WIN PEOPLE’S CONFIDENCE
Successful entrepreneurs know that their reputations are their most valuable assets. But the digital age of seemingly endless social interaction has made protecting this reputation even more challenging than before — just as quickly as a business can be put on a pedestal, it can also be taken down. The key is for entrepreneurs to think about their reputations right from the start and keep taking steps to protect their images as their businesses grow. These steps include not only using social media to build a fan base, but addressing any online criticisms in real time to keep those comments from leaving a lasting mark on the company’s reputation.
Some entrepreneurs are able to project a favorable image simply based on their credentials. Heritage Link Brands CEO Cuffe has an MBA from Harvard Business School — yet she does not rest on this laurel. She continues to learn all she can about the wines she imports from South Africa, and when she cannot answer a question she finds an expert who can. Other entrepreneurs need to work a little harder to gain stakeholders’ trust. Youth, inexperience in a field, or an unfamiliar business concept are all factors that could work against an entrepreneur, but these obstacles can be overcome.
The primary question stakeholders have is whether an entrepreneur can deliver. The first step to convince stakeholders that the answer is “yes” is to project confidence. The next step is to decide how much to reveal about a new venture. US Computer Group founder Steve Davies had an arrangement with another company to get the spare parts he needed to take on a contract, so he decided not to say that he did not actually have those spare parts in his office yet. The gamble worked. Joe Corcoran, on the other hand, was upfront about the audience-participation challenges of his showTony and Tina’s Wedding — and his confidence won over investors.
Gaining trust and protecting a company’s image are important strategies for building lasting relationships that will help a venture succeed. In order to maintain positive relationships, entrepreneurs should also:
*Demonstrate that they care about the stakeholders’ success.
*Assist where needed when building relationships because the favor may be returned.
*Hone the staff’s core competencies and know how to fill in any gaps.
*Cultivate a reputation as a leader to help both the company and its employees grow.
Some entrepreneurs seem to catch all the breaks, making A-list contacts and winning lucrative contracts. While it may just seem that they are incredibly lucky, they most likely did a great deal of groundwork to ensure that they would be in the right place when the right opportunity came along. Entrepreneurs can also make their own luck by getting out of the familiar and opening themselves up to new spheres of opportunity. Record executive and music producer Evan Lamberg pursued a degree in music and business at New York University, placing him in a major center of the music universe. He started knocking on doors, landing internships, and eventually finding success in the music industry.
Perseverance is another key to enhancing entrepreneurs’ luck. Basso went knocking on doors in Long Beach, New York, ignoring the “No Solicitor” signs in the windows. At a security company, Basso tried to deliver his entire spiel before Rose — the tough woman working the front desk — could throw him out. When he asked Rose if she was sure the owner would not see him, Basso heard the owner call from behind her, “Let him in.” Not only did Basso sign him as a client, but the owner eventually became his investor and business partner.
Another way for entrepreneurs to increase their luck is to keep themselves in the spotlight. Fashion designer Ari Fish followed up on an invitation to apply to be a Project Runway contestant. While she was voted off the show early in the season, she went on to win cash-prize competitions and kept her name in the media for her avant-garde designs.
To give their luck an extra boost, entrepreneurs should also:
*Make sure they are in an industry that makes them happy so they stay inspired.
*Go beyond the extra mile to stay miles ahead of the competition.
*Network at awards galas to make A-list contacts, and be where industry stars gather.
*Figure out how to one-up competitors wherever they are dropping the ball.