From Mark Ford, editor, Creating Wealth: Thirty years ago, I worked for a brilliant businessman who, in every aspect but one, was terrific. He was fun to work with and a natural-born salesman.

The only trouble: He didn’t believe in “customer service.”

Our business grew because of his management and marketing skills. We kept the overhead low, and created compelling marketing campaigns that sold our products at deeply discounted prices.

This man taught me tons about how to bring in new customers with cheap pricing and strong promises. He also, inadvertently, taught me the problems with running a business that way.

We were able to launch one successful product after another—and make good money from those launches. But we never developed a community of really happy and loyal customers—the way Apple has, for example—so we always had to keep selling our products to new prospects.

Excellence in marketing will generate vital cash flow. And having the ability to spot and seize product trends will help your business grow. Being a good negotiator will keep your costs low, and excellence in management will limit costly mistakes.

You should acquire all of those skills if you want to build a profitable business. But to develop a business that will grow more easily as the years go by, you must devote yourself unrestrictedly to providing your customers not only with quality products, but also with excellent customer service.

By “excellent customer service,” I don’t mean just picking up the phone on the second ring and smiling when you speak to customers.

I mean having a genuine commitment to developing a long-term relationship with the customer, one that optimizes your profits by optimizing his experience with you.