The Institute Blog

The Latest News in Economic Development

Icon depicting people jumping up in celebration

There is a big gap in the world of business between simply being tolerated versus being celebrated. Many companies fall somewhere in the middle, wandering aimlessly in the dreaded mediocre zone. Superstar, high-octane companies figure out early in the game that the winning formula for success is to become an invaluable asset—so prompt, polished, and professional—leaving customers no option other than to celebrate their contributions.

A common adage in business shared by motivational speakers and sales trainers worldwide is the idea of Under-Promising and Over-Delivering, subsequently wowing the client with quality goods and superb service; on time, every time, under budget. In practice, this means to understate a capability, manage expectations, and then over-perform by delivering exceptional results. For example: Yes, we can complete the job by Friday; and then deliver the finished product, along with some bonus or added value, a few days ahead of schedule—hence, wowing the client.

Clients and customers tolerate vendors that meet the bare minimum – doing just enough things right to get by, but not enough wrong to justify the time, energy, and effort required to replace them. Customers often tolerate subpar companies where costs outweigh benefits because they meet a basic need or requirement (who cares, they can’t cause any real harm), offer a convenience (closer than the competition), or complete a checklist (shop local), without necessarily adding value to the company or benefiting the bottom line. Truth be told, the types of companies that are being tolerated are the ones temporarily meeting a need, but not for long, because they will be in the queue for termination at the slightest hint of a better offer.

On the other hand, customers celebrate vendors and contractors who provide solutions to problems instead of creating problems. Companies that master the art and science of creative problem-solving and understand the business proposition of their clients are generally rewarded for their effort. These companies not only deliver quality products and services, but do so consistently, and provide “service with a smile” – or at least create a pleasant and unparalleled purchasing experience. In addition, they have a firm grasp on how their customers make money and then add value by contributing positively to the bottom line. These types of companies become so valuable to the client, that their absence would be detrimental and diminish their clients’ overall ability to do business at the highest level. As a result, they are celebrated for their success and for the success they help others to achieve.

Are you in need of a serious reality check to determine the value of your company’s contributions? Not sure if you’re being tolerated or celebrated? Customer satisfaction surveys, social media reviews, and client testimonials are a good start. Customers want to be heard, and they want to know that you can and will respond to their concerns when they share them. If you’re not sure where to start, The Institute’s Small Business Transportation Resource Center, Women’s Business Center, and Minority Business Development Center can help point you in the right direction and get you on the path toward success. Visit and learn more online at and connect on Twitter @TheInstituteNC.