I met my friend Mike over a cup of coffee and right from the onset I could tell he was not the man I have always known – optimistic, courageous, passionate and a die-hard fighter, to whom the term ‘‘defeat’’ has never been part of his vocabulary.
However, that evening he looked beaten, humbled and utterly pessimistic as he told me how bad business had become.
I knew his business had not been doing well for some time and this had stressed him so much as he tried to adjust his lifestyle, but had not thought it was that bad.
“Now tell me what is happening. Is it that customers are not buying or margins are too small or your strategies are not working?” I probed him a bit to get him to open up.
As we discussed, I could clearly tell where the problem was. Mike is a victim of a common problem that affects many entrepreneurs as soon as their enterprise begins to do well – neglecting the core function of selling and product development.
During the start-up stage, the business owner is mostly preoccupied with the customer. Everything revolves around the customer. All customers, both big and small, are taken seriously because everything depends on them. Customer service and complaints are handled with golden gloves. However, as businesses expand and start making money, the owners develop a series of self-destruction habits such as losing personal touch with customers, employees, and most important of all, ignoring or delegating the entire core function of sales.
Some employ managers and sales people and with the title managing director or CEO, they assume their job is to receive financial and sales reports at the comfort of their office.
This is a terrible misstep. The moment you see a business owner spending more time seeing suppliers than customers, discussing reports than customers’ needs, and looking for more financiers than customers, then trouble is breeding.
Any entrepreneur or business manager who is too big or too busy to meet and give the smallest customer personal attention, is either on the decline path or missing many opportunities. Being constantly in touch with your customers gives you a first-hand opportunity to understand and respond to market needs and dynamics real time.
One of the greatest competitive advantages small firms have over big players is closeness to the customer and ability to give personalized service. The moment you fail to take this advantage, you effectively make yourself easy prey to market sharks. Today’s customers do not care so much about the size of the service provider. They care about the quality of the service and the commitment of the provider.
This article was first published in The Business Daily on January 29, 2019