Take care of your clients and the money will follow.

I recently had the chance to interview Tariq Farid, the founder and CEO of Edible Arrangements. If you aren’t familiar with Edible Arrangements, it is like a flower shop, but instead of flowers, they sell and deliver bouquets of fresh fruit.

The company originally began as a flower shop when a neighbor loaned Tariq the money to open the business while he was still a teenager in high school. He quickly repaid that loan and started to expand into what is now a 1,200 unit international franchise organization.

Tariq shared stories about how he “wowed” his customers with a level of service that allowed him to compete and win in a very competitive business. He walks the talk, having created a simplistic three word mission statement, which is “To Wow You!”

In addition to using customer service as his competitive weapon of choice, he grew his business by listening to his mother’s sage advice: Don’t chase money!

What that means is that if you care more about the money than the customer, you won’t always make the sale. And if you do make the sale, you might not keep the customer long term.

So what does it really mean to put the customer before the sale? I think it is best summed up with a personal story about a shopping experience I had several years back.

I went to the mall to buy a shirt that was advertised to be on sale. Unfortunately, the store was sold out of the shirt in my size. The salesperson picked up the phone and called the other stores in the area, but to no avail.

None of their stores had the shirt. That’s when the salesperson called a competitor in the mall. She found the shirt, in my size, and had the store hold it for me. Pretty impressive! Her effort earned her my loyalty.

I once heard a similar story. Everything was exactly the same except for the ending. Rather than send the customer to the competitor’s store to pick up the item, the salesperson asked the customer to come back in about fifteen minutes. The salesperson went to the other end of the mall, bought the shirt from a different store, and brought it back to sell to the customer. It didn’t matter that the store didn’t make any money on that sale. What mattered is that the salesperson took care of her customer.

I’ve been a believer of this concept since the beginning of my career. The late Dr. Theodore Levitt, professor at Harvard Business School, used to say, “The function of a business is to get and keep your customers.”

If you ask people, “What is the function of a business?” most will say, “To make money.” Unfortunately they are wrong. Making money is the goal, and if you confuse the function with the goal, you may not hit your goal.

So, don’t chase the money. Chase the customer!

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