By Tim Denning
Business can become unnecessarily complicated.
People talk about business like it’s rocket science. They wear business as a badge of honor. They use words like “transformation” when “upgrade to cloud software” will do. Business is just charging money for stuff.
I’ve never understood why people worship business. Okay, you made a billion dollars with your app. And? I am bored. What else you got?
Business is fun when you don’t take it so seriously and you understand why you’re doing it, and most importantly, what you’re going to do with the money to make a difference.
The rat race equals using a business to chase money, to buy dumb stuff you don’t need, to flash a Rolex at a sausage sizzle you didn’t even want to attend. Put the sausage away.
These are my rules for business to inspire your own list.
Shut up about your business
Business marketing is a death chamber. It’s where good content goes to die and be reincarnated as ads. Talk less about your business.
My business doesn’t even have a logo. I didn’t even choose a name for it. I ended up registering my business as my name and stuffed that up too. I used my real name, Timothy (the one from the bible — yeah that’s right, I once was a good church boy), not the name people call me: Tim.
Talking about your successful business doesn’t make it generate money.
Make stuff people love
Sell a product people love. Ask people what they want. Give it to them. Put yourself on the line. Start by loving what you do — and building stuff people love will be the end product.
Love just means care.
If you care about the people who are going to give you their hard-earned money then it makes all the difference. People buy from people they feel care about them.
Do what you say you will do
I play a game after every business meeting. They call me Jigsaw from the Saw franchise of horror movies. I listen to the promises given in the meeting. Then I wait.
Here’s a statistic from this year: only one person has agreed to take action in a meeting and actually done it. The 99.9% of others? Well, they’ve had to be followed up by me like a puppy dog asking them every day “have you done the thing yet?”
My rule is this: I do what I say I’m going to do.
It blows customers’ minds. They can’t believe I actually follow through, because it is so rare. Business isn’t magic.
Do what you say you’re going to do. You’ll beat everybody else without an MBA, or a transformational set of competitive advantages, or Product-Market Fit, or MVP/MLP, or any other nonsense business term.
Go 1% beyond the promise
Doing what you say you will do is good. My rule is to overdeliver. I do 1% more than the customer expects.
If I say I’ll call at 11 AM, I call at 9 AM. If I say it will take 7 days to ship, I make sure it arrives in 3 days. If I sell an online course with 10 Lessons, I publish 12 and give away a few unexpected bonuses.
People are blown away when they get a better outcome than they’ve paid for.
Fight, don’t give up
Business can be frustrating, especially when the cookie doesn’t crumble the way you want it to.
In business, you only lose if you give up. If you keep trying and learn from your mistakes, eventually you’ll win the game. But you may realize when you win the business game that it’s not what you thought it was going to be.
I’m not entrepreneurial. I’m stupid at business. That’s why I failed at seven different startups. I don’t regret one bit of it. Seven failed startups in a row was better than a Harvard Business Degree.
My rule in business is to keep fighting. The person who can last the longest usually figures out the game.
Love, not hate
I had a competitor in the old days of importing and selling products online. The guy that started the business posed as an investor in our business before going out on his own. He took our idea and operating model, and duplicated the entire thing.
What was even more interesting was he decided to set up his warehouse exactly 50 meters away from our warehouse. He wanted to show us just how bad we’d treated him.
One month, we ran out of stock. A fellow colleague and I walked over to his warehouse. We reconnected. We said sorry the business way — over a cup of coffee. We mentioned in conversation that we were having stock issues.
At the end of the conversation, he gave us all the stock we needed and had his forklift driver put it in our warehouse. And he didn’t even charge us for it. He just said, “pay me when you can.” When we paid him 30 days later he gave us all the stock at cost price and made zero margin.
I was blown away. He showed us business love. I will never forget it.
- Show love to bad bosses.
- Show love to your competitors.
- Show love to ex-employees.
- Run from assholes
- Life is too short to do business with an asshole.
Ever met a corporate ladder climber? They’re smiling assassins. They’ll run you over with their Mercedes Benz, accidentally, in the car park so they can take your job. Their kid’s smartphone knows them better than they do.
Every meeting and every interaction is about them and their career. They couldn’t care less about the customer, although they pretend to. They’re better actors than Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. As a result of their selfish career goals, they make the lives of others hell, to jump up the ladder. Their ego leads the business — not their ability to unite humans around a single goal.
Then there is the pop-up Instagram entrepreneur. They’re just there for the show and the likes. Stroking their rock hard ego is more important than running a business that helps customers solve a problem.
When you do business with these entrepreneurs you feel like you want to vomit halfway through the meeting. You’re looking for an empty trash can to throw up in, and then a bathroom to wipe your face afterwards and swirl some water around your vomit mouth.
You can’t work out where their parents went wrong. Did they give them one too many piano lessons as a child? Nobody knows. Perhaps, nobody will ever know. All you know is you feel sick.
Avoid assholes and choose humble people to work with.
Create helpful content
Content is the heart of any business. It took me six years to get it.
Every business needs content. Content is how you show a potential customer what you can do from them. Customers need to warm up to a business. Content is how you do it.
Become a master with written words, audio, video, or graphics.
People in business will double-cross you. My friend Michael Thompson did a real estate deal with a person he called a friend. His friend’s dad crossed out his signature on the deed of an investment property that would make him $250,000 profit, and put his own name. Michael lost it all.
He could have lived his life with revenge and become a bitter, twisted old man. Instead, he moved to Spain, became a writer, met the love of his life, and dedicated his life to his two kids.
Oh, and he made a lot more money later in his life because people liked working with him. He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s going to be my little Spanish tour guide when I visit Barcelona and climb mountains with him that you can only find in self-help picture books.
Revenge just isn’t worth it. Choose learning instead.
Make friends rather than build a ‘network’
Networking in business feels creepy. Who wants to be ‘networked?’ Not me. I don’t want to be a contact in somebody’s business phone.
My rule in business is to have conversations with people and turn them into friends. The best business opportunities I’ve found came from people I call friends. Doing business is about more than doing business. There is a human connection. A story to tell. A coffee that is overdue.
How do you make a friend in business? Like this:
- Listen to them first.
- Ask them questions.
- Be curious.
- Focus on how you can help them, not how you can help yourself.
- Build rapport. In other words, have a conversation about something that isn’t your boring business.
Business is boring. Humans are interesting.
Treat people ridiculously well
How you treat people becomes like a magnet.
If you treat people well, then people will talk about you and you’ll meet others who can help your business. Treat people poorly and, eventually, word will secretly get out that you are not someone to do business with.
The challenge is you won’t be told. It will happen silently behind closed doors or in corridor conversations.
Treating people well leads to word of mouth endorsements of you and your business, and therefore your ability to find business opportunities.