In business, there is only one boss

Sam Walton who founded Walmart said “in business there is only one boss. The customer. He can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

I was reminded of this over the weekend dealing with a business situation. It is so easy to forget the most important thing in business is the customer. Without him or her, you have no business. All you have is debt, liability, office rent and employees you have to pay. The customer is the boss of everything.

That said, this doesn’t not mean that you should put aside your moral values and honesty. Every now and then, I have had to fire a customer because I refused to do what he was asking me to do. This is rare, but it happens from time to time. In the more broad sense of business, it is the customer that defines whether you will be in business or not. If the customer doesn’t trust you and hire you and or shop with you, you don’t really have a business.

Never forget that the way you feel when you call someone and get their voicemail is the same way your customer feels. The way you feel when you cannot find a phone number on a website is the way your customer feels. The way you feel when you call some business and the receptionist just transfers you to someone’s voicemail without telling you the person is not there, is exactly the way your customers feels when this happens to them. The way you feel when you call someone and leave a message and they call you back in 2 days is how your customers feel.

Many pitfalls in business would be averted if people would just treat the customer the way they wanted to be treated. So simple, isn’t it?

Carl D. Silver was a very successful business man in Fredericksburg, VA, who was born in 1925 and passed away in 2011. Carl owned hotels, shopping centers, car dealerships, retail centers, office and pretty much all types of commercial real estate. He was the most successful real estate investor in Virginia. One thing that always intrigued me about Carl was that we would return every call before he left for the day. It was just his thing. I would call his office and his staff would do just about anything to not have to leave Carl a message. I would just politely tell them I only wanted to leave a message for Carl because I knew Carl would call me back before 5pm. Without fail, I could set my watch for Carl’s return call. Carl did this throughout his business life until he was well into his early 80’s. This was a business decision he made as a young man and never stopped doing it.

The internet, email, texting, websites, social media are so available and so easy that sometimes people in business forget that the phone still works. Customers respond very well, even if you answer the call and ask if you can call them back in an hour. It’s the personal touch or the heartbeat of business that we never need to forget. By and large your customers want the same thing you do: to be treated with respect and gratitude for their business. KT

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