1. The Cajones of Vision And Leadership

    Small businesses have allowed the “customer is always right” attitude to creep into areas of their products and services that it has no business being. It’s time to rethink that position, and create boundaries before your product suffers.

    In a recent thought-provoking blog post Why You Should NEVER Listen to Your Customers Mark Cuban points out that businesses that allow their customers to dictate the vision of your products and services will come in last.

    Obviously, I think support is important, however, through my own experiences in the service industry I know that Mark is dead-on with this attitude. When I started out in Web design, we played the “yes men” game. If a client wanted a feature, or a change, we just said “sure” and then implimented the change. Why? Because the client is always right.

    Well that was dumb…

    It didn’t take us long to realize that this attitude was not only bad for our sanity but for our profession in general.

    Our industry was a new service field in those days. Market prices fluctuated all over the board, standards and quality design were defined by who could make the prettiest graphical design and then build it out in tables. In short, our industry was in the birthing stages of finding itself and establishing itself as a valid profession.

    By allowing our clients to dictate any direction or whim in their project we were allowing the bullshit to continue. Quality, standards, and focus on the customer were not the focus, therefor, the customer was always coming back, getting revisions and not seeing the results that their business needed.

    We put baby in the corner.

    It came down to a conscious decision that the customer is not always right. Instead of being yes men, we need to be educators. If good, solid, business website design where easy, the customer wouldn’t be coming to us in the first place.

    When a client made a request that we felt – from an educated position – would be bad for their website, we told them.

    Some didn’t like it. But when we started showing results, stopped focusing on animated gif’s and marquee’s they came to see the value in our work, and allowed us to present our best work, while they focused on their business. The way it should be.

    The cajones of vision.

    No matter what your industry or service, Mark’s thoughts apply to you. I feel that it is laziness that drives business to allow their customers to dictate their vision. If you think that your customer should define your product or service, then you need to take a harsh look at your leadership.

    Stop being scared. Establish a vision, take charge and build a product for your customers that beats their expectations, and then support the hell out of it.

    Your customers will thank you.