Business is Personal Newsletter
September 2004


Putting Clients First Could Be Killing Your Business

We've all heard the business gurus spouting mantras about putting clients first or that the customer is always right. I say, "HOGWASH!" If you're an independent business owner or an employee in a company, they only thing that will sustain that business is happy, motivated people doing good work in the business.

Think about this
When is the last time you really made a customer happy when you weren't thrilled to be there? When is the last time you underpromised and overdelivered when your heart wasn't in it?

If not clients, then who comes first?
If putting your customers first or making your customers right is draining your energy or killing your motivation to do a kick-butt job, then stop doing it! If you're a business owner or an employee, here's the secret behind staying in business or doing an amazing job and having all the business you can handle:

1. Put yourself first
According to Thomas Leonard in his book "The Portable Coach," the first of his 28 strategies for business and personal success is to become incredibly selfish - to put yourself first! Think about the old adage, "You can't love anyone else until you love yourself first." For you to do an amazing job at anything, you have to feel good, have energy, have passion and have the focus to deliver. If you aren't putting yourself first, then it's impossible to have all of these things at the same time!

2. Put the business second
The business is there to support you and make money. If the business isn't supporting you, then you're not being put first. If the business isn't making money, then it won't last much longer. Putting the business second is critical to creating a sustainable business. This doesn't mean that you create policies and procedures that are not customer-friendly. Truly putting the business second means creating processes, systems and policies that sustain the business - which means sustaining YOU and its employees, investors, stakeholders and customers. A truly successful business model is a win-win-win-win-win-win.....and it is possible!

Think about Ben & Jerrys', a very profitable ice cream business that makes it's owners profits, creates a great environment for its employees, turns out great products that makes customers happy and gives a tremendous amount back to the community.

3. Put clients third!
Clients want to buy from successful businesses and frequent places they like. Part of that successful formula is having happy employees and a sustainable business. If either of those are missing, then the customers won't show up for long. That's why customers must be third in line when thinking about your business!

How does this relate to "Business is Personal?"
Too many business owners agonize over how to create business models that really make them happy and are profitable. Many spend hours slaving away unhappily or by delaying satisfaction for years to put customers and the business first. It's bass-ackwards! (excuse my French!)

If you aren't happy, your business will not succeed for very long. Or if it does, you're still unhappy, so what's the point anyway?


From this point on, design your business in three steps:

1.) Get very clear about what will make you happy, from finances, to time off, to how you're perceived in the community and by customers and how you'd like to interact with others. This is only a short list, but you should be able to identify the components most important to you that will make you happy and create a business that supports those. If you have a hard time doing this, then hire a coach to help you hone in on what's most important.

2.) Design your business environment, including policies, procedures, physical space, processes and systems so that they optimize the interests of all of the stakeholders: you, the business, customers, etc.

3.) Serve your customers well, by paying attention to them, by making them feel great about doing business with you and by letting your passion shine! Great customers understand that you are a real person and your business must be profitable - if you have customers who demand to be first in line, without any regard to your personal satisfaction or business, then they are just lousy customers. Take Donald Trump's lead and say "You're fired!" to those customers!

I guarantee that you'll be a lot happier, have better customers who do more business with you and your business will flourish if you change your perception about why your business really exists and start putting yourself first. It worked for me and the results have been and continue to be amazing!

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