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Start a Successful Business (Inc.) by Colleen DeBaise

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IT MAY BE STATING THE obvious, but you’ll grow your company most successfully when you are able to solve the problems of your customers like no other.

Perhaps the person who knew his customers the best was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who repeatedly launched user-friendly products that solved basic problems people were having (or one might argue, didn’t even know they were having yet) with computers, phones, and other devices.

To anticipate customers’ needs, first you’ll need to know them better than they know themselves. “You need to know them as well as you know your best friends, your significant other, or your family members,” says Sonia Thompson, a small-business advisor.

When you have this familiarity with your customers, it enables you ...

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