Product Development Expert Says Customer Focus Is Essential Credit: Entrepreneur Image via Shutterstock

When Jeff Baker first started product-development company Noble, he could have never imagined that he would one day be working with Fortune 100 companies. Today, however, that dream is a reality as Noble has produced marketing products and materials for a number of notable companies, including Microsoft, Nike, AT&T, Pfizer and others.

Baker credits Noble's success to a steadfast focus on the consumer. Despite rapid and steady growth, the company— which produces educational and promotional materials for those companies— has not lost focus on that goal over the past 20 years.

BusinessNewsDaily caught up with Baker about his start in business, how he has grown his business and why companies must always focus on their customers.

[How to Start a Business: Step-by-Step

BusinessNewsDaily: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Jeff Baker: To be honest, I really didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was younger, but joining the workforce early in life helped me determine what I didn’t want to be. That led me to entrepreneurship.

BND: Can you talk a little about your businesses and how you got your start?

J.B.: Noble was founded in 1994 as a "spare bedroom" business with original intentions to supplement our income, allowing my wife to stay home and raise our children.  We started as a promotional products company, with my father co-signing on a $10,000 credit card for capital.  Over the years, with solid faith-based core values, hard work and a watchful eye on customer and market needs, Noble has evolved into an international product development and manufacturing company with a very unique niche in health care.

BND: What's the best part of owning your own business?

J.B.: You have more control of your culture, business direction and an opportunity to make it your own or create something special that you can share with others.

BND: What's the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur? 

J.B.: Making a quick decision on an opportunity that seemed way too good to be true.

BND: What was your main motivation in starting this business?

J.B.: Our initial motivation was to have a small business allowing flexibility to [wife] Hayley to raise our children from home, but after seeing the opportunity within the market, we decided to build a business that would have a positive impact on those we served and our community.

BND: What previous experiences helped you in that journey?

JB: I grew up in a small farm town in Iowa and took on summer jobs at a very early age, performing jobs ranging from working the fields to cleaning up after livestock. Although the type of work itself fell into my "not a career for me" list, the farmers I worked for had all performed those same duties at some point in their career. This really hit home for me and regardless of what type of job I performed since that point, I treated it as an opportunity to learn something that I could apply to my life at some point. 

I realized that if you can swallow your pride and determine why you failed, you can fail forward or realize the mistakes you’ve made and try not to make them again.  Eventually, the more experiences you have, the better your success ratio becomes.

BND: What was the biggest challenge you encountered and how did you overcome it?

JB: The biggest challenge thus far has been our global efforts. In particular, merging and integrating cultures and language differences into a functional unit that provides superior performance.  I remember when I first launched a foreign initiative, after days —12 to 15 hour days — of meeting with foreign partners, we finally realized we were all saying similar things. The translation process is very slow; at least it seemed that way to me.  This challenge has taken my patience to another level, yet we were able to overcome this challenge with improved communication requirements that include multilanguage glossaries, business plans, strategies and bilingual team members who fully understand the business to assist in global alignment.

BND: What is the best bit of advice you have for other entrepreneurs?    

JB: Have a servitude spirit.  Regardless of what you elect to do in business, by serving others — clients, employee, suppliers — you will reveal your appreciation for them, thus building stronger relationships that will long outlast the product or service of the week.  If one thing is certain with small businesses, things will change, so with your core focused more on people, you will likely succeed no matter your offering.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.