Friday, December 11, 2009

competitor vs mentee

If you're my competition, think before asking me for advice.

Its one thing to open a discussion about your business with people in your field. No doubt, you can gain a lot by dialoguing with others in the biz. Especially if you're just starting out with a lot to learn, it makes sense to reach out to others with more experience. Finding a mentor is invaluable.

Obvious places to look for mentorship would be to start with the people you know. Family, friends, professors, through word of mouth. Even social or business networking groups would be a starting point.

But cold-calling, looking for guidance from a person who clearly offers a similar product, is often seen (and rightly so) as threatening. What do I have to gain by handing over all my words of wisdom to this whipper-snapper?

Maybe in the modern world where we often don't directly deal with people face to face, we're tricked into thinking that asking our competition outright for business secrets is acceptable. Its easy to not always be accountable for what we say or do in virtual relationships. What's more embarrassing; saying something stupid in person or online? Well, neither is great, but I'm guessing we'd all say losing face in person is far worse than online. And isn't it that raw, human emotion (fear, embarrassment) that keeps us in line?

Professionalism is a skill. Clearly not everyone has it. But, if you're coming to me asking for my advice, here it is, Lesson Numero Uno: Be classy. (As I tell my kids, "if you're not classy, I'll sell you to the pirates!") You'll gain far more by being respectful to your clients and competition alike.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

About honesty

Honesty cost me a job this week.

In the cosmic scheme of things, its not supposed to work out this way. The good guy always wins in the movies. Honesty is supposed to prevail.

Intellectually, I know this was ultimately for the best. But, you know, rejection hurts.

It wasn't a good match for either party --I knew that and obviously they felt it too. I went into the sale knowing it probably wasn't going to be a good match, but I could see plenty of positives in what potentially could have been a sweet deal. Trying to stay focused on those positives, I went into the meeting with the objective of making the sale and presenting myself and my business with honesty and integrity. What could be wrong with that, right?

But the problem was just that. I couldn't make the sale AND be completely honest. I chose honesty. I was bloody honest.

I was on a roll. I was connecting. There was a point during the meeting where I felt I wasn't trying to make a sale, I was just having a conversation with a truly interesting person. My guard was down. And then I said IT. I could see the wheels going in reverse, but the deal was already done.

What kills me, is that I knew at the time what I was doing. Its like, you can feel it coming, but you just can't stop yourself from saying it. Its like you're cursed, you're compelled to always tell the truth. Does anyone else have this problem?

So, you may be wondering at this point; What in the hell did I say?! Well--we were talking about passion in what we do. And to make a long story short, we did not have similar passions. What I feel passionate about in business (and in life, its really not all that different), did not jive with what they were all about.

I do believe we both came away from the meeting with mutual respect for what the other does and how they do business. I know I certainly do. And I do truly feel that I did the right thing by being honest. Even if it hurts, just a little. Staying true to our passion and our mission in business is what I know I can feel good about, and will ultimately benefit any business relationship we have with our clients.