Universities are sometimes viewed from the outside as not being businesses--being somehow disconnected from such fundamental concerns as making money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Top schools retain their sound financial standing by attracting students, often through very acute business acumen on the part of administrators. They have to worry about all the same mundane business matters regular companies do, such as marketing, customer satisfaction as well as attracting and keeping good employees. The fact that many people don't even realize how well schools actually market themselves is an indication that entrepreneurs might do well to emulate these institutions. Here are four things you can do to imitate top-ranked universities, which can help you no matter what kind of business you run.

Let Employees Lead

Major universities know how important it is to attract and keep talented employees. The relationship between university management and faculty is sometimes an antagonistic one, but there is no reason for it to be so. The most successful of high-ranked universities are those in which the faculty feel that they are treated with respect, and in which they feel they have a stake in the governing of the university itself. Having the flexibility to listen to and incorporate leadership from faculty not only improves the quality of the faculty's experience, it makes things better for students too.

Perfect Your Marketing

It's no secret that top-ranked universities are masters of marketing, and the tools they use can be applied by any business. Perhaps the most important marketing tool a university has is their website. Note how they present information, anticipate questions from prospective students, and focus on outreach through the web and social media. Most of all though, consider the strategies that universities use to ease sticker shock. As tuition prices soar, they have become masters at discreetly discussing pricing, and offering options to their customers that help make even the most exorbitant price-tag seem more reasonable and manageable.

Streamline Management

Universities are immensely complex, and they require a huge amount of organizing and careful resource management to run well. It's unsurprising then, that they have developed a number of tools to better integrate their management systems and streamline the processes that make universities tick. Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) software is one of their greatest tools in this arsenal, as it enables them to integrate all facets of operation in one place. Schools are using ERP software tools in order to save millions in management costs and streamlined processes, not only for students on campus, but those who are taking virtual classes as well. These types of products are definitely worth investigating, to see if they would be right for your business needs.

Network with Customers

You'll never see a business so happy to keep up relationships with past customers as a university is with their alumni. Graduates are not only often the public face of a university, they also tend to be its biggest supporters, through their donations and volunteer efforts. Any business should strive for the same kinds of relationships with their customers that universities offer their alumni. Showing appreciation for customers in any way possible can bring them back to your business time and again, and making them feel welcomed and at home whenever they visit is only going to help with that message. No matter how good your marketing is, your customers are going to be a big part of it, and the better your relations with them are, the more likely they are to put in a good word with you to a friend, co-worker, or family member.

As any school administrator can tell you, the concerns of top-ranked universities are not really so different from that of any other business with thousands of customers. By emulating many of their practices, you will not only be following in the footsteps of some of the most successful businesses in America, you could be doing it with greater class and distinction.