Business is all about people. Well, it’s also about profits, marketing, taxes, quality control, management, your customer base and luck. But people are definitely up there. When it comes to business, the most important person is actually yourself.
The reason why some people make it and others don’t is most often due to having the right mentality. It’s not just about having an obsessive focus, either. More often, it’s about being realistic and knowing how to treat people. Read on for a few basic business tips that will never go out of style.
When it comes to networking, quantity is important. Sometimes cold-calling a hundred people might lead to success. But far more often, it’s quality.
People don’t remember a strident email, no matter how well-written. They remember face-to-face moments. A Zoom meeting is not an adequate substitute.
The point of networking is not to spend the entire conversation looking for an advantage. The point is to build a relationship. Whether it’s with a customer, business partner or employee, what you should never forget is the importance of building a human connection. Remember their name, and use it often. Active listening goes a long way. People today are more suspicious than ever of being sold to. But they’ll happily help out a buddy. Networking, done right, shouldn’t feel like networking.
Also, be generous with your time and business. Sometimes, the biggest break you’ll ever get will come from an unforeseen connection.
Maybe you’ll get recruited by a friend you got drinks with years ago. It might even be worth giving your product away if it leads to something later. Get in the habit of communicating about your business and your business needs. Don’t be too proud. If you’re looking for a job or an employee, let people know. Often, a friend of a friend will come to the rescue.
If you’re trying to learn tennis, you will get a lot better playing with a pro than serving volleys against a toddler. Business is the same way. Maniacally working twelve-hour days, micromanaging all parts of your business is neither sustainable nor economical.
Most great leaders have a team of equally brilliant partners and staff to enact their vision and compensate for their weaknesses.
They have people who are not afraid to tell them when they mess up. Steve Jobs, creator of the iPhone, had Steve Wozniak. Genghis Khan, Conqueror of Asia, had General Subutai.
People will surprise you, in good and bad ways. On one hand, you never know who has a good idea, or a good criticism, of your business. A random person on the street might know why your Q4 products failed, because they can see it clearly. But your uncle telling you to buy $20K of Bananacoin because it’s a sure thing is likely a bad idea.
Even though it’s what most investors say they want, don’t focus on explosive growth, at least not right away. You’re much better off having a good plan. Do your research, read your books. Don’t quit your day job right away. Having a support system in place will help you more than anything.
If you’re starting your own business and chasing investors, you should try to build a minimum viable product with real metrics before puffing up your business. For many investors, it’s their job to say “no" more than “yes." You’re better off with a small, real win than a big, theoretical idea.
Having real measured successes will not only make you more confident, it’ll make others trust that you really can deliver.
When you do get some money, don’t blow it all. There’s no need for companies to waste money. That killer party you want to throw because an investor might be there would almost always be better spent on the company itself. Profit always beats revenue. Well, unless you’re Netflix... but you’re definitely not Netflix.
Finally, keep your focus narrow, at least at first. You’re better off doing one thing very well than expanding too fast. Indeed, finding a niche and doubling down is often the best way to grow a loyal customer base.
Business is rarely easy. Failure will happen, in one way or another. Don’t be afraid of it. You can learn from every failure and you’re better off being wrong than being indecisive. And if you’re wrong, don’t be afraid to say so. Your team will respect you more for it. Trust us, they see through your bluster anyway.
As for motivation, the best thing you can do is simply love what you do. The one thing you can’t really fake is passion.
The right fit is key. If you find you don’t truly love your business, maybe it’s time for some hard questions.
Business is ultimately about people skills. On a customer level, your brand or product has to appeal to an innate human need. You don’t need to go all Don Draper dramatically ranting about carousels being like childhood or whatever, but you should have an answer. What, ultimately, are you selling? Safety? Comfort? Excitement?
As for investors, coworkers, employees and bosses, having the basic people skills of active listening, patience, communication and respectful empathy will only help your business aspirations. While nothing really substitutes for practice, check out our list of our favorite business books here. Good luck!