OWNER'S MANUAL

The Best Way to Make a Difference in Every Entrepreneur's Life

Say you truly value recognition and praise? Say it's part of your culture? Time to prove it.
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When was the last time someone complimented you--not just pro forma, but genuinely and sincerely? When was the last time someone praised or recognized you--not just in that automatic "good job" way, but in a specific and even surprising way?

Has it been days? Weeks?

During every speaking engagement over the last few months, I took a moment to ask the audience a question: "How many of you feel you receive enough praise and recognition?"

Each time, a scattering of hands was raised. (I'm guessing out of approximately 20,000 people, maybe a total of 40 or 50 raised their hands.)

Then I asked, "How many of you wish you got more praise and recognition?"

Every time, a sea of hands filled the air.

So yesterday, I got an email that made me pause. I recently posted an article about the science behind hashtags and named a few companies that provide useful tools. In response, Saul Fleischman, the founder and CEO of RiteTag, said, "Many thanks... let me tell you, making the news really helps keep the team motivated..."

Although we rarely talk about it, starting and running a business can be incredibly lonely, even if you have dozens of employees, and even if you have hundreds or even thousands of customers.

Why? Because ultimately it's still all you: your hopes, your dreams, your passion and energy and vision. Every potential customer holds the power to validate or reject your vision.

Every person who walks out of a store empty-handed implicitly rejects an expectant owner. Every visitor who abandons a shopping cart--much less browses for a few seconds and leaves--implicitly rejects a hopeful online retailer.

Every app or tool that gets launched and barely creates a ripple in the digital ecosystem causes its founders--and their teams--to feel not only professionally rejected but personally rejected, because every product, every service, and every business is an extension of its creators.

Reject my product, and you also reject me. That's just how it is for entrepreneurs. (And that's how it is for people who work for entrepreneurs--many care almost as deeply.)

And that's why we all have the power to make a real difference.

Most of the time, we hear from customers only when there are problems. Though we all understand, at least on a rational level, that no news tends to be good news, wouldn't it be nice to actually hear some good news once in a while?

Wouldn't your team appreciate hearing from customers who love your product? Wouldn't your team members appreciate hearing from people who appreciate the work they do, the effort they produce, the extra miles they go?

Wouldn't you like to feel that what you do makes a real difference in another person's life?

Of course you would. Unfortunately, though, you can't control whether people praise or compliment or recognize you.

But you can control whether you praise and compliment and recognize someone else. You can control whether someone else feels he or she is making a real difference in another person's life.

And it takes only a minute.

Pick a product or service you really like and tweet about it. Or email a comment to the company's general email account. Or leave a comment on the company's blog. Do it publicly, so it can be seen and shared not just by the founder but also by everyone at the company.

And then go one step further and pass it along. Share this article, or just ask other people to join in what you're doing.

You probably have hundreds of people in your network; extend that by their hundreds, and their hundreds, and pretty soon, thousands of people will praise and recognize all the passionate, hardworking, hopeful entrepreneurs who spend most of their days wondering if they really are making a difference.

At the heart of every business is a person with a dream. Support that dream. Provide a moment of appreciation. Provide a moment of hope. Encourage other people to do that, too.

Sometimes a little spark of recognition and praise is all a struggling entrepreneur needs to keep going. Take a moment and provide that spark.

That is something we not only can all do but should all do for one another--if only because that is what we wish someone would do for us.

Last updated: Jun 20, 2014

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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