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Keep Up Appearances

The right attitude can mean the difference between failure and success.

To gain exposure for his new dog product, Carl developed and launched a series of educational courses in partnership with a local pet store. Carl stayed optimistic throughout the process, implementing different marketing techniques and keeping the owner informed of his progress. Still, the program failed to attract the promised number of new customers.

When the program ended, Carl decided not to complain or blame anyone. He took responsibility for the outcome and made suggestions for future projects. To Carl's surprise, the owner was looking forward to working with him again. Carl's attention to detail, inspirational ideas and willingness to be held responsible made him a pleasure to partner with, and the owner believed their next venture would be successful.

Not even a small failure has the power to harm a solid reputation. Taking responsibility for your own actions and mistakes encourages people to trust you and work through challenges. People will remember how helpful your good temperament, disposition and personality were during the process.

A solid reputation also creates a distinct competitive advantage that can't be readily duplicated. People buy from those they feel they can respect and trust. Create instant rapport with customers and colleagues by taking personal responsibility for your business and even the negative outcomes of your activities and you'll see your good reputation grow.

  1. Realize you don't have to get it right every time. You have to experiment in order to build your business. The most successful entrepreneurs overcome mistakes and learn from them. You establish your reputation by your actions and your reaction to the obstacles you encounter. Demonstrating integrity at all times generates positivity in your relationships. Always present yourself and your business in a positive light, no matter your current level of success.
  2. Take the high road. Building a good reputation means keeping others' dignity and satisfaction in mind as you deal with them. Remain focused on the endgame and accept that sometimes others will disagree with you. When you find yourself in a negative situation, be honest and try to discover a workable solution. Ask how you can best help repair it; offering solutions rather than lamenting about the problem encourages others to work with you rather than against you.
  3. Value people's time. Time is one of our most precious commodities. Set an agenda for every conversation and stick to it; your reputation for getting things done will grow. Every interaction you have affects your relationships--not only with the parties involved but also with those they speak to about you. Show respect by arriving early to appointments, being prepared with the appropriate information and making your word your bond. Also, keep people up to date on project developments and inform them of changes as soon as you identify them. Anticipate the implication of the delay and have remedies available. A simple phone call works miracles.
  4. Give others the opportunity to comment about you. Nothing speaks better of your reputation than someone else's words. Be willing to accept praise and provide opportunities for your customers, vendors and colleagues to comment on your passion and commitment.

Your sincere appreciation for the contributions of others earns you their respect. Share your knowledge and spend time with trustworthy people. Establishing these people as friends, mentors and colleagues allows you to remain on firm footing and cements your reputation as an honest, hardworking entrepreneur.

Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Success and Kick Start Your Dream Business. Write to him at romanus@kickstartguy.com.

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This article was originally published in the November 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Keep Up Appearances.

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