Updated May 23 at 11:16am

Shooting for the stars

Not many business owners strive to be second-rate. Most businesses at least pay lip service to a desire for being their customers’ or clients’ first choice. But all too often, their actions say otherwise. More

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Shooting for the stars

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Not many business owners strive to be second-rate. Most businesses at least pay lip service to a desire for being their customers’ or clients’ first choice. But all too often, their actions say otherwise.

The solution is actually quite simple: If you put your customers first, they are far more likely to put you first, too. It’s a two-way street; but not an easy street, says Joseph Callaway, who along with his wife JoAnn, wrote a book called “Clients First: The Two Word Miracle.”

You can’t coast into a “first choice” role. The minute you start coasting – aiming lower than you should – you’ll find yourself falling to second, third or worse in the customer-choice derby.

Fortunately, there are plenty of warning signs that are tipoffs your business is “settling” when it should be succeeding. Here’s what low aim looks like – and what to do about it:

• Your top goal is to make money. Sure, it’s a business, so you need to make money. But if that’s all you want, you’ll never run a business that’s No. 1 in the hearts and minds of customers and clients. Customers are smart. They can sense when money is your first motivation, and they come second.

• You let the little things slide. Little stuff counts. Sending emails full of errors; being late to meetings or failing to remember a name might seem like things that don’t matter much in the long run. But in the long run is precisely when they DO matter. Keeping an eye only on the “big” things such as growth or generating leads can blind you to seeing what customers really want and need.

• You bad-mouth the competition. As in politics, if you sling mud at the opponent, you’re going to get dirty yourself. Wouldn’t you rather rise in stature on your own merits? Even better, your goal should be to earn the goodwill and admiration of your rivals.

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