On December 3rd I tweeted this:
Amazed by those who shoot themselves (and their biz) in the foot, over and over again. Relationships and reputation come first, people.
Today I wanted to expand upon this thought, as it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot in 2009. I’ve seen this happen countless times, regardless of the individual’s age, experience level and profession.
Reputation and relationships are the building blocks of any business, and if you can’t remember these fundamentals, you are absolutely doomed.
Here’s a not-so-hypothetical situation we came across earlier in the month. Hillary and I were in a meeting with a prospective client, and they specifically mentioned a few disparaging Twitter posts that a local businessperson had made about them months earlier. The company remembered every detail, down to the specifics of this person’s Twitter avatar, and one of their team members stated “doesn’t this person realize they might be in a position to do business with us some day?”
Translation: Every person you meet and every relationship you forge is a potential business opportunity, or at the very least, a connection that can benefit you down the road. Today, with self-publishing tools like Twitter and blogs, our voices have amplifiers with unlimited reach. So, if you’re in business for yourself or publicly representing someone else’s business, use these tools wisely. Everyone you haven’t met yet is now potentially your audience. And, oh yeah, Google remembers everything.
Just to be clear, I think it’s awesome that social technology platforms have given consumers a louder voice and direct contact with companies, bypassing the old gatekeepers. You have every right to expect good service, and you have every right to gripe online if you got ripped off or treated poorly. But this post isn’t about the tools, nor is it aimed at the Pizza Hut customer who just got a cold pizza. This is about being a grown-up, professional businessperson and acting like one.
Your reputation is with you for the long haul. Consider that the next time you feel the urge to call someone out or ignite a flame war online. Today’s social tools give us immediacy, but also they tend to disrupt our self control. Think about the tone of your post — would you say it the same way if you were face-to-face with that person or company in real life? What’s the end result you’re expecting by making the post? Can it be achieved by picking up the phone or firing off an email and respectfully asking “Hey, what’s going on with this? I have some concerns.”
Again, you have the tools and freedoms to create whatever digital assets you want. These assets form the foundation (positive or negative) of your online presence, which will inevitably be seen by potential employers and clients. How will you be perceived? The answer is firmly within your control.
I’ve spent most of this post talking about digital relationships, but of course your IRL ones matter, too. If you’re rude, obnoxious, disrespectful and generally unlikeable in person, other human beings won’t want to do business or even interact with you. Plain and simple. Your competitors will pick up on this immediately and eat your lunch.
Look, I’m not saying you need to censor yourself or neuter your personality. I’m talking about using common sense when dealing with other people, online and off. We’ve all made these mistakes. I’ve made them. Be helpful, decent, and keep those doors open instead of closed.
Image credit: Despair.com