Customer is King

by Guy Ralfe on April 14, 2010

As I continue to share my experiences in the journey from corporate jockey to being an owner and entrepreneur it amazes me how similar business is, irrespective of which vertical or market sector you operate in.

I have moved from the high tech IT solution delivery to application of specialty coatings in the construction world. What is very apparent is that business seems to be the same at successful companies. Contrary to conventional understanding business is not about the product. Yes product is important but not fundamental in a way that customers are.

There is a saying “Take care of your customers and the business will follow

I have found this to be true looking back at the various companies I have worked at and when business has been good. Where I see the challenge is that most people don’t stop and think who the customer is for them or their organization.

This last week I watched a TV program Undercover Boss, which featured Chris McCann, President and COO of 1-800-Flowers.com going undercover to visit franchise stores to get a better understanding of what they could improve.  What became very clear is that they had lost focus of who their customers were – yes ultimately it was the consumer of their product but along the way the franchise store is actually their primary customer. What was amazing to see was that even though the product (arranged flowers and chocolates) were the same for the stores the individual stores success hinged on the relationships the staff created with the customers. And by the same measure the challenges that the franchise stores were facing was as a result of a neglected relationship with the central franchisor management.

In reflecting on how we transact, think about the people that you socialize with and who you call for help or favors in your network. Without giving it much thought you go out your way to take care of them and maintain the relationship. These relationships work in a symbiotic or balanced manner and just as when you feel down they help you through. So too should you be doing the same for your customers, both internal and external.

As another quote I found says – “If you don’t take care of your customer, someone else will….

Guy RalfeThis article was contributed by Guy Ralfe, co-founder of Active Garage and co-author of the upcoming book ProjectManagementTweets. You can follow Guy on Twitter at gralfe.
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