Listen up – an estimated 50% of small businesses will fail this year. Hear is one way to make sure your business is not part of that statistic!


Marcus Lemonis started out as a small business owner at 12 years old – he ran his own lawn mowing company. Later in life he zeroed in on camping – “a good, family oriented product.” Through his dedication, Lemonis built his small business, Camping World, into a $3 billion success. Now he is hosting a program on NBC called “The Profit” where he picks and chooses small businesses in which he will invest $2 million of his own hard earned dollars.

During a recent Today Show interview, Marcus zeroed in on a few key traits of business people where he thinks woman have the advantage. Don’t despair gentlemen – you too can develop the quality he lauds as so important – that skill is listening.

Who should you listen to? Here are a few suggestions:

Listen to a mentor – Wisdom is what you gain when you learn from experience. If you are new to an experience – say growing a business or launching a new product, don’t try going it alone. Find a mentor in another business leader who has walked in your shoes before. Find an expert to help you see down the road to anticipate or avoid some unforeseen mistakes. Ask them to objectively look at your customer experience, your product mix, and your marketing strategy. They may rate your concept a winner and give you a pat on the back. More likely, they may see some opportunities for improvement. Do not take offense – just listen and then take action.

Listen to your customers – If Mickey Drexler can do it, you can do it. Drexler recently placed a call to a   J. Crew loyalist who didn’t like the way the line was evolving. Not only did Mr. Drexler pick up the phone, but his entire design team was around the table, listening to the input of a very passionate client who had an opinion to share. Do you have a way for customers to reach you? Do you reach out to them for feedback about their experience in your store? Find a way now! They have invaluable input that may help you surprise and delight them and win their continued patronage!

Listen to your employees. My rule of thumb when leading a Region with Starbucks Coffee Company was that the Barista’s had all the answers. If you needed to identify a “pain point” in the customer experience, just ask a Barista – they knew when they were getting slowed down by a new drink recipe; or if they didn’t have a tool that they needed (check out the measuring cups that put just the right amount of ice into your Frappucino – Barista’s knew they needed it first!). So make it a regular practice to get the feedback of your team. If they don’t love the idea, product or approach, they won’t be able to “sell” it to your customers with the level of authenticity and enthusiasm that you are looking for when your customer walks through the door. Listen to their feedback and then work together to find a solution that your team feels proud to present to your clients.

Listen to your inner voice. Most of us know the answers – sometimes we just don’t want to hear it. But stop and listen to your inner voice. Trust that your instincts are leading you in the right direction, but take the time to find facts, data points, observations that validate your instinct. Along the way you will learn, modify and enhance your ideas and not waste valuable time perfecting your concept.

Lemonis also feels women have better ideas in the workplace. He feels they are more sympathetic.  But somehow I think that is tied into this whole listening skill. When we truly listen – to ourselves, our employees, our customers and our mentors we cannot help but have more understanding of the needs of the customer and come up with better solutions.  So, my advice: Listen up!

See the Customer Experience Guide for the comprehensive approach to this topic.