I’ve been in the remodeling business for 37 years. I own and operate a design-build company with 23 full-time employees. We mostly do kitchens, bathrooms, and finished-basement remodeling work and typically have seven to 10 jobs running simultaneously. When it comes to running a remodeling business, I’m pretty much self-taught, but I don’t think that’s an admirable trait. I wasn’t smart enough to seek business coaching along the way, so I learned just by my mistakes—the school of hard knocks, as they say.

Recently, it dawned on me that over those 37 years, my business has morphed into the company my clients wanted it to be rather than the company that I initially thought it would be (particularly over the past 10 to 15 years as we have increasingly incorporated client feedback into our business operations). Feedback, both from clients and other sources, such as employees and trade partners, has led to changes in how we approach customer service. We’ve learned to change the way we treat our clients, how to show more gratitude toward them, and how to ask them more (and better) questions.

Simply put, properly incorporating feedback from our clients has led to improvements in our customer service. Better customer service has led to greater value, and greater value has boosted our bottom line, allowing us to afford our valuable employees, our company trucks and trailers, worker’s comp and liability coverage, Chief Architect software, Timberline estimating software, excavators, jackhammers, seven tile saws … the list goes on and on. And it’s getting more and more expensive to be in this business and somebody’s got to pay for that—somebody being our clients; they pay for it.

So we need to be able to build great value in our companies, and the secret of accomplishing this is learning what’s truly valuable. We are in the people-pleasing business, and we need to stop thinking we know what clients desire and start mining for feedback to learn the truth.

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