If you “get” this question the answer is easy. It should come to your lips without hesitation without having to stop and consider it. If you have to stop and think about what comes first in your small business, then your priorities might be misguided. If you know the answer – read no further, however, if you’re uncertain – read on. What comes first in your small business?

What it’s Not

It’s not you

You’re not the most important person or thing in your business. If you have employees, if you have a team, they’re more important than you, and they don’t top the list. And even if you’re a solopreneur you shouldn’t come first in your company. “Leadership is service. Very few will follow anyone who raises themselves above others. Putting yourself first makes you last among those you lead.” — My Top Ten Leadership Mistakes

It’s not your product 

A poor product or bad service can put your organization in last place, but that doesn’t mean product should come first. Even your product niche, as critical to the success of your operation as it can be, isn’t number one. “According to the SBA (Small Business Administration,) there were 27.9 million small businesses in the United States in 2010.  Most likely that number hasn’t decreased. Small businesses account for 48% of the private sector workforce, that’s 56.8 million people. What this translates to is there’s a lot of competition, and it’s easy for a business to get lost. When competition reaches nearly unfathomable numbers, it’s important to identify your place in the market, your small business niche. No, even as important as finding your product niche is – it’s not at the top of the list.  What’s Your Small business Niche? Do You Know?

It’s not the paperwork

Paperwork is critical. Without the proper paperwork, taxes, insurance, and benefits become a logistics nightmare. “Choosing the wrong legal entity, not understanding tax obligations, or being under-insured can ruin a business, and possibly, your personal finances. If you’re not an expert in these fields, I highly recommend you retain an accountant and an attorney who have small business and/or start-up experience. It could save you thousands of dollars or more. A couple years ago, a friend was surprised to learn they owed the state of California more than $100,000 in sales tax for their small business. What would a 100K hit do to you and your business?” — 5 Mistakes that Can Ruin Your Small Business

It’s not marketing

Marketing is close to the top, but not at the pinnacle. It’s true, without marketing it’s hard to sell your product, but that’s true of every point I’ve discussed. Knowing your USP (Unique Sales Position), competitive advantage, sales plan, marketing budget, while building advertising and branding campaigns are all crucial, but not the most crucial.

It’s not your finances

Without finances, you have no business so what could be more urgent? And yes, “Choosing a bank shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be a process of determining your banking needs, checking your needs against services offered and fees, and finding a banking team that fits your businesses personality.” — Choosing a Bank for Your Small Business. Finances are a primary concern just not the dominant one.

So, What Should Come First in Your Small Business?

So, what is this preeminent part of your business?  It’s your customers. Stop – wait, before you click out of this post with the mindset of, “well duh I knew that!”  I’m certain you do, but do you always put customers first or do your clients and target audience sometimes take second place?

“Every business causes customer pain. Are you more difficult to work with than you need be? Do you communicate poorly? Does it take too long to get things done? Is your customer service unreceptive? Does your company listen to its customers? Great organizations look for ways to alleviate the pain. Where can you ease the pain?” Are You Easy to Do Business with?

It’s Your Customers Who Should Come First

Don’t get me wrong, you and your team are imperative to the success of your operation. And banking, insurance, marketing, and finances can all make or break your company. But without customers where are you? I’m not talking about prospects who are a bad fit or people looking for a product you don’t have. I’m talking about putting your loyal customers and target audience first. Do you always put your customers first?  What comes first in your small business?

Photo by Daniele Riggi on Unsplash