4 Life Lessons (For Business, Too)
My grandfather was one of my favorite people. With an intense personality and a brilliant mind, he was my entrepreneurial mentor, even before I knew it. From race horse owner to sweater factory CEO and more, my grandfather taught me many lessons that I continue to apply to work and life daily. My favorite lesson, to this day, is one simple word: “Wait.”
Wait… Until your product is ready to launch a program; until you are prepared for a client call to pick up the phone; until you have cooled off after a frustrating email to follow up. Fast responses, hot tempers and jumping to conclusions rarely pay off — whether you’re focused on small business management, people management or relationship building. Lesson One: Wait.
In honor of my Pop-Pop, here are three more life lessons that apply to business too.
Lesson 2: Body Language Counts
When I was younger, I let my body language do a lot of my talking. If I didn’t agree with my team’s thoughts during a business meeting, I sat back in my seat and crossed my arms. If I thought someone was talking to much, I probably started doodling in my notebook.
Why this Matters: Your facial expressions and body language can send off the right, or wrong, message to business partners and customers. Nothing tells a client more about what you’re feeling than your body language. Don’t risk a relationship or a piece of business because you sat back and crossed your arms when you should have leaned in and smiled.
Who Taught Me: When I was in my early 20’s I was working at an advertising shop in Denver, Colorado. The CEO, a wonderful woman with a sharp mind and a design flair (she went on to become president of Denver Art Museum) blessed me with an amazing exit interview. She said something pretty close to this: “You are smart and will go far in business. But, in order to do so, you MUST be aware of your body language. Pay attention to what your face is doing, your shoulders, your arms, etc. You tell a whole story with your body, and it isn’t always a good one.”
Lesson 3: Listen More, Talk Less
In my experience as an entrepreneur, I’ve come across many great sales people and some pretty terrible ones too. The one trait I consistently see in every great salesperson: They Listen. Instead of showing up at a client’s office and launching into The Pitch, a great salesperson asks questions and listens to the answers. Simple concept, isn’t it?
Why this Matters: You can’t ‘sell’ something to a company without knowing what they need. You risk a relationship when you pitch one product and realize later that it doesn’t meet their needs. If you had asked about their goals and business objectives, you may have suggested a program that would have made sense. So always, listen first…
Who Taught Me: I’m not sure any of my mentors ever told me directly to listen more than talk, but I have been on the receiving end of enough sales pitches to know that talking more rarely works.
Lesson 4: Work Hard, Have Fun, Be Nice
It’s simple and relevant. It’s a motto that every one of us should think about when we climb out of bed each morning.
Why It Matters:
- Work Hard: Nothing gets you ahead faster than hard work. This goes for anything – at the office, in the gym and at home. Successes come from time spent working at the process.
- Have Fun: Work doesn’t have to be serious all the time, know when to take a break or make a joke. It makes you a better person and a better worker.
- Be Nice: Smile when you arrive at the office. Say something nice to your co-worker or your client. It will make them feel good, and it will make you feel good too.
Who Taught Me: Our dear friend was, for a short time, the Principal of my children’s middle school. His school motto was “Work Hard, Have Fun, Be Nice.” A great lesson for students and adults alike and a motto I try to live by. JD: You are an inspiration.
Do you put any of these lessons into action? Test them out and see if they change your outlook and outcome in and out of the office.
Amy Katz is a technology entrepreneur who has launched, built and sold a range of IT media platforms. As president and CEO of After Nines Inc., she oversees business development, sales and finance for the overall company and ChannelE2E. Read all of her blogs here.