It’s the Little Things

I was reading the paper a few weeks ago when a quote from the St. Mary’s College men’s basketball coach stopped me.

He was talking about one of his players, someone you never heard of, a kid who’s not going to play past college.

“He’s the guy who does everything right,” Randy Bennett said. “Never late. Zero maintenance.”

It was those last four words that got my attention. “Never late and zero maintenance” – they are characteristics every small business person would benefit from having.

My wife, whose professional career has been spent in the bureaucratic world of public health, will graduate with an MBA degree at the end of this year. She’s going to establish a narrowly defined consulting practice, and I think she’ll do very well.

She’s got a social worker’s heart, which is a high compliment, but after 17 years of working for CYA bosses, she needs to learn what characteristics her customers will value in her so that she can leapfrog the competition.

I’ve told her about the things I believe have made me successful and have allowed me to sustain an entrepreneurial newsletter publishing business for 24 years. Things like promptly returning phone calls, setting fair rates than enable me to not have to charge for every breath I take, meeting my deadlines, being a resource to my customers for other needs they may have, maintaining high standards of integrity and quality, being reliable and saying thank you.

When customers know they can count on you to meet your promised deadline (never late) and that you are a problem solver and not a problem creator (zero maintenance), you will have a leg up on the competition.

I love writing about entrepreneurs whose unique marketing strategies attract new customers and retain the loyalty of current ones.

This issue profiles two business owners, one a longtime acquaintance of mine, and the other the proprietor of a small cafe at which I eat occasionally. They both have a lot of competition – yet, both have had long, successful careers; largely by doing the little things that customers notice and make them feel appreciated.

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