A killer idea for a new product or service is a great place to start a new entrepreneurial venture. But it takes more than a great idea to sustain success. Relationships—with customers, prospects, and even acquaintances—can be the “make it or break it” difference. Unfortunately, the era of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter has not equipped budding professionals particularly well, in that regard. I started my career with IBM in the mainframe era and they taught me the importance of establishing emotional connections. I’ve devoted my career to cultivating and sustaining the highest quality of relationships. Here are my top three tips for new entrepreneurs:
Avoid the Most Common Cause of Failure
Napoleon Hill, the famed author of the longstanding and enormously successful book entitled Think and Grow Rich was commissioned by Dale Carnegie to study the titans of industry like Ford and Rockefeller, among others, as to what they attributed their success and failures. Through his research, he was able to identify the three things that consistently led to failure. In reverse order, they were procrastination, quitting when the going gets tough, and the inability to get along with others.
That’s right; the greatest cause of failure is the inability to get along with other people! It’s such a simple principle, yet it’s the greatest reason people fail. Whether you’re a seasoned professional branching out in an independent venture or a recent grad fresh out of college, you are now your brand. Recognize that every interaction is the reinforcement of that brand. Take into account the dimensions of personality, experience, bias, attitude, and perspectives and adjust your communication accordingly.
If failure is the result of one’s inability to get along with others, success comes from the opposite—developing quality relationships with those around you. True and lasting success is achieved through the quality, strength, sustainability, and references that only a strong network can provide. Developing and maintaining both your business and personal networks will be a lifelong endeavor. Balance humility with confidence. Be determined yet open-minded. And keep in mind that friendliness, respect and courtesy will always trump head knowledge.
Work Harder Than Your Competition
Let me present you with a simple scenario, and let’s use the analogy of sports, specifically football. Let’s say that during high school and college you were a gifted athlete. Sure, you worked hard for your coaches who being of an older generation were likely tougher than nails. Alas, you were drafted in the NFL, and now you are a professional athlete, no longer an amateur. Now that you are a professional can you “ease up”? After all, you’ve “made it!” Right? Wrong!
As an entrepreneur, expect to work even harder. While there is nothing wrong with wanting what you want. Remember that maintaining success is as great a challenge as achieving it.
Learn to Distinguish Between Illusion and Reality
Few professionals derive their livelihood entirely from relationships built across social media. However, the ability to determine which relationships are genuine and which exist entirely online can be crucial to one’s bottom line. Each and every genuine and authentic relationship that you create, work at, and grow becomes a resource for your business—as are you a resource for them.
Though status updates, tweets and blogs can be effective ways of gaining attention, they are no substitute for direct communication. Whatever platform you use, be it social media or simply meeting in person for a cup of coffee, it is the message that matters over medium. Real relationships, of all types, will produce real results in your career. Learn to separate the real from the unreal.
My advice for entrepreneurs isn’t much different than what I’d tell any professional (but it may prove to be more crucial): Get along. Work hard. Value sincerity. People do business with people they like, but winning their business is of little value if you can’t maintain effective results. Doing so requires genuine professionalism and integrity. After all, what you’ve learned may get your foot in the door, but it’s what you do with what you know that will help you stay there.