It’s Simple Really

4 years after writing this, businesses don’t get it. Employees are more important than customers.

I sat down to jot down my notes on what makes a business great. My first note said, “You’re only as good as your people.” And now, thanks to Harvard Business Review’s upcoming May article, “How to Keep Your Top Talent,” I feel vindicated. Why? It’s not because I enjoy saying I was right; rather it’s because I believe that what makes a business successful is not rocket science. It’s straightforward. Businesses need to realize their people are critical to their success and not an expendable resource. As the HR executive said in the last line of the HBR piece, “The future of our organization is in their hands.”

It’s not all about your customer.

Your customer is who will keep you in business, but if you don’t take care of your employees — especially your top talent — you won’t have a shot at staying in business. If you don’t take care of the people who interact with your potential and current customers, your company will not be able to achieve its true potential. When an employee feels valued, he or she will not only be able to exceed customers’ expectations but also contribute to the business’s top line.

Anticipate your customer.

Although every company knows its customers, from what I’ve seen, very few are able to anticipate their customers’ needs. Companies spend millions on marketing and figuring out what their next product launch should be — sometimes forgetting that their customers themselves don’t know what they want. A perfect example of this is Apple’s iPhone. When no one knew what they wanted from a cell phone, the brains at Apple did. They revolutionized the smartphone market by making a product and convincing people they needed it. Apple was bold and brilliant, a lethal combination in business.

Build great products and services.

If you are able to anticipate your customer’s needs, you will be able to innovate and stay ahead of the pack. Make sure whatever product or service you provide is the best thing your company has ever created. Involve every team from R&D to Sales in the initial conversations of a product or service, which will enable you to:

  1. Give the product a better shot at succeeding in the market,
  2. Bring the best minds from each division to the table, and
  3. Avert problems that may occur later in the process.

Stay the course.

Sometimes you may build the best thing ever, but the market may not respond the way you expect. That’s ok. Don’t give up. Many companies have launched products that were way ahead of their time. Stay the course — making adjustments along the way — and the customers will come.

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