Startup Diaries: Remembering Every Client's Name

[Startup Diaries is a new original series of articles from Yahoo! Small Business Advisor that chronicles the day-to-day and week-to-week struggles of a variety of startup and new small businesses.]

Art Cardenas owns The Fit Pit, a fully equipped professional boxing gym in Austin, Texas. The gym, which opened in January 2011, is still growing and now has plans for expansion. 

While watching a rerun of the hit television series "Cheers" last night, I took note of a message in the show's theme song; particularly the lyrics, "You want to be where everybody knows your name." And when the character Norm walked through the doors, everyone in the bar yelled out his name. 

Those lyrics caused me to re-evaluate my ability to recall the names of my most frequent clients. The task has become a bit daunting to say the least. When I first opened The Fit Pit boxing gym in January 2011, I had approximately 20 clients during the first couple of months that I was in operation. As time progressed the number grew to over 200 clients. To compensate, I have made it my goal to, at the very least, acknowledge each of my clients. This has evolved into a practice that has long been a tradition in the history of boxing; the tradition being that of attaching nicknames to boxers. So, in addition to the regular names that I am able to remember -- such as Sarah or Joey -- I also use nicknames like Bam Bam, She Ra, Honey Badger, Sting Ray, Mantis, and El Gavilan when referring to my clients. Each nickname has been carefully crafted by me and not only describes the boxer's fighting style, but also serves to help me recognize and acknowledge my most frequent clients. 

Why is it important for business owners to acknowledge their customers? I can think of two big reasons: 

1) Just like the "Cheers" lyrics suggest, everyone likes to go to a place where they are acknowledged. Business owners should strive to make their establishment such a place. It shows that the business owner cares. 

2) The acknowledgment of clients (both regular and those who only come sporadically) is the professional thing to do. I have embraced the practice of shaking hands with every client who comes into the gym and thanking them for their business when they leave. This takes some of the pressure off of me when I find that I am unable to readily recall a client's name, and it keeps my customers coming back. 

Lesson learned: Whether or not I can actually remember the given name of every customer, I should strive to always take time to acknowledge their presence. 

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