It’s easy to climb the hill with the goal of being the highest revenue achiever.
Creating revenue in a business is an unusual metric. What you get from business is far greater than the number of zeroes you see on your internet banking app.
I don’t operate a business focused on revenue. I haven’t done so since 2011, when all my business dreams fell apart. A business implosion caused me to take an unlikely path.
People think I’m extremely weird when I conduct business. I leave people confused, surprised, sometimes annoyed, and left with more questions than answers.
It’s a path that has led me to these eight principles. Copy, borrow, or steal them for yourself to make business easier and far more interesting.
It always starts with a no
The obvious thing that will happen in business is you’ll get a no. In fact, everything starts with a no. To date, I can’t remember the last time I had the gift of an instant yes.
The default response in business is no. No really means “I’m not sure.”
No is a sign of uncertainty.
If you expect yeses in business then you’re going to be bitterly disappointed. On the contrary, if you expect no as the default answer then things will get easier for you. No, leads to frustration. Hoping for a yes leads to curiosity.
When I joined my latest employer I was given a long list of things the person before me had tried. I was told “you won’t win here” and “people don’t like us over here.” But none of us are our predecessors.
The difference in business is the human doing the business.
As soon as I stepped on the scene things changed. Old adversaries became allies. Some adversaries remained that way. And new people entered the picture and begun to be curious about what problems we could solve for them. Every pitch so far has been a no. Recently, I got one giant yes. You know what followed? An avalanche of more yeses.
If you can be patient with the noes you’ll be overwhelmed with eventual yeses.
Be the golden retriever
I’m the puppy dog of the finance world. I learned from my mentor to be a golden retriever. A golden retriever always comes back for more. In business, a golden retriever follows up.
The biggest challenge in business is getting people to take action.
People say they will do something but they almost never do. This is where a lot of people in business stop. The secret is in the follow-up. It’s your ability to show empathy to their situation, know it’s hard, and be the support mechanism they need to move forward.
Verbal actions are a mirage. Make action visible with your follow-up. “How are you going with it?” is a phrase that can change your business trajectory.
People remember how you treated them
It was highly unlikely I would meet fellow writer Adrian Drew. We walked in different circles. When I started writing for his publication I jumped on a video call with him. Out of nowhere he shared a personal story with me.
It was the story of how his fiancé passed away from brain cancer in 2019 when Adrian was only 20 years old. One day he found out she had 18 months to live. They both had youth on their side, but it didn’t matter. Her fate was sealed. Adrian had to grow into the loss he was about to face of his life partner, and love of his life. It was after this moment I met Adrian.
He was always so chill. You couldn’t say anything that would get him flustered. You would always finish a conversation with him feeling better than before you’d spoken. It took me a while to realize it was his fiancé’s passing that changed his outlook on business and making money.
He’d learned forced-calmness after going through a traumatic event most 20 year olds have never faced. His calmness spread like a virus through my body.
Each interaction always started with respect. I discovered he respected life more than most because he lost the one thing it can give us: love. Losing love made him treat people he met differently.
The philosophy Adrian adopted bled into his content business. Everybody wanted to work with him because of, secretly, the way he treated you. You can take this nugget from Adrian and apply it to business relationships.
Leave a lasting impression — not a business card — on each person you meet.
Everything is negotiable
If you have ever worked for a dollar then you’re a salesperson. Salespeople influence, and every role in a business requires you to change people’s minds about something.
These discussions lead to an ask. A business ask isn’t written in stone. Every time you are asked to do something in business, what is often forgotten, is it’s negotiable. You can be told the price but that doesn’t make a price fact. You can be told what the proposal includes but that doesn’t mean you can’t add more deliverables to the proposal.
Most asks are just regular humans trying shit on to see what sticks.
When you see everything in business as a negotiation, you find ways to deploy your creativity to achieve highly unlikely results. I like to add non-monetary requirements to a negotiation. Rather than say “I want you to pay more,” I say “let’s move forward as long as you agree to share how you did XYZ.”
Education can be a form of payment. An introduction to an amazing human can be a form of payment. An opportunity to publish content on a platform can be a form of payment. A sense of appreciation can be a form of payment.
A new relationship that transcends your business can outweigh any amount of money you can be paid for your work.
About three years ago a customer said something odd to me: “We’re looking for the Gandalf of <insert company name> to lead us through this like you did.” They explained to me that every company has a Lord of the Rings character like Gandalf. They called me the Gandalf of the fintech world. They said I guided them through the difficult mountainous landscapes of banking.
Their comment changed how I thought about navigating through large enterprises. Big companies have a lot of people. The key for a smaller business isn’t to build relationships with everybody. It’s to look for the Gandalf.
Who is the leader that will guide you through the intricacies of their company, and make your life easy and explain everything in plain, simple English? Every company has a Gandalf.
If you get good at looking for Gandalf then you will quickly find yourself pulling off deals that are highly unlikely in the eyes of your critics.
Generosity leads to more generosity
There is one thing about business that pisses me off: selfishness.
I rebel against the engrained selfishness of businesses, by throwing generosity around recklessly. I will happily give away some of the profit for the fun of it, after the deal is done, even when I don’t need to. I’ve given plenty of high bonus-producing leads away over my time too.
I’m no angel. I just think generosity is the way of business. When you are generous in business you get more out of every workday. Doing business becomes a pleasure. And, you end up making friends with the people you do business with.
Don’t obsessively collect dollars from business. Collect cool people you can text on a Sunday night when you’re bored at home.
You do more together than alone
I deliberately tell people my business faults. I can’t operate an Excel spreadsheet to save my life.
I can’t create a half-decent Powerpoint deck to be used in a meeting — instead, I like to have one slide with a single word on it. Nobody gets my Powerpoint philosophy, so they keep me away from Powerpoint.
What’s the point of highlighting your flaws in business? It tells people subliminally that you can’t succeed alone. Because, well, you can’t. Solo business climbers get wrecked by the business world. Business is harsh. You’re going to get your ass handed to you, especially if you decide to go out on your own and do a startup.
That’s why I’ve given up on the solo dream. It’s easier, and more fun, to do business as a team — to stack your skills with the skills of others and sort them based on who likes doing what.
Make business a team sport to achieve highly unlikely progress.
Bring your personal life to business
This goes against conventional advice. Many corporate folks, especially, hide who they are outside of work. They think being too personal will get them fired. I disagree. My quirky superpower in business is my personal life.
Every customer knows my secret writing fantasy (or they quickly find out when they look me up on LinkedIn). If I had a dollar for the number of times a potential customer has said to me “Hey, I don’t love what you sell, but I like talking to you about the content you write,” I’d be a millionaire many times over.
The difference isn’t what I sell. The difference is what I do outside of work. Why do customers care about what I do outside of work? I figured it out. They care because they secretly have their own hidden fantasies of doing something similar or pursuing their passion. Talking to me about writing helps them strategize how they can pursue their hobby after-hours.
Help people in business remember their neglected passions, and they’ll answer every one of your phone calls.
Highly unlikely results occur when you focus on the human psychology of business rather than the surface level nonsense taught in business books that cause a person to worship revenue over life.
When people feel you they listen to what you have to say. The conversation transcends business mediocrity and becomes a whole new world you were told was highly unlikely. Unlikely results occur when you tap into the unlimited power of human consciousness.
Transactional business is boring. To paraphrase old mate Elon — Business revenue is just part of an information system. Do you want to dedicate your life to a boring information system? Of course not.
Choose what lies beyond business. Spend time with interesting people.