1.) How to listen well
Active listening is perhaps one of the most powerful things a person in sales or business can learn.
It’s rare in this world that one seeks to understand before being understood, as Steven Covey said. If we’re to create great products and services that our customers want, we have to listen — and listen carefully.
The key is to start from a position of true curiosity; show not only that you’re willing to listen, but that you want to. Cultivate a genuine interest in learning what your client or customer has to say. It’s their point of view that will ultimately determine your success or failure.
By practicing active listening, you automatically begin to:
help others see you as a resource
make others feel like you care
promote a healthy dialogue needed for collaboration and a successful relationship
2.) If a solution doesn’t exist, you have to get creative and make one
When you hit a wall, don’t get discouraged: It’s an opportunity to level up. Being in business can feel like running through an obstacle course. But for each hurdle you metaphorically overcome, know that others have faltered and let a similar challenge stop them from achieving their goals.
The status quo is to use a seemingly insurmountable obstacle as a reason to not push forward. The more challenging the obstacle, the easier it’ll be to use it as an excuse (and feel justified in doing so). The vast majority of people will take this path. This is your opportunity to stand out.
Be a person who refuses to believe that any obstacle can stop you on your path. Believe with all your heart that there’s a way to overcome through ingenuity and perseverance.
3.) What it means to hustle
People in the startup world love to talk about what it means to hustle. A hustler is someone who doesn’t take no for an answer. It’s someone who doesn’t rely on anyone else to accomplish his or her dreams. Hustlers don’t wait around for someone else to educate them, give them a handout, or solve their problems for them.
Hustlers are exceptionally self-reliant. They consider accomplishing their goals (both their end goal as well as intermediary milestones) of primary importance. This focus on outcomes is the key to differentiating a true hustler from everyone else. A real hustler only cares about completing the task at hand if it moves him or her closer to the goal.
4.) Learning doesn’t stop after you graduate
Education is an important foundation, but there is no substitute for experience. A good education encourages intellectual curiosity and helps you refine the skills necessary to become a better learner. For most businesses, however, the skills one learns in school are rudimentary and serve only as the foundation of what is then learned in the workforce.
Expect that your learning will only accelerate post-college. Also, remember that it always has been and always will be your duty to educate yourself continuously.
5.) If your GPA is a 3.7 to 4.0, your academic program isn’t rigorous enough
For many high achievers, school is a kind of haven that insulates us from the real world. In school, there is a specific and measurable result — a clear indication of how well you are doing overall.
In the real world, you don’t have grades, and you don’t have the same constant feedback to feed your ego and reassure you that you’re progressing appropriately. If you’re used to stopping once you’ve received a certain level of accolade, you’ll find yourself searching fruitlessly in the business world.
In business, there’s no limit to your potential, but there’s also a heck of a lot less feedback on your progress — at least in the clear-cut way academics offer.
6.) Finding success in business often means becoming a better version of yourself
Running your own business is like a crucible for your personality. It burns at the edges of every insecurity and every flaw, and it distills your strengths. If you’re introspective, each new challenging situation lays bare the facets of your personality that need work — as well as which aspects of yourself shine brightly.
Success, then, is a constant improvement over time. If you can manage to view your overall progress as a kind of evolution, it becomes possible to see failures as important milestones — or even as the most important milestones — in your growth toward success. Each failure marks a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate your choices and path — a chance to evolve.
7.) Because of too many internal and external variables, nothing is guaranteed
In life, we like to believe we’re grounded and that we have control. Buddhists would say this is an illusion and the root of suffering. In life, as well as in business, the only real constant is change — this we can count on.
No matter how intelligent or hardworking you may be, there will always be variables beyond your control. Internalizing and coming to terms with the uncontrollable aspects of business is essential to rolling with the punches. Like in life, your success will not be measured by your ability to control every outcome, but in the ways you choose to respond to the tough situations.
8.) Great ideas need to be backed up by great execution
Many would-be entrepreneurs believe the secret to success is doing something that’s never been done before. The truth is, many more people find success not through the innovation of a new technology or product, but by improving something that already exists.
Exceptional execution is essential to success, whether you begin with a great, novel idea or simply have a passion for improving an already-existing product or service.
9.) Everything is negotiable
When you first start out, it can feel like any sale is a gift or that any offer stands as is. The truth is that you often have quite a lot more room to negotiate terms than you may think. As you grow your business and become more stable, you will feel more confident negotiating and asking for what you believe you deserve.
An essential key to getting what you deserve is asking for it. It’s a simple truth: If you don’t ask for the discount, the raise, or the sale, you’re much less likely to get it.
10.) Every business plan is obsolete the moment it’s written
You should have a plan; there’s no doubt about that. This doesn’t mean, however, that your business shouldn’t be fluid, malleable, and ever-changing. If your business is to stay alive, it must behave like a living organism. It must evolve with the changing dynamics of the environment and industry in which it operates.
Business plans are like guideposts — they help us move in a productive direction when we begin, and if they evolve with our businesses, they help us stay on track and focused on our goals. The mistake is to see your business plan as your gospel and consider diversion from the plan as a mistake or misstep.
Nick Santillo is President at Frac.tl. Previously, Nick co-founded Voltier Digital, which was acquired in 2012. He is driven by keeping his business focused on innovating within emerging markets, creating new technologies, and rendering world-class marketing services.
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