Starting your own business is an exciting prospect, especially if it is the first time you’re doing it. However, it can be just as daunting with so many things to learn. 

If you’ve previously worked for someone else, you’ll be used to other people taking care of things like accounting, managing your IT, producing marketing campaigns, looking after customers, and controlling operations. 

But once you go it alone, all of these responsibilities become yours. Many entrepreneurs make the same mistakes, which is why most businesses don’t survive longer than five years. 

That doesn’t need to happen to you though. If you’re just setting up your own business, or you’re looking to take your existing operation to the next level, you can learn many lessons from bigger companies. 

Put Your Customers First

You’ve almost certainly heard the phrase “the customer is always right”. And while there are some occasions where you have to make an exception, it is usually a good idea to run your business with this mantra in mind. 

Amazon is a business that has “the customer is always right” at the core of its culture. 

According to Business Insider, the company’s founder Jeff Bezos still welcomes complaints from customers who can email him directly. He won’t deal with them himself, though he does forward them on to the right person with one tiny (but somewhat terrifying addition): “?”.

If you’ve ever had a problem with an Amazon product or order, you’ll know that its customer service team is quick to respond and will provide a refund or replacement with little or no questions asked. It offers a range of different communication methods too, so you can choose whatever you’re most comfortable with. 

In the company’s quest to offer an ever-improving service, it launched its Prime next-day shipping, same-day shipping, and cashier-less stores. It also opened up distribution centres to allow small businesses to take advantage of its Prime delivery infrastructure, improving the service for customers further. 

Amazon’s customers reward this commitment to better service by voting with their dollars, spending $280.5 billion in 2019

Listen to Your Customers

You can’t provide the service that your customers want without first listening to them. It’s important to take on feedback as part of your continuous-improvement processes. 

This feedback can come in many forms. Firstly, you reach out to customers to directly ask them. This was something that PokerStars did before putting together its I’M IN campaign. Based on “lengthy research” undertaken by the company over several months, it repositioned the PokerStars brand to focus on being “the home of entertainment” for its community of “adventure seekers”. 

Another way to get feedback is when a customer complains or asks questions. If you follow the principles laid out in the ISO 9001 standard, you should record each complaint so that it can be collated and analyzed. This allows you to spot trends, highlight issues that may lead to complaints, and find areas that can be improved. This is something undertaken by Avios to continually offer a better service to customers contacting its UK support centre. 

If you find that many customers ask the same questions, you could learn from that and provide better information upfront. For example, A.M. Custom Clothing created a searchable knowledge base for customers, answering many of the most common questions its customer support team was asked. These answers speed up the process for customers and save its sales team hours of work. 

Manage Your Finances

Managing your finances is crucial when running a business. If you’re unable to pay your bills or turn a profit, then you won’t be in a position to serve your customers well. 

Many small business owners struggle with this, but they’re not the only ones. Numerous large and international companies have folded due to poor financial management, such as Carillion and Enron. 

Some businesses were able to survive but faced pressure from government regulators and revenue departments. For example, the British supermarket Tesco paid a £129 million fine after it was found to have overstated its profits. This also saw the company lose £2 billion from its share price.

Thankfully, you don’t need a team of accountants like big businesses do. Just get yourself a cloud-based accounting package like Freshbooks or Xero, connect your bank accounts, and be sure to track all of your expenses and sales.