Success in business doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Everything must come together and work in a connected way to make the business successful. And in our first several parts of this series on the keys to business success, we demonstrated how Its People Who Drive Business Success — because it falls to the people within the organization to actually execute on the strategies, plans, and processes to make a business successful – how Communications Can Fuel Business Success because communicating well with our team translates into engagement, and engagement translates into improved productivity – and how Treating the Customer Right is Imperative for Business Success.

To keep the connection going, we wrote that Process Excellence Drives Business Excellence, which generated lots of interest and comments about how change should be ongoing, customer-focused, and driven by an empowered workforce. In this article, we’re going to take a deeper dive into how to improve the processes in your business by identifying how and when you even get started. This reminds me of quotes from two prominent authors. In terms of when you start, Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” In terms of how or where you get started, C.S. Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Many businesses begin by revamping the processes in the area in which they receive the most customer complaints. That’s certainly a valid option, but I would suggest beginning with the processes that, with excellence achieved, will deliver the most value to you and your customers. Consider a business with a diverse portfolio of products or services. Evaluate the lifetime value of customers who purchase across the portfolio and prioritize the processes surrounding the sales, delivery, or support of the highest value offerings that require improvement and start there.

For example, 60% of your complaints come from the sale of your lowest priced product. As you look deeper, you realize that even customers who were satisfied with that product rarely return to purchase anything additional. Optimizing your processes related to the sale of this product, while not a bad thing to do, may not be the best approach. As you look at your product mix, you realize that the smallest number of complaints by volume come from customers who purchase your most expensive offering. However, your sales and finance people have discovered that customers who buy this product and are satisfied generate 50 times the value any other accounts across the business. In addition, the referral rate from these customers is 90%, and your sales team is able to close the sale of this top product to more than two-thirds of those referred, making this a huge revenue multiplier if the processes are crisp from sale to product quality, delivery, and support.

This is where you start, where you marshal your resources, where you begin a coordinated assault on improving your processes to not just satisfy customers, but to earn their loyalty so that they come back again and bring like-minded customers with them who are already “pre-sold” despite the higher end price tag you have on this offering. Shiv Singh, the SVP of Global Brand and Marketing Transformation at Visa, has been recognized for saying that “The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers.”

What are you waiting for? Start with the processes that bring the most value, go on to the next one, then the next, and so on.

Ines LeBow is the CEO, Transformation Executive for ETS. She is a known catalyst for business operations, bringing 30+ years of hands-on experience. Ines has a long history of being recruited into senior executive roles to improve the execution of business operations and to drive revenue growth. You can see her LinkedIn Profile at, view the ETS website at, or email her directly at