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I’ll never forget my first day in Corporate America. I was anxious, excited, terrified, inspired, along with a myriad of other emotions. Just before I left the house my Dad put his arm around me and said, “Just remember, if you take care of people, money will take care of itself.” I took my Dad’s advice and made it my mission to serve people. It hasn’t failed me yet. Business is just people. It is people buying, selling, and trading goods or services. Without people you don’t have business. This can be hard to remember in the middle of mergers, acquisitions, strategy meetings, logistic adjustments, downsizing, scaling, hiring, so forth and so on. But, the point of all those activities is to serve people. Our first priority should always be our relationships with our employees, customers, and vendors. We can’t make it our priority only when we want something, or when we’re trying to persuade someone. Our goal should be not to make a first impression; it should be to make lasting relationships.

The following statistics show how important relationships are to your business:

  • 65 percent of a company’s business comes from existing customers.
  • Improving customer retention rates by 5 percent can increase profits by as much as 95 percent
  • It costs a company 5 times more to find a new customer than keep an existing one
  • 61 percent of customers take their business to a competitor when they end a business relationship
  • The average business loses 20 percent of their business annually by failing to attend to customer relationships

If you take care of people, money takes care of itself. So, how do we make sure we don’t end up on the wrong side of these statistics? The following 5 practices will help.

1. Keep your mission your number one priority

My company’s mission statement is Helping people live fulfilled and impactful lives. That’s why my team and I get out of bed in the morning. We do what we do to help people. We make that our number one priority every day. We remind each other of our mission if we get off track. When we keep our mission in mind profitability takes care of itself. What is your company’s mission? Is it to serve people? If not, make your own mission statement based on serving others and remind yourself of it every day.

2. Be cool

Being cool is about being fun, likable, and gracious. I’ve met far too many business people who take business far too seriously. Statistics show that people do business with those they know, like, and trust. If you take it personally when a client cancels an appointment on you last minute, or shows up 10 minutes late, or doesn’t return your call when they said, you’ll become bitter and bitterness is a relationship killer. Always put yourself in your customer’s shoes, give them the benefit of the doubt, and error on the side of grace. Be cool and others will be cool with you.

3. Celebrate your customer’s victories

Be genuinely happy for your customers when they succeed. If you see a newspaper article, news story, or social media post that features something your customer did, celebrate with them. Call and congratulate with them, send them a balloon bouquet, visit them and jump up and down, or send them an email telling them how happy you are for them. Most businesses don’t celebrate enough. If you can make a habit of celebrating your customer’s victories, you’ll be the first person they think of when they have victories.

4. Have compassion in your customer’s defeats

Compassion means co-suffering. It moves past sympathy and empathy into a desire to help alleviate a person’s suffering. Friends are easy to find when you win, but hard to find when you lose. If you hear of your customer’s plight put yourself in their shoes and think of how you can alleviate their pressure. Call them, send them flowers, visit them and tell them you’re there for them. Be a person of compassion and you will be the first person your customers think of when they need help.

5. Ask tough questions

Relationships don’t progress without friction. If you want to ensure you are serving customers well you need to ask tough questions such as:

  • Do you feel we are serving you well?
  • What are some ways we can serve you better?
  • Could you give us some constructive criticism on our products or services?
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how are we doing? If not a 10, ask, how can we make it a 10?

Most vendors don’t ask their clients questions like this because they’re afraid they’ll be told something they don’t want to hear. So they leave the quality of the relationships to chance. You may get some critical feedback, but that’s excellent because you can make it better. Like the old proverb says, “You have not because you ask not.” Don’t assume—ask.

We’ve all heard the saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” and there’s a lot of truth to it. But I think it’s better to think, “Every meeting is a chance to make a lasting impression.” Practice these 5 practices consistently and never forget my Dad’s advice, “If you take care of people, money takes care of itself.”