What do your legs look like?
I’ve always liked the model of the 3-legged stool when trying to establish a foundation for any enterprise. So when it comes to business, my three legs are:
- Business is about relationships
- Never take a professional criticism personally
- Establish boundaries between your professional and personal lives.
Of the three, I find the last one the hardest, although as one who suffers from depression, the second one isn’t always easy either. So let’s look at each one briefly.
Business is about relationships. This should be self-evident, yet it is easy to forget. No matter how good your product or service is, without a client or customer all you have is a concept, a system or an inventory. No matter how good your business or marketing plan is, it’s about cashflow, and that means sales. And that comes down to how your client or customer perceives you – do they see a person of integrity with their best interests at heart, or a charlatan who they cannot trust? We must remember that as we are evaluating the person we are wanting to doing business with, they are also evaluating us. They are asking themselves “do I want to do business with this person?” I remember trying to deal with the owner of a business a friend of mine once worked for – and I could tell immediately that I did not want to do business with him. Call it discernment or a 6th sense perhaps, but I knew I could not trust this man.
Never take professional criticism personally. I was taught this lesson very early in my working life – something I’ve been very grateful for. Making a mistake doesn’t minimise you as a person, rather it reinforces the need for diligence as a professional. If you have received personal criticism for your professional endeavours, you may need to try and understand the motives of your critic. It could be that they feel threatened by you, and here is an opportunity for them to deflect some of that back. The issue then is theirs, not yours.
Establish boundaries between your professional and personal lives. This is more important than we might realise, for we tend to define ourselves by what we do. Isn’t the first question we ask a stranger we meet: “and what do you do?” Imagine your surprise if the answer given was: “I’m a poet but I drive trucks to make a living.” The other aspect to this is balance. I was brought up with the saying “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and we all know people who are so engrossed in their business, that it dominates them 24/7. We call them workaholics, and the ultimate cost of this is too high – families, friends and health all suffer. All because of badly defined goals and values.
Each of these ‘legs’ are more than just personal supports however – they are perceived by our clients and customers. And if there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that perception is reality. So what three legs support your stool? What are the core values that enable you to both attract and be attractive to your clients and customers? Why would someone want to give their hard earned money to you instead of someone else? It could be your point of difference, or it could go an awful lot deeper – do they want to deal with your business? Or do they want to deal with you?