I have found that many entrepreneurs struggle with the same basic difficulties. We are often so caught up in our own ideas that we forget the aspects that are essential to our success. This is not to say that we should not be enthusiastic; on the contrary, you want to be excited and confident in whatever it is you are doing. It is only when we revert to selfish gains that we neglect the most important entity of entrepreneurism, which is the customer.
There are four qualities that make a great entrepreneur, each one equally significant:
The first is integrity.
It is the foundation to any business that was ever worthwhile. Does your product really do what you say it does? Can your customers really trust you and your company? Does your service provide a benefit? Do you care more for your customer’s satisfaction than making a sale?
The second is to treat every person like they are a million dollar customer, because one day they may actually be that or lead you to someone who is.
Those whom you treat well in the beginning will be with you throughout your journey to success and will possibly be part of the reason you get there. Aside from any success, everyone deserves the right to be treated equally. I’m a big fan of Rudyard Kipling and his idea of treating Kings and paupers the same way. This is also something my mum instilled in me from an early age when I used to sit in the back of the delicatessen where she worked behind the counter. I watched how she treated the bank manager and the street cleaner with exactly the same grace and respect. It has really influenced me in my business endeavors. Whoever you are communicating with, in that moment, they have become your most important customer whether they are buying from you or not. Treating them like a million dollars will never harm you as an entrepreneur. That street cleaner took extra pride in keeping the sidewalk outside the shop immaculate, and years later became one of the shop’s biggest customers when he was hired as the town’s livestock auction messenger. One of his tasks was to fetch lunches for all the farmers who attended the twice-weekly auction.
The third quality is humility.
It amazes me how easily high-ranking business people forget that the customer always comes first, and without the customer they could not possibly succeed. At some point they often seem to think that communicating with the customer is beneath them, or it is the responsibility of their employees. Companies go awry when the leader stops listening to the customer. I have seen this challenge with CEOs where egos get out of control. They focus on what they are going to get out of it rather than what they have to offer. I have even had potential entrepreneurs tell me about their great business plan, and then admit that they have not done any market research or they cannot provide me with potential customer feedback. Those meetings are cut short.
Fourth is your purpose.
An important thing to consider is what your customer will get out of your efforts, either as an entrepreneur, a CEO, or a company. What is the benefit to them? That benefit defines your purpose, keeps you on track as well as in perspective. By constantly reminding yourself of the benefits to the customer, you are ensuring that the customer will always be your first and foremost goal.
© 2012 Trevor Blake, author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life