be aware, it can be very difficult to fire an incompetent or even dishonest employee unless you can prove that they failed to fulfill what was expected of them.  And if what was expected of them was not in writing, then in court it will be your word against theirs.  And imagine what happens in court if the employee manages to get a couple of other employees to side with them!  If a bad, detrimental employee happens to be a member of a protected class under the law, the legal ramifications of terminating their employment get even more complicated.  Having the employees responsibilities and limitations in writing makes it much easier to reprimand an employee if they fail to fulfill their obligations, and makes it much easier to prove your case in court should it get to the point that you need to fire them.

As for suppliers, landlords, tenants, etc, the same reasoning as all of the above still applies.  One of the things that destroy new businesses is the anger and resentment that arise when there is a misunderstanding--not to mention the cost of legal action.  In order to protect yourself, and the people you deal with in your business, make sure that you always put everything in writing.  Contracts, agreements, work orders, receipts, everything!  You can't go wrong if you do it, but you can go very wrong if you don't.  If anyone is offended that you request a written agreement, you can just say that is is policy with everyone.  If they are still offended, then take that as an indication that you may not want to be doing business with them in the first place.

Another advantage of putting things in writing is that it allows you to demonstrate what is owed you, while making sure you only pay out what is actually due.  This brings up my next point:

Credit where credit is due--and debit where debit is due.

 Make sure you collect money that is owed you, and that you pay money that is due.  I remember as I child that after raking leaves, mowing someone's lawn or shoveling snow from someone's driveway, I always felt funny about knocking on the door and asking to be paid.  Sadly, and I'm not even sure why, this feeling followed me into adulthood.  Then one day, while reading one of the many financial books I have read over the years, I came across a section in which the author said that if you did the work, and did it well, then you have earned your money and your customer should pay it willingly.  If they don't want to pay you for a job well done, that is their problem not yours.  I took that to heart and have been applying it to my life ever since.  In your business, you should as well.  If you follow the other advice I have given in this article, then you are doing quality work and are taking good care of your customers.  You deserve to be paid and you need to make sure that you are.  By the same token, make sure that you treat your employees, suppliers, landlords, etc. with the same respect.

Not too long ago, I was the owner and landlord of a duplex home in a small town.  Whenever I put in a new tenant, I made it very clear that I would treat them with professionalism and respect as long as they did the same.  I promised to do repairs in a timely manner and make sure their home was a healthy, safe, enjoyable place to live--a promise I kept.  In return, they were expected to pay their rent in full and on time.  I explained to them that I didn't just run out and spend the rent money on furs and fun--I used it to pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance, repairs and so on.  In fact, this information was included right in the written lease.  I made it very clear, even in the written contract, that I would act immediately if rent was not paid.  If all of that made them uncomfortable or hesitant, then I didn't rent to them.  Over the years, I had very little problem with collecting rent in full and on time.  Why?  Because I made it very clear that I expected to be paid in full, on time and would not tolerate anything less.  Well, it worked.  In over a decade of being a landlord, I never had to evict a tenant, and I only had to go to court one time for money owed (a case I won easily thanks to a written agreement).

I say that to say this:  let the people with whom you deal in your business know up front that you expect to be paid on time and in full or you will no longer be able to have dealings with them.  Then, follow through on what you said you would do.  If one of my tenants was late by even one day with the rent, I immediately drove right over to the building and posted a "three day notice to pay" on their door.  In my state, that is the first necessary legal step to eviction and a lawsuit.  I did it calmly and let them know that it was being done with regret.  But it did let them know that I meant what I said about paying on time, and I didn't usually have to do it more than once during their tenancy.  Often, just to take the emotion out of it and show my tenants (customers) that I cared, I would regretfully hand them the notice, remind them of our agreement, then ask if there was anything wrong with the building that I needed to addresss.  

Do the same in your business.  Don't respond to non-payment emotionally--respond professionally.  Let your customers know right from the start what is expected of them.  Be helpful and polite, but make no mistake about letting them know that you are serious about fulfilling your obligations and are serious about them fulfilling theirs.  All too often, you will get a sad story from someone who doesn't want to pay.  Sometimes the stories are true and sometimes not.  But regardless of whether or not they are true, you are running a business, not a charity.  You can be empathetic and concerned while still wanting to be paid.  One of the things I did as a landlord was to have a ready list of organizations and charities that could help in a variety of situations.  When they refused to pay due to whatever their circumstances were, I informed them of the organizations that could help their situation, but still insisted on being paid.  If I wasn't paid, I would sadly follow through on our agreement and ask them to move out.  I wasn't being cold about it.  For one thing, I deserved to be paid and I was willing to put in a new tenant who would pay me.  I also had given them help in the form of organizations that could assist them.  If they didn't look into it, then either their story wasn't true, or they were unwilling to make the effort to help themselves.  Either way, I had bills too and I needed to be paid.  I cared about my tenants, but I couldn't afford to make their problems my problems.  I was running a business not a charity.  Besides, I made sure that I occasionally made donations to some of the very charities I was recommending.  Always care about your customers, but also care about yourself, your business and taking care of your family--make sure you are paid and don't be hesitant about it.  If anyone refuses to pay you, please be smart enough to never do business with them again.  Too many times, a sad story and a smooth talker can convince you to let them burn you more than once.

