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Folks who don't mind their business

One night, as a particularly hard, extremely long rain poured down, I discovered a leak in my roof. The leak became a minor problem. Finding a roofer to show up and fix it became the primary problem.

Is it just me -- I know it's not -- or do many business folks just don't care? For the most part, customer service is sadly lacking. Now, I tend to understand this more with big businesses than with small, independent businesses. I'm to the point that when folks treat me as if my business really matters, I fall down on my knees, misty-eyed with gratitude and profusely thank them.

What is wrong with that picture?

After all, I'm the one working long hours to earn every penny possible to put it back into the community's economy. Shouldn't someone be using their good Southern manners and thank me for my business?

Listen up. I'm about to launch my own stimulus plan, and if folks will listen, it will be a huge boost to the economy. Let's just call it the Ten Commandments For Prospering in Business.

1. Answer the phone. You can't get business if you don't answer, or if you send it to voicemail where it gets lost.

2. Return calls. Promptly. This is the biggest indication that you want business.

3. Keep your word. If you say you'll do something, then do it. When someone doesn't phone me back or show up as promised, my business is gone with the wind. "I'm sorry I bothered you," I say in a syrupy sweet tone.

4. Be graciously solicitous. I called one business where the owner immediately jumped all over me, telling me what his rules were for doing business with me.

5. Follow up. One independent owner lost my business when he didn't place an order for me, and when I showed up to pick it up, it was still lying by his computer. He didn't bother to apologize. My banker, Erin, though, is the best with follow-up. Whatever it takes, she does.

6. Price Fairly. If you can't beat the price of a big competitor, then throw in something extra.

7. Be Professional. That goes for the owner and the employees. No gum-smacking or yawning when having a conversation.

8. Courtesy is essential. There was a woman at an independently-owned gas company I use, who decided she didn't like me. So, if I called with a customer service issue and she didn't get to talk to me and be her usual rude self, she would call me back just to jump on me. She was not a Southerner, but her Southern bosses said, "For some reason, she doesn't like you." Not cool for any of them.

9. Stand behind your product or service. I deal with a cabinet maker, who will keep coming back until everything is perfect. No matter what it takes. He's a tiny bit pricier, but his integrity and fairness is worth the extra pennies.

10. Be appreciative. When I took up with a new independent drugstore, the pharmacist came down from her perch, shook my hand, thanked me for my business, then said, "Let me give you my home number. If you ever need anything after hours, call me at home." Wow. I'm love struck. I hope this romance lasts forever.

In my books, I have often espoused that dressing nice and presenting yourself in a coiffed, well-done way, will help you stand out in the crowd and give you an edge over the competition. Something similar is true with business. You'll have more business and make more money, if you stand out in the crowd by following these commandments.

People like to know that they and their money matters. It's just good manners. Whether you're Southern or not.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.