The Customer-Obsessed Entrepreneur

Calvin Klein has a women’s fragrance called Obsession Perfume. It’s relatively inexpensive – around 25 bucks or so for a 3.4-ounce spray bottle. This blog is not about the perfume, but it is about a particular type of “obsession;” one that is worth far more than 25 bucks.

What dominates our thoughts as entrepreneurs? Is it cash flow? How about the competition? Maybe it’s growth or perhaps it’s market share. Most of these aspects aren’t worth becoming obsessions. In fact, there is very little that rises to the level of importance to be worthy of obsession. Yet, there is one element that is so fundamental to the success of our businesses that it should be front and center as a focal point. You might say it’s the “Obsession on a Pedestal.” Everyone throughout the organization starting with the CEO should be obsessed about . . . the Customer.

Well of course, you say, it’s obvious that the Customer is important. No, I’m talking about something more intense than “important.” Customer Obsession takes many forms. There are certain business establishments – stores, restaurants, gas stations, etc., where I enter the restroom and am amazed at how sparkling clean they are. And they even smell good! That’s Customer Obsession. There are certain business establishments where I am called by name when I walk in the door. That’s Customer Obsession. Or take the case of a regular customer of a resort who developed a fondness for a particular type of clock radio. She looked high and low trying to purchase one but to no avail. She messaged the resort staff to see if they could point her in the right direction but was told that the clock was not commercially available. She was pleasantly surprised on her next visit to find a clock radio waiting for her as a gift upon her arrival. That’s Customer Obsession.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could create a culture where everyone is equally obsessive about the Customer? This utopia would have every member of the team smile and greet a Customer in a friendly manner when in his or her presence. This utopia would be a flurry of random thank-you notes, thank-you calls and other forms of true expressions of gratitude to our Customers. When a mistake occurs involving a Customer, our culture encourages a quick, heartfelt apology and a genuine attempt to make amends.

When I think about Customer Obsession, I want to know exactly what the Customer needs and wants. This requires a deep dive into data and other methods to understand what makes the Customer tick. And I want to go way beyond understanding what the Customer currently needs and wants. I must determine what his/her future needs and wants are going to be. I want my Customers to seek me out and tell me that they aren’t just satisfied. No, I want them to tell me that they are fulfilled beyond their wildest dreams.

I want to know when a Customer quits and why; and then I want to make a supreme effort to save that Customer and regain his or her trust. I want to talk directly to our Customers on a regular basis to understand as much as I can about the experience we have provided them. I realize that the cash flow, the competition, the growth, and the market share are all secondary to Customer Obsession. Those aspects of our business will be fine if we have an ever-expanding base of Customers for whom we are fanatical about making ecstatically happy. Finally, I want to constantly innovate with an eye on how to better serve the Customer. Running in place is not an option. We can and must always do better for the Customer’s sake.

Many obsessions aren’t necessarily healthy. However, obsessing about our Customers will help ensure that our business is healthy and prosperous for years to come.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

All Present and Accounted For

Question: I hate to admit this but there are times when I’m physically with my family, but I’m not really there. Instead I’m thinking about something happening in my business. How can I focus more?

Answer: Whoa! If this were 20-years ago I’d feel like I was looking in the mirror! I’m proud to say that when my kids were growing up I made all of their school plays, piano recitals, soccer games and the other activities in which they participated. But for certain, I wasn’t always present in the moment. Did they notice that I was only there with a physical presence but not necessarily mentally? Probably not? But I knew then and I know now.

There’s a story I like to tell about a trip I took to Disneyland as a five-year old boy (no, Disneyworld didn’t even exist). I don’t have many memories of being five, but this one I remember like it was yesterday. We arrived at the park and passed by a car ride where the cars were on rails, but you had to steer and use an accelerator. I started bugging my parents to let me go on that ride, but they said I was too young. I’m sure we went on many wonderful rides, but I was obsessed with that car ride and let my parents know every few minutes. By the end of the day I had worn them down and they finally relented. Back then, there were no height restrictions regarding rides so I excitedly sat down in the car and my mom sat in another nearby car. When the ride started I had no idea what to do. At five, I didn’t have much experience steering anything other than a tricycle and I was clueless about the accelerator. So I just sat there until one of the attendants came out onto the track; stood on the running board; told me to step on the accelerator, and he steered me around the track.

Obviously this experience has stuck with me my entire life. And it also taught me a valuable lesson. I don’t remember any of the fun things we did that day – all because I was living in the future, obsessing about the car ride. As it turned out, the car ride was a major disappointment so I was 0 and 2 in the win-loss department. I didn’t live in the moment and have fun, and what I was focusing on turned out to be a bust to boot.

