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Lead Your Team Leadership

Leadership Lessons: Put Your Team and Your Customers First

Leadership Lessons: Put Your Team and Your Customers First

There's no one "right" way to lead a business. Today's leaders have a lot of wisdom to impart about managing the modern workforce, because each one approaches leadership in his or her own unique way. Every week, Business News Daily will share a leadership lesson from a successful business owner or executive.

  • The leader: Daniel Henderson, founder and CEO of Iconic LED
  • Time in current position: 2 years
  • Daniel's philosophy: "By emphasizing servant leadership, customer service and design thinking, you can keep costs and turnover low, and growth high."

I started Iconic LED with my team because we had a different vision of what a company could be. We believed through hard work, communication and sharing of ideas together we could build something to compete with our much larger and better-financed competitors.

By emphasizing servant leadership, customer service and design thinking, our Lousiana-based LED lighting firm is keeping its costs and turnover low and our growth high.  This keeps our team motivated, fresh and ready to tackle whatever issue arises.

I model my relationship with my employees around the basic premise that even though I'm in charge, my ideas aren't the only ones that matter. And when others step up to the plate, it allows me to put intelligent, hard-working individuals in positions to influence and grow the company. This, in turn, allows me to keep a macro view of the company and build relationships with our customers.

At weekly meetings I invite my employees to challenge my ideas and present their own solutions. They can call me out if I'm doing something they don't agree with. A big part of servant leadership is realizing we all have different strengths and weaknesses — being CEO doesn't mean I always have the best ideas.

At Iconic LED, we focus on keeping our customers happy so they continue to do business with us. We don't sell more than our customers need and we provide the best experience for our clients, instead of prioritizing our own bottom line. As a result, our clients give us more business and refer us to others.

Sometimes providing the best service means changing the way you do business. For example, we wanted to be able to give our clients 30 to 90-day payment terms, just like our much-larger competitors, but we didn't have the cash flow to do it ourselves. We partnered with a small business factoring company, BlueVine, so that we could offer our clients the payment terms they needed.

Editor's note: BlueVine is Business News Daily's pick for the best B2B factoring service. Read our full review here.

Invoice factoring adds a cost, but that is outweighed by the value of our happy clients. That's the foundation of our business model: keep clients happy so they keep ordering, maintain the inventory levels our clients need so we don't lose sales, and watch our bottom line improve as sales increase over time. It all starts with customer service.

I'm a big believer in design thinking, which puts customers – either internal or external – at the center of problem-solving. The five-step process is to empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.

When a situation arises, we already know how to deal with it: We understand who the problem affects, we define how the problem affects the user, we think about possible solutions, we create a variety of solutions and finally, we test the solutions. Our employees feel empowered to take action on what comes out of the design thinking process so we deliver the best experience to our clients.

I'm glad I took some risks, both in my business model and in the leadership and problem-solving approaches I emphasized from the beginning. As a result, Iconic is a tight-knit team where everyone is proud of what we have accomplished together — and what we will continue to accomplish together.

Edited for length and clarity by Nicole Taylor.