Think Like a Customer and Act like an Owner

“First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” – Epictetus (Discourses, 2nd century) 

We’ve talked a good deal about how you can elevate yourself to the top position in your business. I’ve recommended that you:

* Get to work earlier than everyone else.

* Develop a network of support both inside and outside your business.

* Get out of secondary lines of work and into work that is critical to the success of the business. (For example, go from customer service to customer sales.)

* Focus on how to make your business work better, not how to promote your own career. (Because the powers that be will notice — and reward — the person who helps what helps them.)

* Work a bit (or a lot) longer than expected.

* Besides doing a good job on what you’ve been asked to do, volunteer to do more (and more responsible) work.

Recently, I came across a bit of advice that incorporates all those specific suggestions into a single phrase: If you want to become the boss one day, think like a customer and act like an owner.

How Do You Think Like a Customer?

Let’s start with the obvious: Your customers are interested in what’s good for them, not you. They don’t really care how hard you work or how much more complicated your business is from those of your competitors. They don’t care how much you spend on overhead or what regulations you suffer through. The only things they care about are what you can do for them and how much it will cost them.

By focusing on your business from their point of view, you will be able to discover what is right and what is wrong about your sales program. By keeping your eye on your customers’ changing needs and developing desires, you’ll be able to create new projects that will appeal to them.

To think like a customer, you have to be able to put yourself in his shoes. And that may very well mean posing as a customer to your own staff and developing an honest and deep understanding of what it’s like to do business with your company.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

* What do our customers want from us? (Go beyond the obvious.)

* How can we give them more of that? In other words, in what other ways can we reinvent, replicate, reproduce, renovate, refine, and renew the fundamental benefits of our business?

* What are the primary “hassles” that come with the benefits of our business? How can we reduce or eliminate them?

How Do You Act Like an Owner?

What is the difference between the actions of a boss and those of an employee (assuming both are acting in their own best interests)? The short answer is this: Since the boss’s rewards are tied more directly to the future of the business, he thinks more directly about the future and benefits of the business.

In terms of thinking, we might say that a boss is more likely to ask himself the following questions:

* How can I get this business to make more money?

* How can I get this business to have more customers?

* How can I grow this business faster?

And then, that one very personal goal:

* How can I make my life less stressful?

So, if you want to be the boss one day, focus on finding answers to those four questions. Show your boss that you are ready to take the stress out of his life and make him richer by making his business run:

* more smoothly

* more efficiently

* more quickly, and

* more profitably

As an employee, you have a distinct advantage over your boss: You are closer to your customers and can therefore more easily think more like them (if you try). When you come up with ideas on how to provide more and better benefits to them, you will be creating new and supplementary streams of income for the business. Your boss will see you as someone who can make his dreams of having more and worrying less come to fruition.

If your boss has been a boss for any length of time, you also have another advantage: You can see what he has done and not done — which means you’re much more likely than he is to come up with truly innovative ideas. He’s already spent most of his piggy bank of good ideas. Yours is brand-new and receiving new deposits every day.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]