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Owning a successful business isn’t just about the product or service you offer being of value. Many a long-gone company has had a great product or service, but ended up out of business because they didn’t heed the keys listed below. As you start your business, it’s key to realize that a successful business involves many facets.

Here are 10 keys to a successful business that you might consider as an entrepreneur:

1. Always Give Great Service

Customers appreciate being treated well. Giving great service in your business, no matter what business you’re in, shows that you care about your customers and that you want a business relationship with them for the long term. The other great thing about committing to continually great service is that it won’t give unhappy customers a reason to talk bad about your company to others. Studies show that customers tell a bad customer service story nearly 10 times more often than they do a good customer service story. Don’t give your customers a bad story to tell. Instead, commit to always providing great customer service.

2. Commit to Running Your Business with Integrity

In business and in life in general, there will always be an “opportunity” to skirt integrity for the sake of a short-term gain. Don’t fall for that false reward. Think big picture/long-term, and commit to running your business with integrity above all else. Your clients will appreciate your honesty and will be more likely to continue a business relationship with you because they know they can trust you.

3. Deliver Early

When completing a project for a client, give an estimated completion date and always deliver before the date that you give. Timeliness is next to godliness in the business world, and being late for deadlines puts a sour taste in a customer’s mouth. It destroys trust. Therefore, when you are choosing a completion date for the work you’re doing, make sure you add in enough time for unexpected delays, and commit to always meeting – and better yet, beating – your deadline date.

4. Don’t Criticize Competitors

Obviously, you want potential clients to pick your company over the competitors; however, there are other ways to win your potential client’s business than to bad mouth the competitor. Criticizing your competition will give clients the impression that you’re not to be trusted. “If he/she talks bad about that guy,” they’ll reason, “what are they saying about me when I’m not around?” Show clients that professionalism in all aspects is a key part of how you run your business, and never criticize your competitors, even if they deserve it.

5. Work Hard to Gain Customers

Of course, you don’t want to take on more business than you can handle, but it’s vital to a successful business to work hard to gain a potential client’s business. Entrepreneurs that act like they couldn’t care less if they get a potential client’s business or not give the impression that they won’t care less about the service or product they provide too. When talking with a potential client, make sure to show the client that you’re eager to win their business. If you’re too busy to take the client’s business, have a short list of quality competitors that you can refer them to: competitors that you’d trust with your business.

6. Show Customer Appreciation with Little Extras

Shower customers with little extras now and then. The “extras” could be anything from a monthly newsletter full of tips and advice to serving cookies in your lobby. Little extra touches such as these show your clients and potential clients that your business matters to them and that you’re thinking about them even when they’re not in the office or on the phone.

7. Make it a Point to Refer Clients to Other Clients When Appropriate

If you’ve got customers that have their own businesses – businesses that they run well – keep a note of these businesses and refer other clients when appropriate. For instance: if you own a website building business and one of your regular customers owns an appliance servicing business in your area, make a habit of referring others to that business if they’re looking for an appliance service company and you know that your client’s firm provides good service. Networking in this way will help ensure clients stay around for the long-term.

8. Always Strive for Improvement

There’s some truth to the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, it’s equally important to ensure that, as a business owner, you’re continually looking for ways to improve what you offer to clients. The world is an ever-changing place. Don’t allow your business to be left in the dust because you refuse to keep up with the changing times or because you settle for “good enough”. Instead, always be looking for ways to improve what you have to offer to potential customers.

9. Lead by Example

You can’t expect 100% from your employees if you’re not willing to take the lead in giving 100%. Give employees a good example to follow, and they will be motivated and encouraged to help make your business succeed.

10. Create a Team Environment

A good business owner starts his/her business and manages the business by understanding and utilizing the “team” concept. No man (or woman) is an island, and it’s the rare business that succeeds without the help of others. Whether it be with your employees or with your business partnerships, creating a team environment will help your business succeed. There’s power in numbers.

A successful business doesn’t just happen – it’s shaped, molded, cared for and grown. Use the 10 keys and business practices above to help grow your business to great achievements!