There is value in everyone you meet.
I can remember the exact place and time — more than 10 years ago — when I first became aware of this way of thinking. It was about one year into the launch of my small business, and I had a lot to learn about personal branding, networking and business development.
While attending a business event at Whatcom Community College, I was given a copy of a book called “Work the Pond,” by Darcy Rezac. I devoured that book, highlighting pages and making notes in the margins. The stories, ideas and concepts presented in that book taught me about “What can I do for you?” networking and how being open and kind can help business leaders leap forward in work and life. That leap forward starts with valuing all people.
Treat everyone you meet as a person of value.
Being taught early on in my entrepreneurial journey to treat everyone I meet with kindness and as a person of value (don’t we all want to be treated this way?) has benefited me in many ways. Over the years, I have learned to love to process of discovery and of exploring in-person and online connections to see how I might positively impact their lives or how they might impact mine.
There are some typical questions that arise after I meet new people. Will these new connections become clients, or will I become a customer? Will we refer business to each other tomorrow or five years from now? Will they become mentors or friends? Will I be able to teach them something new? Will these people inspire me to stretch and grow and try new things, or will they show me how I don’t want to operate in the world? Will these new connections fizzle out altogether? Exploring and answering these questions is part of the fun of the discovery process.
Of course, not all the people we interact with will need the products or services that our companies provide, but there is a good chance that they may know others who do. Being kind keeps doors open. Being abrupt or otherwise unapproachable closes doors.
Value all people, not just those on your target lists.
When you look at every connection as someone who may help you or someone you can help, you become more open to engaging with a diverse array of people, not just those who are on a business development list you’ve created.
“Every connection” includes recent college grads and entry-level workers who ask to connect with you on LinkedIn. It includes the person who answers the phone at a corporate office, the owner of a neighboring business, your competitors, people who interact with you or your business on Facebook or Instagram, or people you meet at the gym or through your children’s school.
Keep in mind that Whatcom County is a fairly small community, and each person’s circle of influence can be vast and surprising. If we assume that others don’t have anything to offer, we’re ensuring that both parties will miss out on opportunities to benefit from each other and from their extended network in the future. People remember those who have been kind to them, and they remember people who make them feel used or of little value.
If you’re looking for ways to leap ahead in business in 2021, I highly recommend reading “Work the Pond” and learning how to be more open and kind, exploring the value of each of your connections and working to keep doors open instead of closed.