How really listening to your customers helps your business grow


Let me give you an example to illustrate how this works. But keep in mind that this works in any industry where you have direct communication with your customers.

When I started my dressage training business in 1989 (horse ballet), I had two clients and they were both friends that I knew from the stable and they weren’t even paying me. Well, not money. I told them I would help them if they could help me start my business. So I started helping them.

I quickly realized that I could see a lot of things I needed to teach them and their horses, but that we weren’t on the same page when they came for their lessons. The stables was a very busy place with crowded arenas and many trainers in many disciplines. My students would come to their lesson and want to chit chat first. I was an engineer on a tight time schedule after work and chatting was farthest from my mind if I wanted to turn them into award-winning dressage competitors.

At the same time, I was always participating in clinics and lessons with well-known and Olympic long-listed trainers. And when I’d go to my lesson, I realized that my trainers didn’t want to talk either. But I did. That’s when it occurred to me. I wanted to talk to my trainer because what they had tried to teach me wasn’t working very well and I needed help before we moved on to the next thing. So…I knew right then how important it was for me to talk to my clients and get their feedback on the previous lesson and what worked and what didn’t work or what they hadn’t understood.

Up until that point, my growth rate had been maybe 1-2 new clients in 6 months. But as soon as I started taking a few minutes before starting each lesson and chatting with my clients about what they thought worked and didn’t work, and what was hard and easy, and what their goals were, I all of sudden noticed I had a crowd on the fence listening in and asking for lessons.

So I changed my style, and my business grew super-fast. In two years, I had almost 30 clients. As a part-time trainer (training after work and on the weekends) that was insane. I even had to hire an assistant. I also discovered that more of my clients were interested in competing than I had originally thought, just not at the level I wanted to compete at. Plus, my clients spread the word so well and so fast, I was being asked to teach clinics at other stables that didn’t have dressage trainers.

This very useful lesson in communication made me realize how to really listen to what my clients wanted and even improved my aerospace career. This lesson became a cornerstone of my success in my many different ventures over the next 25 years.

Happy Listening,

Lynn Herkes

About Lynn Herkes

Lynn Herkes has over 26 years experience and education in customer service, production, process improvement, quality control, and engineering. She has a broad industry background including aerospace, tourism, travel, hotel, restaurant, property management, customer service, equestrian training, scuba instruction, business and project management, operations, and ownership.