Generosity in Business: You Can Catch More Flies With Honey Than With Vinegar

“I’m best of breed within my industry. I’ve got plenty of charisma and I’m not bad looking. I’m one of a kind.”

“My social life; my personal life don’t mean anything to me. I live to work, that’s all I do.”

“I take cut throat and ruthless to a completely new level. The only focus for me is myself. I’m cold and hard. I am unstoppable”

Programmes like The Apprentice, from where the above lines are taken, and Dragon’s Den, are heavily edited to draw in an audience in an attempt to create edge-of-your-seat viewing. For anyone starting a business, this may seem like the way business should be done if someone wants to succeed, but I’m going to let you into a secret: It’s not.

GenerosityOne of the hardest parts of building a new, professional relationship, whether you’re a new or an established business, is establishing rapport and trust. For this, you need to make it clear from the offset that you are one of life’s good people, by showing credibility and empathy with the potential customer or supplier that you’re looking to work with.

Forget this seemingly TV-driven world of corporate backstabbing and bickering, and focus your energies on generosity and reciprocity. For example, when you help another business owner to overcome a challenge, there is a high chance they will look to help you back one day. Even if they don’t, you’ll feel good for helping and will quickly build a reputation as a trusted business professional, which will be act as an attraction tool itself.

We all recommend people we trust. That trust is measured in the level of service provided, the quality of work and how expectations are exceeded by wanting to help and support.

We’ve seen both sides of this approach happen at our Collaborative Cambridge events, a mastermind group where business owners provide solutions to the challenges of others in the group. This attitude is a winner for everyone whether you’re helping others or others are helping you.

Try this the next time you’re trying to forge a new relationship or at the next networking event you visit. Don’t go with the aim of meeting potential new customers; visit with the thought in mind of “how can I help someone else?”

As the late Dr Maya Angelou wrote…

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

What examples of generosity have you seen in business? How has that approach helped you overcome challenges? Email, we’d love to hear your stories.

To view other Start-Up Tips, visit: The A-Z Guide to Starting a Business.

The Emotional Endurance of Starting a Business

It doesn’t matter how passionate, knowledgeable and prepared you are about the product or service you’re about to launch, you will reach an unexpected road block at some point that will test your professional will and determination to the limit. 

endurance picIt’s not a unique road block either. In fact, speak to every business owner out there and they will have had sleepless nights at some point during their venture, as well as having asked themselves the question “Have I really done the right thing by going it alone?”, as Caroline Sandler, Director of Sandler Training in Cambridge, confirms “I was pretty realistic about the challenges of starting a business as I’ve worked alongside friends and family as they built theirs, but it is different when it’s your business. Inevitably there are times late at night when you question what you have done and whether you can make it work.”

Often, you’re fully aware of the endurance needed, before you hand your notice in or write your business, to start your journey into self-employment. Vhari Russell, Director of The Food Marketing Expert, experienced the same concerns of so many others “I started The Food Marketing Expert as I wanted to help more business grow and develop. Having worked for a number of businesses I had grown frustrated with the lack of belief that they could grow and wanted to help other business with the knowledge I had about marketing and sales within the food industry. Like many new start-ups one of my main worries was earning enough money and losing the security of a job.”

Those days and months before you start are not the only times you need to be prepared to call on strong mental resources as Caroline explains “You need a certain amount of emotional toughness and determination to work through the up’s and down’s. At the beginning it can be one step forward, two steps back and, although the nature of the challenges change and it may become three steps forward, one step back, you still need to find a way to deal with those issues without working all hours and letting it affect other areas of your life.”

The common theme from Caroline, Vhari and others that I’ve spoken to (and experienced myself) is that your network of friends and family are vital when the going becomes emotionally tough. Especially friends who you can really open up to; safe in the knowledge that they will have your back and their feedback will be honest and constructive. An important resource Caroline never underestimated “Many of them have built their own companies and faced the same challenges so I used them regularly for advice, venting and frank feedback.” Vhari’s experiences were very similar “When I started I had the support of my family and friends and that was invaluable. My husband and I had many a night chatting through ideas and thoughts until the early hours”

If you feel your immediate connections wouldn’t get how you’re feeling, remember that every business owner, without exception, has questioned their own decisions too. Talk to the ones you’re closest with for ideas and thoughts that may help. When I’ve asked questions of myself, when my professional, self-employed confidence has been at its absolute lowest, it is these people and their experiences, which have lifted me the most.

To further help you increase your levels of endurance, I will leave the last words to Caroline and Vhari:

I’m a firm believer in ‘it’s not what happens to you that counts, It is how you deal with it’. So, I’ve used different things to help me deal with the up’s and down’s, including being very clear why I was doing this and being 100% committed to it. This meant that I had to keep doing the activities that I knew were necessary for success, even when I found them difficult.

I have learnt to trust my gut instinct more and be proud of what you do and do it well. You don’t need to have all the fruit on the tree, but the fruit you pick needs to be good. So work with clients you get on with and who share your values.