There are ways to motivate people to pay you without your having to be heavy-handed about it.  Besides making your expectations clear right from the beginning, don't be afraid to use discounts and incentives to motivate your customers.  Maybe give a discount for on-time payment.  Surprisingly, it doesn't always have to be a big discount in order to motivate.  If not a discount, then some sort of rewards program--pay on time and get so much in free merchandise with your next order.  Some real estate rental businesses even offer one month at half price or even free, with each full year of on-time payment.  Use your imagination.  Talk to your customers and find out what kind of incentives they would like to see.  But whatever you do, make sure you are paid what is due you, and that you likewise pay others what you owe.  Many successful businesses have been built on good relationships with respect to paying and being paid.

If you offer it, make it happen.

Regardless of what it is, if you offer something, make sure it happens.  I don't just mean what's in your written agreements, but also what you do in the day-to-day running of your business.  Don't bait-and-switch, and never try to trick your customers.  When you do things like this, you are implying that you cannot be trusted.  That could kill your business.  And if you make some kind of special offer, don't try to get out of it.  My wife and I once went to a local location of a national chain grocery store because they advertised a half-price sale on ice cream.  When we got there, they informed us that the sale was not available at all location and they didn't even have any of the "on-sale" ice cream in the store.  Yes, they tricked us and got us into the store, but we didn't buy anything and never went back.  For the couple of dollars it would have cost them to make good on their offer, they lost some customers permanently.  How stupid on their part--they paid for and ran a national advertisement which ended up costing them customers.  If they had just honored their offer, we would have bought the ice cream, a few additional items, and gone back there to shop in the future.

Another time, there was a small, local restaurant near our favorite vacation spot in the middle of nowhere.  It said right on their sign that they were open until 10:00 PM  every day; but, many of the times we went there after 8:00 PM, they were already closed.  They didn't close at 8:00 PM every day, just on some days.  When we asked the owner about it, she told us that if business was slow, they would just close up early.  Believe me, it was very frustrating to dive out there during their posted business hours, only to find them closed.  Before long we found another local restaurant quite a bit farther away, but one which was open when they said they would be.  We started going there instead, and never did go back to that first place.  We did notice, however, that the first place started closing a little earlier and a little earlier as the months went by (which meant fewer and fewer customer were showing up) and eventually went out of business completely.

I remember one time when our auto insurance company was offering a "one accident forgiveness program" by which your first accident did not raise your premiums if you had been with them for at least ten years.  A couple of days after the ten year anniversary of our having been with this company, we had a minor accident and filed a claim.  They informed us that filing the claim would raise our premiums so were we sure we still wanted to do it.  I informed them that we had been with them for the required ten years and were requesting the one accident forgiveness program.  The agent actually told us that, yes, we signed the papers with them ten years ago, but they didn't cash our check until two weeks after that and they go by when the check is cashed, not by when we signed the papers.  I told the agent that next time, don't make a special offer if you're just going to weasel out of it.  All they did was manage to get us angry with them.  By the way, you'd be surprised how much you can lower your car insurance premiums when you get angry with your current company and start shopping around.  What a stupid decision on their part.  In order to try to get that extra money out of us, they were willing to risk losing us completely.

 Don't make the same kinds of stupid mistakes.  If you offer something to your customers, no matter how insignificant it may or may not be, follow through and make it happen.

The grief of poor quality is remembered long after the thrill of a low price.

Too many business owner ask themselves "what is the least I can offer my customers and still keep their business?"  The question should instead be "what is the most I can afford to offer my customers?"  In other words, don't try to make extra profit by offering poor quality or bad service.  Even if you offer it at a very low price, customers will generally remember the frustration of the poor quality long after they forget how low the price was.  Always strive to do the most you can for each customer.  Yes, you may make a reduced profit margin at first, but once word-of-mouth advertising brings in new customers along with the many customers you'll be able to keep, you will more than make up for the lower profit margin with the increased quantity of business.  Trust me, if you frustrate your customers with poor quality or bad service, word gets around.  You may not see the damage to your customer base right away, but sooner or later you likely will.  A bad reputation can slowly kill off your business.

location, location, location  Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

In the real estate business, you've probably heard it said that the three most important things are location, location and location.  Well, in the general business world, the three most important things, in my opinion, are reputation, reputation and reputation.  If your business has a reputation for doing all of the things I have mentioned in this article, word gets around and your customer base should grow.  If, however, you let your business get a bad reputation, you have to spend about three times as much effort and money to try to win new customers than it would cost you to keep the old ones you lose because of a bad reputation.  How do  you get a good reputation?  By doing the things I have talked about in this article.  How do you get a bad reputation?  Don't do the things I have taught in this article.  It's your business--it's your choice.  

If you are not yet a business owner, but are thinking about starting your own business, be sure to read "Are You Ready To Start Your Own Business."

Please know that all of the thoughts, information, suggestions and techniques given on this site are nothing more than the author's opinion on the matter being addressed.  Do further research before making any decisions.

This article copyright 2007 by Keith C. Rawlinson (Eclecticsite.com).  All rights reserved.

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