Customers – Find and Satisfy Them and Prosper

The No. 1 need for business success is a customer. That’s pretty obvious, so why am I telling you this?

It may be obvious, but most companies seem to quickly forget this essential fact. Small and Start-up companies desperately need customers to begin their journey to profits and sustainability. Many large Fortune 1000 companies forget the customers that made them successful.

Just look at all your daily life experiences in dealing with a phone company, an airline, an utility, your cable provider, a government provider, etc. In their effort to develop systems to deal with their size, they become impersonal and forget about the one constituency that propelled their success: their customers – who become increasingly frustrated with their treatment and are open to change their buying behavior.

Customers are important because they give the companies the orders that initiate the service or product that gets delivered and creates the company cash income – the lifeblood of the enterprise.

You might posit that orders are most important, but orders do not create more orders. Only satisfied customers do that. Happy customers whose expectations are met or exceeded become your best salespeople and effectively promote your wares by word of mouth, at no cost to you. You can’t buy more effective advertising than that.

Satisfied customers are likely to become long-term customers who will look forward to buying your new offerings. It is much easier to increase revenues through existing customers than to find new ones and much less costly. The bonus is that these satisfied customers will get you new ones through singing the praises of your company, its products and/or services to their friends, family, and acquaintances.

Unlike all other forms of media advertising, there is no cash outlay for this. There is, however, an investment in maintaining the quality, service, need fulfillment, value, timelines, warranty, etc. of your offering whether a product or service. If you deliver on these actions, positive word of mouth will enable your continued growth and sustainability. Likewise, if you fall short, you’ll have to deal with negative word of mouth, which can spread more rapidly than the positive kind. Witness people leaving a bad movie and emphatically voicing their disappointment as they leave the theatre.

So, amid all the chaos problems, uncertainties, distractions and new opportunities,  which are typical of a small business, don’t forget for a minute how all your decisions and actions affect your customers. Neglect or short change them and be prepared to pay a high price. Satisfy them and Prosper.






There are many occasions in the life of a Small Business where a lawyer is needed. . .a rental lease. . .a royalty contract. . .an employment contract. . .a business partnership. . .an investor, a lawsuit, etc. Small Businesses rarely have a full-time lawyer and staff, so the CEO hires one for the specific task needed. Here are some things to think about when hiring a lawyer.

  1. The lawyer works for you because you pay them. Some attorneys can be very intimidating and want to make your business decisions for you. Don’t let them. You set out what you want them to do for you and if they cross the line, call them on it.
  2. If any negotiating is required, decide early who will do the negotiating. I always preferred to do my own negotiating and then have the lawyer make sure the legalese represents the agreement accurately with no loopholes. If you feel that your lawyer is a better negotiator than you, then by all means, let him/her do it, but with you setting the parameters.
  3. Always set a timeline for the lawyer. Often they take too long, particularly if they are on an hourly fee compensation.
  4. Never let a lawyer ask for more in negotiations with 3rd parties, without your permission. This will only delay the agreement and the other party will then take off the table, some of their concessions given to you.
  5. Keep in mind the mindset of many lawyers (not all) some tend to think there is only winning or losing. You should only focus on the key things you want from this agreement. You also need to understand your leverage position. Even if you can dictate the points in an agreement, let the other party have their way on some  of their key desires that are not particularly important to you. You want the other party to feel they’ve been treated fairly. You may be dealing with them in the future.
  6. Stay involved with your lawyer on the whole process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  7. Do not hesitate to negotiate fees with your attorney. They are negotiable. Also try to establish a maximum fee which can be difficult. Try to set out stages of your lawyers work and cost of each. They should lay out their strategy and tell you the odds of your success. Going to trial can be very expensive, and you may feel it is cost prohibitive for you to proceed to that stage.
  8. Check out the credentials and specialty of your lawyer before engaging them and be sure to know and meet the lawyer who will be handling your case. Many times you meet a partner who will then assign a fresh hire, just out of law school, which may or may not be okay.

Remember, don’t be intimidated.


10 Tips to Build Better Trust in your Business

Trust Builds Confidence


The single most important thing you can do in starting and building a business is to get people to trust you. Trust needs to be earned and takes time, although you can lose it in a second. Telling people to trust you doesn’t cut it. In fact, when people I just meet tell me to trust them, my antennae is up to watch my back.


