Management Expert Ronna Lichtenberg

Looking for the key to your success? Look at the people around you.

By Eryn Gable

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's the first lesson you learn in Business 101: Separateyour professional life from your personal life. But you don'thave to pursue a MBA to know that work is strictly business.

It's Not Business, It's Personal RonnaLichtenberg's latest book refutes that tenet. In It's Not Business, It's Personal,she talks about the nine relationship principles that can help yougo beyond traditional marketing to make the most of your businessrelationships. Lichtenberg, the president of management consultingfirm Clear Peak Communications, shared her thoughts with us oncultivating diverse and dependable business relationships. What'sthe most important relationship principle you talk about in yourbook?

Ronna Lichtenberg: There arereally two. Number one: Always remember that it pays to bepersonal. We're taught so much nonsense about how beingimpersonal in business is the way to make money. That's simplynot true. The other one is a really hard one for most people I talkto, and that's number six: Don't waste time on the wrongpeople. If you start thinking about the amount of time you spend[on] people who don't give you any energy back and complainingabout those people, you'll realize you can lose a lot of yourday that way.

"Areyou investing that time and energy, the scarcest resource you have,in a conscious, thoughtful way? Or are you wasting it-just doingthe equivalent of walking down the street dropping $20bills?" What canentrepreneurs learn from reading your book?

Lichtenberg: Even more thancapital, what small-business owners and entrepreneurs lack is timeand energy. Most [business owners] are spending probably 70 or 80or 90 percent of their day with other people. My argument is, lookat where that time is going. Who's it going to? Are youinvesting that time and energy, the scarcest resource you have, ina conscious, thoughtful way? Or are you wasting it-just doing theequivalent of walking down the street dropping $20 bills? In yourfourth principle, you talk about surrounding yourself with theright people. Tell us how successful people find one another.

Lichtenberg: By noticing howother people react to what needs to be done. How many times haveyou been in a meeting where there was someone you thought wasreally interesting, had really good ideas, had lots of energy, whoyou really enjoyed, and [then] that was it. You walked out of themeeting and never followed up.

My test now is the caller ID test. If you shut your eyes,imagine seeing somebody's name on your caller ID on your phone,[and] you feel instantly worn out and tired and you don't wantto pick up the phone, then you know that [person is] an energyvampire. You want to spend as little time as possible with thattype of person. But if you see their name and your impulse is towant to pick up the phone, you're doing that because usuallythat's someone who's good for you. Your fifthprinciple is "Diversify Your Holdings." Why is itimportant for business owners to diversify their contacts?

Lichtenberg: The politicallyincorrect truth is that people who aren't like you in any waytake more effort to be close to because you have to do moreexplaining. When someone's really like you, it's moreintuitive, easier, automatic. You don't have to explain much.With people who aren't like you, you have to work harder at it,but they bring you more value. That's why you want to have aboard with people who aren't like you [and] have a differentskill set.

A lot of entrepreneurs and small-business owners are people witha financial background. You need someone close to you who'sstrong in marketing, someone with a skill set that's not soquantitative. If you're a business owner who knows how to bringthe business but haven't a clue how to keep track of it onceyou've got it, then you have to work harder at not just hiringpeople to do accounting, but being close to people who [are morefinancially oriented.] In yourbook, you say that successful people constantly work oncommunicating their value to others. What's the best way to dothat?

Lichtenberg: The best way isby talking to [people] about their business and the value you canhelp them create. One way that I could try to communicate my valuewould be to get in sort of a Miss Piggy mode-moi, moi, moi. I couldtell you, 'Gee, I'm a consultant and this is how much Icharge' and all the things that make it sound like I thinkI'm a big deal. Or I could focus on you. How can I make it aseasy as possible for you to do what you consider to be a great job?That's when people will come back to you, when you make iteasier for them to get what they want. You make it faster. You makeit cheaper. You've thought of things they haven't thoughtof. That's what makes them think you're valuable. And yetwe all walk around thinking it's about us.

One of the common mistakes I see people make when they first getstarted is spending a fortune on print materials and on Web sitesthat are all about them and not saying a word about what they dofor anyone else and the value they've brought to somebody.

Editor's Pick

The Dark Side of Pay Transparency — And What to Do If You Find Out You're Being Underpaid
Thinking of a Career Change? Here Are 4 Steps You Can Take to Get There.
A Founder Who Bootstrapped Her Jewelry Business With Just $1,000 Now Sees 7-Figure Revenue Because She Knew Something About Her Customers Nobody Else Did
Everything You Need to Know About Franchise Law

Streaming TV Is the Future of Advertising — Without Breaking the Bank

Today's consumers expect personal, impactful ads. There's an advertising method that can get you there for half the price, making it the next frontier in digital advertising.

Business News

'Crying Northwestern Kid' Turned His Viral Fan Moment Into a Successful Harvard Admissions Essay. He Says the Experience Taught Him About Empathy.

Six years ago, Phillips was watching No. 8 Northwestern take on No. 1 Gonzaga during March Madness when he became a meme.


An Introvert's Guide to Building a Personal Brand

Uncovering your personal brand does not require extroverted personality traits. Here are a few tips for introverts who want to uncover theirs.