5 Sure-Footed Steps Toward Earning Respect and Loyalty as a New Entrepreneur
It might seem a little daunting at first to present yourself as a new business owner when you're just starting out. But these pointers can provide you with a plan.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
As a new entrepreneur, your ability to gain and sustain respect and loyalty in your chosen industry and among your colleagues can mean the difference between landing the biggest deal of your career and falling flat on your face.
If you want to put the right building blocks in place for your business, that is to develop relationships with the right people and attract top talent, you need to be obsessed with earning respect. It might seem a little daunting at first but it becomes easier once you start taking these concerted steps.
Here are seven tips that have worked for me:
1. Be helpful.
As a new entrepreneur, you're probably in the early stages of building a reputation for yourself, your ideas, and your product. At the same time, you're also connecting with your first prospects, landing your first clients, selling your initial batch of products, hiring your first employees and developing new relationships or partnerships that can affect your success.
The best way to leave a good first impression -- and a lasting one -- is to focus on being helpful. It's a simple and powerful way to differentiate yourself and stand out.
You can be helpful in these ways:
Know your customers' pain points and offer solutions.
Ask business partners how you can help them, instead of asking them to help you.
Take the time to personally mentor your first hires.
2. Be consistent.
As a new entrepreneur, present yourself as a consistent, reliable human being. Spend time crafting your voice, your values, your approach to challenges, your method of treating your employees, the manner in which you address customers and partners -- everything. Then become obsessed with consistency. When you obsess about being on time, the way you dress and how you speak, people notice.
3. