Over the many years I have spent in business schools and continuing education programs, one of the most remembered items I recall are the four elements of a successful business. I would like to give credit where credit is due, but I can not recall who told me about these lovely little tidbits or in what venue I learned them. To this day, I can clearly recite these four concepts as I have lived by them for many years.
The first is that you must ALWAYS tell your customer / client / patient / whatever what you plan on doing for them. This may sound simple and easy …. maybe even blatantly stupid, but believe me, most business people out there just do not have a clue on this one important issue. Let's say you own a dog grooming business. It is important to tell the owner (and you can tell the dog too) that today you are going to cut the dog's nails, shampoo, and then blow dry the hair (sounds more like my wife's salon ….. better be careful she does not see this article!). If you deliver a nicely cleaned dog to it's owner a few hours later, and she notices the dog has bad breath, then she sees the dog has dirty teeth ….. well, she is not going to be happy with you. But, you were clear – only nails, shampoo, and blow drying – and so you are off the hook. But did it make the customer happy? Not really because you did not deliver anything special to them. You did explain what you would do, but did not deliver the expected product or service – clean teeth.
Which segues us into the next key to success: ALWAYS finish what you start. It may go without saying, but in business you need to complete the task that you have started, and I believe you must always give more than you promise. In other words, you should have at least brushed the dog's front teeth and given him a chew bone to get rid of the bad breath. This way, not only did you complete the tasks you charged for, but you put in a value added item – the tooth brushing without having to be told to do it. This is how you impress a customer and keep them coming back for more – you give more of yourself than they expect and are paying for.
The third element to a successful business is that you must ALWAYS be on time. Well, actually I disagree with this to some extent. I believed that you should be EARLY for all appointments and prepared to go without any delays. In my past articles you may remember my little trick of always keeping my waiting room empty when I was a dentist – I would have my staff swoop down on the patient as they entered the waiting room, not let them wait, and get them directly into the treatment room. This way, whenever the next patient came in, we would swoop down on them like a waiting vulture and keep them moving into their appointment. Patients always asked if we were busy, we said no, and then we asked them to refer their friends. It was a great way to build a business – have your customers wanting to help you out. And guess what it cost – NOTHING!
The fourth key to being successful in business is really impossible for some people. This involves two very difficult terms that you must remember and really mean it when you say them. I actually see no point in telling most of you because you could not say these words if your life depended on it! Well, it does depend on it. Your business life depends on this, so here goes: Learn to say 'Please' and 'Thank you'. You can not imagine how people will notice it when you are respectful to your staff and customers. The Ritz-Carlton does this too – when a guest says "I appreciate your help" to staff at the Ritz, they do not say "Aw, schucks … it wuz nuttin". They respond by saying "It was my pleasure". They do not just say "Thank you" in the normal way for being their guest, they let you know it was pleasurable to serve you. See the point? They not onlyave a thank you back at the guest, but they added more value to it. Once again, taking the element of success and making it even more effective by adding more value to it.
If you think you can forgive these four concepts and then make them better for every aspect of your business, then you have the potential to go a long way. Keep in mind, there is no pride in being a business owner – you are there to serve. You are there to do what the customer demands within the realm of your business. If you can not produce, they will have to go elsewhere. And these days, competition is fierce out there. You likely will not get a second chance with that same customer ever again because your competitor down the street!