Kindergarten wisdom for Federal Way small businesses | Column

For most small businesses in Federal Way, these last two years have been anything but “business as usual.”

So what’s a local business owner to do? For those of you who have played sports or love watching sports, you know the answer. It’s the old football adage: The best defense is a good offense.

The expectation bar has clearly been raised for business leaders. It is not a passing storm that we can just wait out until clear skies reappear.

Instead, business leaders need to embrace change, so employees will take new initiatives seriously — and creditors and customers will have confidence in the organization again. This change may come in the form of something we have already learned, but have forgotten because life was so good during 2004-2007.

What we all learned years ago (maybe in kindergarten) still applies in strategies to win and retain customer trust:

1. Don’t sell products or services you wouldn’t buy yourself. The kindergarten version: Don’t sell lemonade if you don’t like lemonade. Sell popsicles!

2. When you make a mistake, own up to it instead of trying to shift the blame for it somewhere else. Don’t blame Joey, the kid who always cuts in front of you for lunch. Just admit that it was you who accidentally broke Emily’s favorite red crayon.

3. Do right by those who were harmed as a result of your mistake. Bring one of your red crayons from home to school for Emily.

4. Develop a “team based” culture for business success rather than a “talent based” culture. Sometimes when we rely on “talent,” it results in resentment and other morale issues within the rest of the company. Additionally, it creates enormous pressure on the “talent” to perform. When you use a team-based approach, the performance pressure is dispersed more or less evenly throughout the organization. This leads to a business culture in which all employees feel vested in the success of the company, and this will be reflected in their dealings with customers. As kickball team captain, don’t forget that the last kid chosen may be the one that helps the team the most.

5. Commit to your community. Buy local whenever possible. Get involved as a volunteer and help improve the local community. Sharing is the best policy, so share your soft and fuzzy nap rug with the new kid in class.

6. Make sure everyone in your company knows that his/her first job is customer satisfaction. Hire and promote people that reflect well on this value. Learn to play well with others, especially in the sandbox.

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