I had lunch with a good friend this week who has just sold his business for a pile of money. He was speaking about the philosophy that helped him and his team, reach the success they did. They focused on three things:
1. Relationships with their customers
2. The product, “could they deliver the product they promised?”
What is important is that they focused on them, in this order of importance. To use his words, we know that if we take care of our customer relationships and our product, the money will follow.
Look at that again will you. I could talk to anyone in business about these areas of focus and they would all agree. “Yep customers, product and profits that is what is important”. BUT and this is a big but most of you would have the order reversed. So many managers are focused on the number, on driving the number to meet analyst expectations that the market soon realizes that the company is not focused on the customer but on themselves.
Remember what your Dad told you? “The customer doesn’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. This is still true and yet many companies violate these principals on a regular basis.
Remember Mervyns: the Department store? They were a solid very profitable company for a long time until they sold to investors. A sharp bookkeeper noted that they owned the land the stores were on. They sold the land, reaped a windfall everyone got bonuses. Has anyone seen a Mervyns lately? They filed Chapter 7 and were gone by 12/31/2008
Back to the three things:
Build relationships with your customers. The most effective way that I know is through open, honest communications. That doesn’t mean it is always comfortable but it means they will trust you. That is what they really buy… is trust that you can solve the problem, not that you will take them golfing or to dinner.
Deliver on your product promise. A big factor in creating trust is credibility and reliability (and intimacy see above) according to my friends at Trusted Advisor Associates. If we keep our promises on the initial things, the little things, we get the opportunity to earn the bigger things.
If we take care of number 1 and 2 and we are not frivolous with our spending and we manage our resources the money will follow. And in the case of my friend it followed to the tune of millions of dollars.