Keeping tabs on customers’ changing and expected needs

Business longevity is tied directly to the ability to “read” the customer. Achieving 104 years in business is rare, but possible. Hans Schuler shared his “Cardinal Rules” in a recent address.

Marshall’s leading business owner, Hans Schuler, presented his “Cardinal Rules of Business” at the recent 2013 Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference in downtown Marshall, Mich., sponsored by Michigan State University Extension. His main thesis of the presentation was that the customer is what makes any business work. Although this may seem very self-evident, the method of building value for every customer during every interaction is what has helped his business achieve success. In other words, details count!

Understanding customer expectations is an important and continuous responsibility. His restaurant has been serving meals 364 days per year in the same location for 104 years. Continuous improvement and continuity of quality and service are paramount every day. Just as the Japanese proverb says, “the reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of an hour”, Hans Schuler knows that the reputation of his operation is only as good as the last meal he serves and the service that accompanies it.

Any business owner, Hans emphasized, must know the pulse of the community in order to understand the macro environment of the community surrounding the business. As the owner, he knows that he must be the top salesperson for his restaurant, have a plan for operations and a leadership team that can implement the plan. As for his professional managers, he expects them to “get the job done” by hiring smart and managing hard.

Managing risk, he said, can be accomplished by taking on only one new venture at a time. In regards to finances, he emphasized the importance of questioning certain and uncertain input costs with “what if” questions. In this way, he has been able to position himself to expect the unexpected and plan accordingly. Mr. Schuler remarked, “Creativity is important, but not in accounting.” He further emphasized the paramount business financial management idiom, “Don’t run out of cash.”

In summary, knowing the customer expectations, improving continually, hiring good managers and watching the cash flow are but a few of the skills needed for any successful business.

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