The benefits of being trusted are enormous. People have confidence in those they trust. Confidence leads to wanting to do business with you. Employees want to work for trustworthy bosses and are more highly motivated when they do. Customers are more likely to write orders for sales people they trust. Investors and lenders will not write the check to anyone they suspect is not high on the trustworthy ladder. A great deal of their due diligence is in finding out your trust score. And in my opinion, the most important thing about being trusted is that you live a better life. The only way to teach your children about trust is to set the example for them.


You should always do the right thing. Most people know right from wrong but are compromised when money is at stake. Many people differ on what is right or wrong in a business situation. It takes lots of little things and time to build trust. Some people never even think about it as they instinctively do the right thing. Here are 10 specific trust building ideas to get you thinking in the right direction. There are many, many more.


10 Tips to Build Better Trust in your Business


1.  Listen to people you deal with.

2.  Admit mistakes right away.

3.  Pay bills on time. If you can’t, call and tell why and when you will pay. Give a date

you can meet or beat.

4.  Acknowledge what you don’t know. Don’t BS.

5.  Don’t duck or procrastinate dealing with a problem.

6.  Demand quality.

7.  Don’t over promise.

8.  Move quickly to correct mistakes no matter the cost.

9.  Keep your promises.

10.  Never betray confidential information.


Bootstrapping 101 lists 38 trust building ideas.


Also, remember trust is portable. Wherever you go, it follows you: good or bad.




Why is it that in most business and social encounters the mouth is employed much more than your two ears? Many people think they are listening when they are just hearing. If your ears are healthy, hearing is an automatic anatomical response to sound in your vicinity. It takes no effort or skill.


On the other hand, good listening, which uses the same two ears as hearing, takes focus and is a skill that can be learned. The most common mistake in good listening is that while someone is talking, you are thinking about what you are going to say. The consequences of that is the other party quickly realizes you weren’t listening to them, as your remarks did not take into account what you should have just heard. Not exactly a confidence builder.


How many times have you been introduced to someone and almost immediately forgotten their name? You didn’t forget. You just didn’t really hear it.


This listening thing is a big deal. It affects all phases of your business and personal life. In my opinion, it is the key component of successful selling. If you ask good questions and then really listen, most buyers will eventually tell you how to sell them. Silence many times is your best friend. Successful negotiators are good listeners. They learn what’s really important to the other party through good listening. They can then speak to address their concerns and priorities.

Good listening is a major trust builder. People want to know that their opinions are being heard. They will have confidence and trust in people who listen to their point of view, even if they don’t share it. This applies to your employees, peers, customers, suppliers, family members, and all earthlings you meet.


Understand that humans process ideas faster than they can be delivered verbally. This makes it easy for your mind to wander when listening. Patience is required to focus.


Good listening will improve your relationships at home. Don’t come home and bring all your problems to the dinner table if you aren’t willing to listen to everyone else’s concerns and activities.


There is an abundance of books and videos available on the subject. However, just being aware of the situation will make you a better listener. You can always improve on this skill.


I strongly believe listening is a life skill that should be a mandatory course beginning in high school.



Passion Required To Start and Grow a Business

PASSION−A key attribute to overcome adversity and build a business. Every attribute and skill can be learned except passion. I would not recommend that anyone start a business unless they have a passion to do so. Passion is the wild card in overcoming many obstacles facing fledgling companies. To name a few: inexperience, knowledge shortfalls, lack of resources, unproven company concept, no customers yet, etc. Enough?

Your passion for your new baby can overcome and ameliorate some of these obstacles. Your potential customers, employees, suppliers, money sources, etc., are much more inclined to help you if they witness your passion. Passion is generated internally. No one can teach it to you. It will also help you rebound from the setbacks that are sure to come, help you rationalize the ridiculous amount of hours you will work, and the sacrifices incurred in your private life.

Many who have already been in their businesses for some time start to lose their passion. Their challenge is to restore it. This can take many forms. They need to remember why they originally started the venture. I find that a three-day weekend once a month works wonders for my juices as well as daily workouts that take place at many weird hours. Look for what works for you.



(Third in a 3 part installment)

A Google alert steered me to an article called “Beating the Odds When You Launch a New Venture” that had just come out in the May issue of Harvard Business Review, authored by Clark G. Gilbert and Matthew J. Eyring. It was one of the best pieces Iʼve ever read about entrepreneurs, their attitudes, and management of risk. They said that entrepreneurs arenʼt cowboys—theyʼre methodical managers of risk.

