How do you define knowing, liking, and trusting someone? Do you feel you know someone when you spend time with them on a regular basis? Does that mean you automatically like them? I’ve been mulling over this as I’ve been thinking about entrepreneurship the last while. They say “all things beings equal, people do business with those they know, like, and trust” (I can’t quite find the original source). I’ve been in business for 13 years, and I haven’t always done things according to the rules, but I’ve learned a lot along the way. Let’s break this down:
The word ‘knowing’ implies relationship, or being connected to each other in some way. For obvious reasons, someone you’re friends with would fit this profile. In business though, it’s so much more than that. One of the most common business rules is that you don’t do business with friends. If I’d adhered to this rule, I probably wouldn’t have had half the clients I’ve had, and those have frequently turned out to be some of my best clients. I do have ground rules, I think they’re necessary for a successful partnership of this kind. Some of these are:
When I do work for a friend or a friend’s company, I treat them as I would treat any other client. Our relationship is that of client and service provider, and they can expect to be treated in a professional manner.
Quoting and invoicing happen exactly as it would if the client wasn’t a friend.
In this situation, I’m extra careful not to be over-familiar. I would never want my friend or the company they work for to feel that I’ve been hired solely because of that relationship, so I try to go the extra mile to prove that I’m there on merit, and for no other reason.
Word-of-mouth is an excellent example of how a good relationship with someone can lead to referrals and more work from their network. When you don’t necessarily know someone directly, but a friend has worked with them, you feel that you know them when your friend speaks highly of them. This is why so many service-based businesses are built on word-of-mouth. It’s such a powerful force. It never ceases to amaze me that I consistently hire people whom I either know directly or who come highly recommended. Instead of searching online, and finding a perfectly capable service provider to reach out to, I always start by looking at my friends and clients for referrals first. I think this is ingrained in humans. Even though it doesn’t really make logical sense, it’s reassuring to know that someone you know has had a good experience with the person they’ve recommended.
When you’re on the receiving end, it’s wonderful, because the good word about you has paved the way for you. Unfortunately, this can also work against you. I’ve seen people hire inferior service providers just because they choose someone they know by association, instead of doing their homework and choosing someone (like you) on merit. As a service provider, I would think the solution to this would be two-pronged: grow your network and become known by more people, and deliver consistently good work when you do get hired. It’s is a long and slow process.
Don’t you love working with people you like? It just makes life so much easier. In the absence of knowing someone, how will you know if you’ll like them before hiring them? You’ll find the answer in their personal brand. With social media and the ability for everyone to access information, it’s become necessary to curate your personal brand mindfully. Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. For the most part, you control the perception people have of you. Think about the influencers you follow. I follow a guy called Ramit Sethi. He writes and produces content about personal finance and running your own business. He also sells courses. He’s a very good communicator. I’ve been watching him for a long time. He is consistent, and, when the time is right, I will sign up for one of his courses. Because he’s such a good communicator, I’ve been able to get a sense of who he is as a person, and I like what I see. Conversely, there’s someone like Gary Vaynerchuck. I think his content is good, but I don’t like being yelled at, and I find him crass. This is the main reason I don’t watch his videos. Now, he has a huge fan base, and there are people who follow him religiously, and I kind of think that’s the point. He’s getting a lot right, it’s just not my cup of tea. And that’s the crux of the matter – your personal brand is knowing who you are, what you believe in, and what you stand for. Putting that out into the world on a consistent basis helps people to get to know you, and those are the people who will do business with you when they’re ready. None of this means you have to share something about your private life you’re not comfortable with. You can protect your privacy while giving people enough to make them feel like they know you.
A note on personal branding that ties in with trust – you cannot build a solid personal brand without being trustworthy. What do I mean by that? Being trustworthy means being predictable, just not in the way that bores people to tears. I used to write blogs and newsletters when I felt like it. Turns out, I didn’t feel like it once a week. I felt like it once a quarter, maybe. Maybe. That means I didn’t give anyone the ability to connect with me regularly, so, every time my newsletter hit their inbox, they felt like it was coming from a complete stranger. I’ve rectified that, and I’m aiming to post blog content and send a newsletter once a week. Similarly, my choice of topic used to be a little bit haphazard. Now, I focus on writing about that which I find inspiring – entrepreneurship, storytelling, stories I’ve told, and sharing where I’m at in life and in business. Not everyone will like this. I used to think that when people leave your community, it would be a bad thing. It’s actually a really good thing. Those who stay are there because they want to hear from you and because they find your content valuable. Your personal brand can’t be built on one Facebook post and a link to an article on Twitter every now and then. Showing up consistently fosters relationship, and that’s a beautiful thing in business, and in life.
Trust also features in the relationship you have with your clients. They need to know that you have their best interests at heart and that you are who you say you are. That’s how relationships are built. It’s the little things; it’s protecting their intellectual property, it’s showing up on time, it’s being fully focused on their project while you’re working on it. When you are someone who lives these values, your clients will be able to trust that they are your number one priority.
What do you think of this, and how it applies to your business? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time,