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Any entrepreneur willing to endure the proverbial “blood, sweat, and tears” it takes to start a business knows how important clients are. They write the checks that pay the bills. So keeping them satisfied is rarely just lip service. In fact, most business owners believe they are putting their clients first. However, what they don’t realize is they may have developed an array of bad habits that accomplish just the opposite.

“Most owners would be shocked to hear they’re putting clients last,” admits Joseph Callaway, who, along with his wife, JoAnn, is the author of the New York Times best seller Clients First: The Two Word Miracle. “But in reality they’re putting so many other things first—their own bank accounts, comfort, convenience, even their own pride—that the customer really does come last…or close to it, anyway.

“I’m not talking about business owners who knowingly do shoddy work or try to shortchange customers—odds are, their companies will die a quick and early death,” he adds. “I’m talking about those who do have good intentions—who try to be polite, fair, and offer a good value—but who allow deceptively small aspects of their day-to-day decisions and habits to take precedence over the customer’s well-being.”

Closing each customer interaction with “Thank you for your business,” offering discounts for continued loyalty, or working the occasional few hours past close-of-business to resolve a client’s problem is nice, even commendable, Callaway says. But by his rigorous standards, these practices don’t mean you’re always putting clients first.

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