ACCEPT CRITICISM GRACIOUSLY

I believe that a strong attribute of a successful entrepreneur is to accept criticism and to do it graciously so that the person offering it will give it again.

Sounds simple enough, but a great number of people just can’t do it. They get angry, petulant, standoffish, etc., and resent the person offering it. The opposite should happen as most people offering it like you and are doing it to help you. In fact, it may be uncomfortable for them to do it. Those receiving the criticism should thank them.

To grow your business and yourself, you should seek out criticism. We all like to say we welcome feedback. However, you must remember feedback goes two ways. We love good feedback because if affirms our beliefs or actions. Often it is negative, and you should welcome it and delve into the reason behind the negativity as it could be very beneficial to you.

Most people offer criticism on a positive note. They don’t call you stupid. It’s hard to be gracious to someone who offers criticism in an insulting manner. However, your company may have treated them egregiously. Think about your experiences with large companies who have treated you poorly re: your purchase of their product or service. The airline has lost your baggage on your long awaited vacation; they don’t even call you with an update on your status; and if you call them, the phone is busy. You want to scream and will do so if you ever had a human to talk to. Your bank makes a mistake and bounces your check; when you call, they immediately suggest you made an error. If these companies would listen to their customers’ complaints/criticism, they would learn how to correct their problems, which would improve their bottom line and create long-term loyal customers.

This acceptance of criticism extends to all your human activities. Certainly, your employees will be more motivated and productive if the boss really listened and sometimes acted on their criticism.

Once you understand the benefits to you of accepting criticism, work hard at taking it graciously. This will ensure that the process will continue. . .all to your benefit. Criticism can be a source of continuous learning.

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Never Forget Your Customers

Customers are the key to business growth. Meet or exceed their expectations 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 startup companies desperately need customers to begin their journey to profits and sustainability. Many large Fortune 1000 companies forget the customers who made them successful.

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

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 get you new ones through singing the praises of your company, its products and/or services to their friends, family, and acquaintances.

Unlike 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 and warranty of your offering. If you deliver on these actions, positive word-of-mouth will enable you continued growth and sustainability. Likewise, if you fall short, you’ll have to deal with negative word of mouth, which can rapidly lead to your decline and is difficult and costly to reverse.

Your orders from products or services will eventually yield revenues which can be used for payroll, expenses, taxes, innovation. Most importantly, continued sales leads to profits.

So if we were to simply chart what we’ve said above, it would look like this:
CUSTOMER + ORDER = MONEY

Add the sales element to this equation and we have what I call the “Anatomy of a Business.”
SELLING + CUSTOMER + ORDER = MONEY

Sales is often demeaned and downplayed by academia, students, ordinary people and even some business people. However, sales is a profession and key to any organization’s success. As we see above, the customer is also a key element because they make purchases, which creates cash flow–the lifeblood of a business. Selling is the process of persuading customers to initiate these orders. It can be a simple quick one-on-one encounter or a complex long-term process. Without sales, you will not get orders.

These basic principles are easy to forget but it would benefit all entrepreneurs to remember the anatomy of a business in their hectic schedules. Of course, it gets more complicated when competition is added to the mix. When you add in dealing with other issues like having the right resources to accomplish your goals and creating a culture of integrity and innovation, remembering customer satisfaction can fall by the way-side.

So, amid all the chaos, problems, uncertainties, new opportunities and setbacks, don’t forget for a moment how all your decisions and actions affect your customers. Neglect them and be prepared to pay a high price. Satisfy them and prosper.

This article first appeared on entrepreneur.com.

Entrepreneurs, Be Nice to Your Suppliers!

Suppliers can be a critical component of your business growth and survival. Your approach to suppliers needs to be part of your strategic plan, since almost every company, whether product or service oriented, is dependent on suppliers. Many people seem to get this supplier issue wrong. They feel that because they write the order, they are in the dominant position and can exploit it with unreasonable demands upon their suppliers, including personal perks.

Please let’s get this right! You need good and reliable suppliers. When you find them, treat them like gold. Work as hard on building a supplier relationship as with any other one.

Be loyal to your good ones. They are essential to your good health and your growth. They are a nuanced Bootstrapping strategy.

How suppliers impact you

Let’s briefly look at all the ways suppliers can impact your company.

  • Quality. Whether you purchase a component, finished product, or service, suppliers can positively or negatively affect the quality of your product. Higher quality increases customer satisfaction and decreases returns, which add cash to your bottom line.
  • Timeliness. Their timely deliveries are crucial to how customers view your reliability. Their quick turnaround becomes the key to your minimization of inventory, which in turn translates to less risk of inventory obsolescence and lower cash needs.
  • Competitiveness. They can keep you competitive and one-up on your competition based on their pricing, quality, reliability, technological breakthroughs, and knowledge of industry trends.
  • Innovation. They can make major contributions to your new product development. They are working to be on the cutting edge of innovation of their product. The good ones will understand your company, its industry, your needs, and help you accordingly in your new idea execution.
  • Finance. They can be a major and constant source of financing for you. Your payment terms to them can be an important source of money because their extended terms don’t usually carry interest. If over a period of time you’ve proven to be a trustworthy, considerate, and loyal customer, you may be able to tap into them for additional financing in your growth mode—or if you run into a cash crunch. It may take the form of postponed debt, extended terms on new purchases, a loan, or an investment in your company. . . all of which improve your cash position.

The best way to become a great customer of a supplier is clearly to PAY YOUR BILLS ON TIME.

Will paying your bills on time in your personal life improve your credit and integrity rating?

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