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Your Customer Is Your Boss

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The customer determines at the end of the day who is successful and for what reason. —Jerry Harvey, inventor, entrepreneur

Everyone talks about how #entrepreneurship affords you freedom and independence to do what you want. No longer do you have to suffer the rigid and long hours of corporate Nigeria. Nor do you have a demanding and an insensitive boss breathing down your neck every minute. In many ways, these things are true. In fact, I am guilty of touting these benefits of entrepreneurship to spur interest inothers to start a business. However, entrepreneurs gloss over reality by focusing on such half-truths.

What is reality? The #reality is that even if you are an entrepreneur you have a #boss: the customer.The idea that entrepreneurs are free of accountability is misguided and delusional. Ultimately, every business is accountable for meeting the needs of the customer. I witnessed first hand how some businesses can presumptuously ignorecustomer needs and dictate what users want. On the one hand, product managerswould translate feedback from users into product upgrades or changes to appease buyers.

#Entrepreneurs, especially those who have experienced a degree ofsuccess, feel ordained to determine what is best for their customers, more than its customers areentitled to determine what is best for them. This attitude often manifests itself in the form of poorcustomer service or a slump in sales, often leading to a company going out of business. Entrepreneurs in the #business-to-business space must be especially careful to listen to theircustomers.

Perhaps this is why you see some major companies still using a non- Windows-based #POS (Point of Sales) system. Their cash registers may look old to us, but they workand are cost-effective for them. As for companies in the business-to-consumer space, consumers aremore forgiving and accepting of features that don’t add value in a traditional business sense. Forthem, the value could be having the latest and greatest thing, or simply having a great experience withthe product or service.

Nowadays, with social media, you cannot act as if your customers do not exist. Exceptions to this rule are few. Rarely can a company dictate to its customers what they need. Most exceptions come from technology companies like #Apple, which have created and dominate newproduct categories. However, technology companies must be able to respond quickly to #customerissues and suggestions, iterating as often as possible until they get the right formula. They may have more flexibility than other types of companies, but they, too, answer to the boss.

Just because you are an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you can’t get fired. In fact, #entrepreneursget fired every day by dissatisfied customers. Ensure that you listen closely to your customers and respond to their changing needs in a quick fashion. If you introduce something new, be sure that you are prepared for the possibility that your suggestion could backfire.

More coming soon...

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