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Entrepreneurial Advantage: The Personal Touch

Keeping cozy with customers is the key to making them happy.

Entrepreneurship is the antithesis of the corporate world, and an entrepreneur's personal touch is the direct opposite of the bureaucratic nightmare presented by so many large companies. Davis and Andrea Krumins, founders of Davis Ink Ltd., have found a way to keep that personal connection with clients, even as their 2002 startup has jumped from sales of $300,000 in its first year to nearly $1 million in 2006. This Newport Beach, California, commercial interior design firm is the passion of Davis, 46, and Andrea, 34. While Davis handles the design, Andrea handles the business side. "Each project is [Davis'] baby," says Andrea. "Davis will be in his jeans and T-shirt, making sure each light is perfect for the grand opening." Their system has proven so successful, in fact, that most of their business comes from word-of-mouth recommendations.

Viewing your business from the customers' perspective is key. "You need to sustain [that perspective] and constantly keep that personal touch," says Mick Hager, co-author of Monkey Business: 7 Laws of the Jungle for Becoming the Best of the Bunch. "Always ask [customers], 'What can we do to improve?' You've really got to humble yourself."

Establish a system at startup, for example, so that your business's phone line is answered after no more than two rings and hold times are never more than 30 seconds. Hiring good employees is vital to such a system, Hager points out. He suggests hiring people with amazing customer service attitudes who can be trained in your business's specifics. As your company grows and you hire more employees, establish five-to seven-minute daily huddles with the staff to share goals and problem-solve together. Think "dialogue, not monologue," says Hager.

Another way to keep a close personal touch is to communicate regularly with clients, says Annie Jennings, a business marketing strategist, publicity expert and president of Annie Jennings PR in Belle Mead, New Jersey. "An atmosphere of growth is an atmosphere of change," she says.

Constancy is important, so consider e-mail newsletters, e-zines, blogs and teleseminars as ways to keep that connection with clients. Says Jennings, "That's what they're buying: the passion and the person behind the services."

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This article was originally published in the February 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Get Personal .

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