Want your business to be stronger, bigger and more profitable? I rarely use absolutes, but I will guarantee you that the fastest way to beef up your business is to be genuinely and demonstratively grateful for what you already have.

By simply showing your gratitude, you will have an incredible impact on those around you. And you don’t just make them feel all warm and fuzzy. You change their attitudes and behaviors.  

A Wharton School research project studied the effects of expressed gratitude on productivity. The simple act of a boss saying, “I am grateful for your hard work. We sincerely appreciate your contributions to the company” triggered a 50 percent increase in productivity in the people who received the compliment. And that’s with two awkward and stilted sentences!  Imagine what you could do inside your own organization with a sincere expression of thanks.

The same goes for customers. One of the core elements in all relationships is the sense of reciprocity. It’s hardwired into us as human beings. When we have been given gratitude, we want to return the favor. Or as the scientists would say, “The role of gratitude in how people perceive, feel about and repay benefits gained in the exchange process makes gratitude a prime candidate for explaining how relationship management affects performance, beyond influence of trust and commitment.”  

In plain English, that says research has shown that when a company/person expresses authentic gratitude toward a customer, that customer wants to return the favor. It’s often returned in one of three ways: more business, a deepened commitment to do business together and referrals. Anyone want more of those?

So how do you put these theories into practice? Here are some suggestions.  

Say it out loud: If you have good employees, I’m sure you appreciate them. But when was the last time you said it?  Better yet, say it in front of the team. Recognize them for something specific. Make it a habit so you become known as the boss who truly makes people feel valued. How’s that for a retention program?

Celebrate: Do you guys move at the speed of light, always running to help the next customer? A common flaw in companies is that they rarely slow down long enough to celebrate a success. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – cupcakes to celebrate hitting the month’s sales goal or $10 Starbucks gift cards for the team after you successfully onboard a new client.

Pick up the phone: Want to start your week off with a smile? First thing every Monday morning, pick up your phone and call one customer just to tell them how much you appreciate their business and value them. Don’t ask for a single thing; don’t talk about a current project. Just say thank you.

Send them business: Hopefully you only serve people/organizations that you believe in. So why not send them a new customer or two? We all want our customers to be a good referral source; why not turn the tables and become one for them? 

Ask their opinion: Want their loyalty forever? Ask them to help you improve your business and then listen. Create a client advisory board with your best clients and let them peek behind the curtain. They’ll help you spot trends, fix hiccups and grow your business. Best of all, they’ll feel like an insider and know how much you value them.

What do you have to lose? Give one or more of these a try. I’d love to hear how they worked for you. In fact, I’d be grateful for the feedback!