Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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'Treat Smart People Smart'

Q. I'm trying to keep my small business going in competition to the big box stores in the area, and I believe I'm managing to do it because I've been here a long time (they haven't been) and my customers know me and return when they need the items I carry. But I can't help wondering there must be something extra I can do. I'm already having sales and even "matching" prices they bring me from those big chains. Any other suggestions?

Ans. You seem to really understand the key to strategic thinking is developing trust and loyalty among your customers. But you can take even more steps to increase that. Andre' de Waal, academic director of the Center for Organizational Performance, doing research into high performance organizations ( suggests these steps: treat smart people smart, listen to and learn from people, build relationships with people on ALL levels, treat them fairly-and don't criticize people behind their backs.

Lower Overload, Anxiety

Name-Dropper or Network-Builder?