Empathy in Business Is Vital to an Entrepreneur's Success
Empathy is defined as “the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions; and the ability to share someone else's feelings.”
Most have experienced this at different times throughout their lives, whether it was offering comfort to a co-worker who didn’t get a promotion or helping a colleague get to work after their car breaks down. These are actions done out of empathy, because we may have experienced something similar and understand how the other person might feel.
How does this apply to an entrepreneur?
Empathy in business dealings, especially for the entrepreneur, are vital to maintaining sustainable success. Entrepreneurs are surrounded by people who they need to understand, from shareholders or investors, to employees and customers. When an entrepreneur is in tune with the perspectives and needs of these parties, the business will be strengthened. The connection provides the entrepreneur with insights to run their business optimally.
It is important that customers, employees, investors and stakeholders know that their interests are a priority. They need to know their voice matters. Therefore, the entrepreneur should demonstrate that the goals of the business are not just for the benefit of him or herself, but for all parties.
Customers and employees
It’s important to take the time to talk with customers and employees and understand their view of the business. Employees are generally at the front line of a business, and customers are the source of profits, so understanding their experience is vital. When an entrepreneur takes the time to empathize with the concerns and insights of customers and employees, they can gain valuable information to piece into their strategy for bettering the business.
Another method that can be used to demonstrate empathy is the use of positive reinforcement within company interactions. Many businesses use punishment and negative consequences so employees behave in a particular way. However, showing appreciation through benefits, coaching and development, incentives and genuine rewards sends the message that the business simply cares about the people connected to it.
Profit is a byproduct of happy and loyal employees and customers.
Investors and shareholders
Equally important is understanding the perspective of investors or shareholders. These parties have invested in an entrepreneur’s business and therefore have vested interests that need to be attended to. A successful entrepreneur will be proactive in this relationship by understanding where the other stands at all times and maintaining ongoing communication appropriate for the circumstances.
Fostering a better world
The most successful entrepreneurs incorporate elements that aim to improve human relations and foster a positive image of the human spirit. To accomplish this, it’s important that a business has a vision for the future, and not just in profit projections. The company should have a greater purpose that takes into account relationships with their investors, employees, customers and the world in some aspect. When a business empathizes with a need in the world, it can provide a solution that meets the needs of many. A side effect of this are the large profits generated.
Showing empathy to the individuals connected with a business will go a long way toward growing a company’s name. It might be thought of as a business strategy, but it needs to be more than that. If a business doesn’t seem to have a deeper purpose in the grand scheme of things, it will not be able to maintain relationships with customers, employees or investors.
In this this day and age, the market is being overrun with businesses just out to make a buck. The companies that will last are those that make the effort to understand their employees, investors and customers, and give back to those who support them. The successful entrepreneurs will be those who practice empathy.
Joey Pomerenke is an entrepreneur and one of the founding partners of UP Global, an international non-profit organization that connects entrepreneurs with their communities and the resources they need most through programs such as Startup Weekend, Startup Digest and Startup America. Pomerenke is a connector of people and a world traveler whose work has landed him in over 30 countries.