The Most Important Lesson I’ve Learned in Business

Sugar and Ezno

I love being an entrepreneur. I’ve been at it since I was a kid. Growing up, we always lived on the edge of something…not paying the mortgage, eating ham and beans for a week because it’s all the food we could afford. My mom used to send me out selling cut coin jewelry for her. She’d drop me off in a different neighborhood each night and I’d go door-to-door selling what I had on my tray. If I sold something, I got a cut and we could buy more groceries. I learned early being an entrepreneur offers some great payoffs. It could also be tenuous. Back then I was simply selling a product.

Fast forward about 20 years. I’m sitting behind the checkstand of my first entrepreneurial venture as an adult. My merchandise consisted of natural pet foods, toys made in the US, bakery treats, collars and leashes. The usual offferings of a pet food market. There was one area I differed from everyone else in town doing the same thing, including the big box stores. My main products were natural foods for dogs. In 2005, when I started what would become a thriving company, natural pet foods were just becoming popular in my midwestern market.

I remember sitting in the store, hoping a customer would come in. They did, but slowly. When someone did come in, she always had a story. They differed by customer, but every single person who came into my store had a story and an unmet need. I made it my mission to study up on all my products and the most common ailments dogs and cats suffer from. From the beginning, I was all about relationship development.

When someone comes to me, emotionally raw, fearful and without hope about her canine companion, it would be easy to give her my spiel, push some products at her and out the door she’d go. But that’s not who I am.

From the beginning, my mission was about educating the customers. If you came in to see me about a problem your pet suffered from, I may spend an hour in conversation with you and not sell you a thing. But you’d leave educated. If a sale came later, great. If not, I knew the customer had the knowledge to make a smart purchasing decision elsewhere. I never, every pushed anything on anyone.

Doing business this way, with an empathic mindset, allows you to forge deep, meaningful relationships with customers or clients. You might be helping one person or consulting for a huge corporation. Either way, empathy wins. When I know how you feel and why, I can reach deeper into myself, giving you the best of me. It’s how many of my customers became friends and word of mouth advertising built a million dollar company. The money is a by-product of the relationships I build. ~ R.

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