Multi-tasking can be a wonderful thing but it requires a balance. While the kids were growing up, I would have been better off living in the moment and savoring every precious second that they were young. Yes, I was there, but not always in the savoring mode. And here’s the kicker. I don’t believe that anything I was thinking about while watching a school play had a real meaningful impact on my career. I’m now living this premise: if it won’t make a significant impact on the future, I’ll deal with “it” later rather than allowing a distraction from what I need to focus on right now.

Living in the now will prevent regrets in the future. Thus, we can shape the future by savoring that which we are living right here and now.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Disneyland Car Ride


Question: I’m a bit obsessive about some things and it’s causing a bit of friction in my life. How do I know what to be obsessive about?

Answer: I’m certainly an expert on this subject, so you’ve come to the right source. I’m a neat freak; my wife – not so much. In the past that’s driven me nuts. Suits hang in my closet in a certain order; the crease of a napkin always faces the outside; the trash can in the bathroom sits inside a specific floor tile – you get the picture? When it comes to being obsessive-compulsive, I get the grand prize every time.

A number of famous people have various obsessions. Donald Trump refuses to shake hands because of his germ phobia. Cameron Diaz constantly rubs doorknobs to get rid of germs. Justin Timberlake likes to line objects up perfectly. David Beckham and Jessica Alba are obsessive about cleanliness and tidiness.

What I’ve had to learn is how my idiosyncrasies affect others as well as their impact upon my own productivity. Is anyone being hurt by my obsessions? Am I resentful that others don’t conform to my fastidious nature? Trying to convince my wife that she should be in my league when it came to neatness was a fantasy and unreasonable. It finally dawned on me that my constant harping was just causing strife and wasn’t solving the problem. So we hired someone to clean our house to the point that it’s acceptable to me, and I built her an office where she can pile up her stuff to her heart’s content. I’m pleased to report that these compromises have worked.

To resolve my OCD I now ask myself, “Is there a legitimate purpose served with my metaphorical ‘straightening of paperclips’?” For example I’m known for despising the sight of cigarette butts outside the entrances to our apartment communities as well as dirty elevator tracks. Yes, this is an obsession but one I believe to be healthy. After all, the crisp and clean appearance of our properties is important in attracting new residents and retaining existing ones. Verdict – legitimate purpose for this obsession. Here’s another example. I refuse to send e-mails and even text messages with typos and grammatical errors. This seems to fly in the face of the way society communicates today. But for me there are several things in play. I take great pride in using the English language correctly. I also want to send a message to my colleagues, clients and partners that I am exacting and precise. These are qualities that I believe to be important in my line of work. Verdict – legitimate purpose once again.

Life for some of us is symmetrical and for others it’s abstract. Either works. If we lean toward perfect alignment, we need to do so in moderation. While our obsessions may bring a sense of order, they can be destructive if they offend others and no legitimate purpose is served.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


Batter Up

Question: I am very competitive and want to win in the worst way. It depresses me when I lose. Are these feelings healthy?

Answer: The world is more competitive than ever before. Companies are competing for customers. Individuals are competing for jobs, promotions, more compensation, better assignments – it never ends. And yes . . . competition is healthy. It makes us better at what we do. It makes us stronger, tougher and more innovative. But this can only happen if we are willing to embrace competition in a positive and constructive way.

How do we embrace competition and why would we want to? It comes down to something I mention quite often – mindset. We can either fear and resent competition, or we can view it as an opportunity for growth. And we know that fear and resentment are negative energy. How then can we win with negative energy? Instead, we can look at competition with an attitude of what we can learn. Moreover, we should take the opportunity to accentuate our strengths and shore up our weaknesses.  

I used to obsess over the competition. I would incessantly study the win-loss records of our competition and try and figure out their every move. When they won and I lost, it was devastating and I would move through a series of emotions from second-guessing myself to believing that they somehow cheated. Finally at some point I realized that I was so focused on the competition that I was failing to focus on my own performance. Could this have been the reason they were winning and I was not? Going forward I opted to create a game plan that was different and began to focus on executing that game plan to perfection. I stopped obsessing about the competition because it was apparent that I was giving away my power when I did so.

As a kid I loved to play baseball. I can still hear the coaches drilling the words, “keep your eye on the ball” into my brain. The analogy certainly fits in a competitive context. Fixating on my competitor causes me to take my eye off the ball. When I watch the pitch, I hit home runs. Today the only reason I watch the competition is to find something I can use constructively to incorporate into my own game plan. And then I hit even more home runs. Batter up.  

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.