I have collected some simple truths I have learned after completing the 14 year mark in my own business. I hope you will add more to the comments section on this post and we can make it a conversation. Please let me know what I may have left out or skipped over, as I am sure I can learn more from you.
Everyone’s time is valuable, including mine.
That means be early, or at worst, on time, to meetings or a conference call and if you are delayed by traffic, do text or email ahead. Reconfirm the day before a meeting or call to be sure everyone’s on the same page. And clarify the meeting time, cognizant of time zone differences so nothing is left to chance. Cancel only if unavoidable and immediately offer a few alternative times/dates. Apologize. And mean it.
Offer alternative methods of communications.
Not everyone is a text fiend or IMs or likes meetings. Use face-to-face meetings effectively and to seal an agreement with the twinkle of eye contact. Email and text messages can be misconstrued and mean the opposite of their intention so if the message is potentially uncomfortable, ambiguous or contentious, use the phone for its ability to project the intonation in your voice. No one wants to break up on a post-it note. Communicate wisely. Give your cell phone number in case they need you after hours or when you are out of the office.
Dress for success.
Ask ahead what the dress code is at the location. Dress one shade above the usual; you will never be embarrassed. Avoid striped shirts on TV or video. Photo opportunities look best in solid colors. Dress your age or somewhat older.
Case the joint.
If you are a speaker, get to the venue early and evaluate all aspects of the room. Where to stand, how to talk/walk in the room during your session, and get a tech support person to help test the AV setup instead of you doing it yourself (ask ahead for one to be on call). Do not play with other people’s tech toys.
Respond fast and efficiently-we all expect instant gratification these days, so deliver, within reason. If you do not know, say politely that it will take more research. If you do not have an immediate solution, at least advise immediately that you are on it and will reply when a full resolution is available. If you need more help, rely on the best person/people you can connect with and get it done. Each customer touch must be sensitive and focused.
Is the client satisfied with your efforts? No? Let’s make them happy. Check in periodically to keep the relationship warm, even if it means a 15 minute face-to-face meeting to open any possible new avenues they might have wished for. Shoot a note or email to them to see how things are going. Use LinkedIn updates to refer them to an article that might interest them. Keep it warm. Thank yous go a long way.
Ask favors, if warranted.
May I use you as a reference for new business I am pursuing? May I introduce you to a colleague who can help you with something or a new technology you may not have thought of? Will you write a LinkedIn recommendation based on the nice things you said on the phone to memorialize the good feelings? Your real long-term fans are happy to help. You never know unless you ask the first time.
Ask for help.
Be prepared to pay for expertise. You don’t pull your own teeth, do you? And be honest enough with yourself to know others may do the task better than you can. Barter is ok in some circumstances when you can each benefit the other, but barter the service with the best service provider you can find. And then refer that service provider to enrich the relationship. Have a great IT person.
Cultivate an entourage.
Surround yourself with reliable confidantes and advisors (who may change from time to time) who are nonetheless giving, supportive and honest enough to constructively criticize you. Take the “abuse.” It’s worth it. Listen to the majority and the minority opinions.
Do not consult over a meal.
One of the best articles I ever read is “You can’t pick my brain, it costs too much.” Read it and practice it and stand by your value proposition. (I do retain the right to break this rule as I deem fit and do pro bono work.)
Congratulate others on jobs well done.
Giving unsolicited LinkedIn recommendations is golden. You will always be remembered for it. A reason to say “nice job” is an opening to a wide world of possibilities.
Use language as an art.
Rich words and your own style of verbal and active exuberance are important parts of what you convey and how you speak. Techno-speak and jargon mask your love of the craft. Show how you can help. Dull lifeless speakers do not get a call back. Another article I like is https://www.themuse.com/advice/185-powerful-verbs-that-will-make-your-resume-awesome that can easily be co-opted to your LinkedIn profile or other writing.
Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself.
No one else will, anywhere as well as you can. You just need to get out of your own way and let loose, professionally, and tell why you do what you do. Let others who give you recommendations and skill endorsements show how you do that.
Hold the fluff.
There is a fine line between egomania and honest self-promotion. Beware those who make others in the room feel small or insignificant in comparison to their puffed egos or success stories. Likely they are expanding the truth or inflating their own small self-image. Read the audience’s facial expressions and eyes to be sure you are making the desired impact.
Use humor, wit and anecdotes to make your point. Natural lightheartedness is fine. The stories you tell can be about you or others, so long as the audience gets the message. Puns and witty comments are fine but realize they may not always be appreciated. Anecdote: I used to call myself a schizo-preneur (now changed to multi-preneur) until I was called down by a mental health specialist. I had no idea that my supposed witticism would offend. I apologized and made immediate changes to my business cards, website, email signature, etc.
Have a strong stomach.
Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride, full of gut wrenching dips and heady rises, plenty of nervous tension and sweaty anticipation, and the satisfaction of the conclusion of the end of the trauma turning into relief and completion. Find a hobby that provides immediate gratification to offset the long sales cycles of your business efforts.
Curate great material.
Have access to books and articles to refer to and to recommend to others. My all time fave: “The Start Up of You.” You will thank me for suggesting you read it.
You never know when an email or proposal from years ago needs to be resurrected or refreshed for the same person, or another. Have a great cloud-based filing system.
Be nice to everyone.
If being nice is unpalatable, at least appear to be professionally courteous! I learned very early on from LinkedIn that we are all connected, in the most amazing ways. Even in NYC, my astonishment is how small the big city can be, as I piece together the interrelationships. Offending one person (even if inadvertently) can have repercussions you do not anticipate.
You do not have to like everyone you network with.
You should respect them professionally, however. As you grow your number of connections, you can then carefully select the right-est person among several who might fill the role, to refer to a friend or colleague, based on personality, temperament, expertise and image. I carefully vet the assigned to the assignor; sometimes this is very difficult. But when it matches, sparks fly and it feels great.
Give more than you receive and the dividends will multiply.
See the movie “Pay It Forward” again, now 15 years old, containing eternal lessons for business and personal conduct.
Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Marc W. Halpert (CLAS ’77) is a “multi-preneur,” having started 3 companies, all of which he continues to operate. His third company “Connect2Collaborate” spreads his LinkedIn and networking evangelism worldwide to train and coach others to better explain their brand and positioning on their LinkedIn profile pages.
Recommended for You
The views and opinions expressed within the pages of the HoosNetwork are those of UVA alumni bloggers and are not necessarily representative of, or approved by, the University of Virginia. Posting an article to HoosNetwork is not an endorsement.
The University of Virginia prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, or any classification protected by local, state, or federal law.