I thought their concepts applied equally to small and big business. I contacted one of the authors, Clark Gilbert, to discuss his ideas and decided I wanted to share his thoughts with my small business friends. The result is my interview (below) with Clark.

My comments follow his answers and are primarily addressed to small business owners.

Clark Gilbert ( is the president and CEO of Deseret Digital Media and was formerly a professor at Harvard Business School.

10.BR: What advice can you give a resource challenged new Entrepreneur on where to get advice or the process of going about resolving the ventureʼs risks that he has correctly identified?

CG: Learn from others. Get a group of people around you who are willing to tell you where you are wrong. Do not reinvest until you have learned and adjusted to the market.

BR: You can learn from others by utilizing mentors, a board of advisors, or the free advice of organizations like SCORE, SBDC, and incubators whose missions are to help small businesses start and grow.

11.BR: Why arenʼt experiments good for confirming that your initial ideas are correct as well as to redirect a venture?

CG: Too many people run a test to “prove” they are right, rather than to adjust and learn. The power of experiments is to learn. Thatʼs why I keep coming back to the theme of scarce capital. It forces you to adjust and prevents you from perpetuating a pattern that is not working.

BR: We ran our tests to determine whether we were right or wrong, and the result dictated our next moves regardless of prior beliefs.

12.BR: Do you find managers reluctant to shut down their venture when the evidence shows it wonʼt succeed?

CG: Hope springs eternal for good entrepreneurs. That is a good thing, but it needs to be tempered with forcing mechanisms that help you adapt. You might hold on for pride/ego, because of financial commitments you have made, or from sheer cognitive blindness. Thatʼs why structured experiments and staged capital can be such powerful forcing mechanisms. They enable you to step-back and adjust.

BR: Many managers get a false sense of their products worthiness because they fall in love with their idea instead of in like. They rely too heavily on opinions of family, friends, or employees, who usually are overly supportive and reluctant to express negativity, even if itʼs called for. Often their ego interferes with their objectivity. Better to change course and admit you were wrong, than fail.

13.BR: Could you compare a New Ventures Development between a large company and a bootstrapping entrepreneur, based on their financial resources?

CG: Two things probably stand out. First many large company settings donʼt really treat resources as scarce, and the venture managers receive more resources on average. Second, the resources are not the venture managers, but the corporations so some individuals in large companies donʼt treat the resources with the same sensitivity.

BR: There truly is a difference when itʼs your money or someone elseʼs. The bootstrappers with their money at stake are more dedicated to taking less risks and managing those that they do to reduce or eliminate them.

14.BR: Is it safe to say that from reading your article that you believe that risks do not produce the intended rewards?

CG: Risks in themselves do not produce rewards, risk reduction does. Those who are better at this skill are better at generating returns.

BR: This should put to rest, the publicʼs perception that good entrepreneurs love and seek risk.

BR: Some additional thoughts on risk:

Risk is not absolute. Two people in identical circumstances can have dramatically opposing risks. The one with the experience in running a company with industry knowledge, with a good and experienced team, and a strong rolodex is facing minor risks compared to the person with little industry knowledge, experience, and relationships whose risk may be too much. The former is an insider and the latter an outsider. Risk is a little like beauty—it varies in the eyes of the beholder. The insider sees more beauty than the outsider. No matter which camp you fall into, your assessments and managing of risk must be analyzed and prioritized in light of your assets. Sometimes the best decision one can make is deciding to abort the venture because the deal killer risk canʼt be successfully managed.



Everyone makes mistakes at one time or other. Some more than others. The question is how does one deal with their mistakes? Many get depressed, defensive, and overly cautious. A better response is to use every mistake as a learning experience. Delve into the why’s it was made and the how’s to avoid them again, all the while keeping your head up and maintaining your energy level.

Take comfort in the attitude of most venture capitalists. All things being equal, they would rather invest with the entrepreneur who failed in their own business than with the one who never ran a business. They are assuming that the failure resulted in learned lessons that will increase the success odds of the next venture.

I’ve always admired the cartoonists who can capture an idea or concept in one drawing. I recently saw one in the Wall Street Journal that does exactly this with the above subject. . .while giving me a good chuckle/laugh.

So, I’m sharing it.

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