Having achieved a modicum of success since beginning my career shortly after Einstein invented electricity, I've learned, or experienced, lessons that I believe will make you a better businessperson.
See what you think:
1.) Patience is a virtue. Every organization has underachievers who, nonetheless, strike you as diamonds in the rough. Be patient with them.
Once upon a time, I submitted a clearly inferior piece of copy but, instead of berating me, my boss took a full hour to explain where I'd missed the mark. I asked him why. He sat back and said, "Because one day you'll be in my position and spot someone who possesses the skills, but needs expert guidance. I'll expect you to treat her in exactly the same way." Great advice.
2.) Loose lips sink ships. I was the junior member of a global agency pitch team that had just won a sizable piece of P&G. As we partied on the flight home, some of us poked fun at the client decision-makers. Big mistake.
Sitting directly behind us was a P&G employee. He promptly debriefed our new client who, within hours, became our erstwhile client.
3.) Lose the attitude. I'd been scoring success after success at a particular firm, and felt I was long overdue for a raise. So, I casually strolled into my CEO's office and told him so. I was lucky to escape with my life, much less my job. He gave me 24-hours to convince him why I deserved to continue drawing a paycheck.
I was crestfallen. Luckily, though, I was also blessed with a superb mentor who talked me off the ledge, and helped me create a 90-day plan that highlighted past successes while outlining how I'd raise the bar in the next three months.
I slinked back into the CEO's cavernous office. He reviewed my one-pager, inhaled deeply on his cigar and said, "OK, kid. You have 90 days."
Once the CEO was convinced I'd lost my sense of entitlement (Note to Millennials: You did not invent entitlement), he promoted me AND gave me a raise!
4.) Don't underestimate looks. This may be politically incorrect, but sometimes first looks do make a lasting impression. Once upon a time, we were desperately trying to staff a rapidly growing account. We interviewed a guy who possessed all of the right credentials, but whose physical appearance made Nick Nolte look well-coiffed. Desperate as we were, we hired the guy and sent him to client meetings where he promptly fell asleep! Turned out his disheveled appearance resulted from his working two jobs and getting little, if any, sleep. Rather than risk the badly understaffed account, we sent Pigpen packing.
5.) Weed out the grapevine. Rumors can kill the most successful business. Once, during a Verizon power outage, we lost all phone and e-mail service for 48 hours. This wouldn't have been such a big deal if the outage hadn't occurred in April of 2000 when 35 percent of our dotcom clients were walking out the door at breakneck speed.
Since the trade media couldn't reach us, rumors began flying that we'd gone out of business. Our management team jumped on cell phones to reassure all of our constituent audiences that the exact opposite was the case, but the damage had been done (at least temporarily). I'd guess it took us a good six months to regain trust with employees, clients, prospects and the trade alike.
Prepare for the unexpected and nip the grapevine in the bud.
6.) I have met the enemy and he is me. Marissa Mayer won't do it. John Stumpf wouldn't do it. And, lord knows Jeff Skilling refused to do it. "It" is admitting fault for grievous mistakes and pledging to make immediate corrections. The buck stops with you. The very best leaders assume responsibility when the sh*t hits the fan.
I've accepted full responsibility for my own mistakes at least three or four times over the past two decades. These have included inadvertently naming our firm Peppercom (and attracting every dotcom under the sun). It was a beautiful thing until the tech bubble burst, so I added an "M" to our surname. I also hired 10 new staffers based upon oral promises from two clients who said they'd double their billings (neither did and we were forced to downsize).
And, I've admitted countless times that my blogs have gotten us into trouble with prospects and clients alike and, indeed, even cost us a client.