Recession-proof your business: Practice customer-focused leadershipArticle added by Winn Claybaugh on May 13, 2009

Winn Claybaugh

Joined: August 21, 2010

Business owners, leaders and managers often assume that having their name on the building or their signature on the lease makes them the most important person in the company. Although this may be difficult to read and understand, let me tell all business owners and leaders that you are the least significant individual in your organization. When it comes to being successful in any business or industry -- and especially during times when business is slow -- we all need to remind ourselves of how we make money. Who writes your paycheck? Your customer.

The only reason any business exists is because of its customers, yet some businesses make their customers feel like unwelcome interruptions. Their frontline service providers roll their eyes as if to ask, "Why can't you find someone else to help you?" Unfortunately, this often happens because their boss makes the frontline people feel as though they're interruptions in the boss's hectic, all-important day.

Typical pyramid-shaped organizational charts show the owner at the top of the pyramid, followed by the management team, and then the frontline staff. Who is commonly at the bottom of the pyramid -- or not even on the pyramid? The customer. If your company is riddled with an "all important" focus on the boss, then your customer comes last.

Let's take that pyramid and turn it upside down. The customer should be at the top, followed by the frontline staff and then the management. And who's at the bottom? The owner. Implementing this way of thinking will make any business far more successful and profitable -- and isn't that why you're in business to begin with?

When a business becomes customer focused, it makes a major paradigm shift. Every decision requires an answer to the question, "How will this affect our customers?" Every system implemented demands the analysis, "Will this provide a better shopping or service experience for our customers?" Staff members in customer-focused businesses would never pass a customer on to another staff member as if they didn't have time to address the customer's request. Customer-focused business leaders understand how valuable their frontline people are for establishing customer loyalty. Customer-focused business leaders never sit behind closed office doors, hiding from the day-to-day process of creating a healthy work environment. They make it their No. 1 priority to cultivate a happy workplace, take care of their staff and provide them with the resources to do their jobs with enjoyment and gratification.

Bottom line: Happy customers come from happy employees. Happy employees come from happy managers. Happy managers come from happy owners. And happy owners must be nice.

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