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The path to becoming exceptional is relatively simple to get started on. In a world that has generally accepted mediocrity, if not outright failure, finding a few parts of your business to improve that will push you past your competitors is simple.

It starts with listening to yourself. Consider all of the complaints people have about your business and the businesses of others with whom you’re competing. Pay attention to the simplicity of the golden rule: that which is hateful to you, do not do to someone else.

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Here’s an exercise to try right now. Get something to write with and a few moments of quiet. Ask yourself about the last five bad customer experiences you’ve had. What did you really hate? What stuff got you so riled up, so full of anger that you swore you’d never do business with that company again if you could help it? What did the company or companies specifically do to fail so hard?

If you can’t think of any for some strange reason, I’ll give you this starter list of companies that generally get people frothing with rage:

  • Airline travel
  • Retail customer service
  • Banking
  • Phone, Cable & Internet service provider technical support
  • Government agencies

Got a good list of all the ways a company can fail you?

Now audit your own company, your own department, your own work for those failures and stop doing them.

If you hate that clerks at government agencies treat you with outright hostility at having to actually work, then fire people in your own company who behave the same way with startling speed.

If you hate that airlines lie like rugs and try every possible avenue to reduce expenses without caring how miserable it makes their customers, don’t do that to your customers.

If you go ballistic with every nickel and dime charge on your cell phone bill or every banking fee that banks can dream up, stop trying to cleverly milk your own customers for the same short term profit.

If you can’t stand calling for technical support and getting someone overseas who has never seen the product in their life and can’t possibly care less about actually helping you, then spare the extra expense by investing in support for your products and services.

If you can eliminate the things that you hate in other companies at your own company, you’ve taken a first and most important step towards becoming exceptional. You’ve removed the very worst parts of your company like cutting the line on a boat anchor tied to your ankle. You still have a lot of swimming to do, but now you’re at least not actively trying to drown yourself.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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