Go Back to the Basics, Take Care of Your Customers

4/28/10

There’s no getting around it, these are tough times for entrepreneurs. We all are strapped for cash, both in our households and in our business enterprises. What keeps coming back to me is a philosophy one of my old mentors, the late W. Hunter Simpson used to say: “Take care of your customers, and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

So, let’s get back to basics. We’re all in the same boat. Regardless of the particular field we’re in, there is always a customer. As a group, let’s focus on what makes our customers’ lives easier. If you’re in the healthcare technology field, as I am, we should be focusing on simple, reliable, concepts that save us all money, leaving more cash for other things regardless of who is picking up the tab. If you’re in an IT field, focus on making your technology last longer and at a lower price point, while improving performance. If you’re in an energy field, then focus on bringing new technologies that reduce reliance on foreign sources at reduced (future) costs. If you’re in a transportation field, then focus on making transportation easier and less expensive for those who need it.

Of course, all of this is just common sense, but we often get so wound up in our quest for our own benefit that we forget about the customer. We make things disposable that really don’t need to be so that we can get ongoing revenue, and forget that the overall cost may be raised in the process. We sometimes make things less reliable than we could with the excuse that future versions or models will generate more revenue for us and be even better for our customers. I think there is growth opportunity in the basics, and the dollars will take care of themselves.

[Editor's note: To help launch Xconomy Detroit, we've queried our network of Xconomists and other innovation leaders around the country for their list of the most important things that entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan can do to reinvigorate their regional economy.]

Clif Alferness is the co-founder of six medical device companies that have collectively raised more than $300 million. Follow @

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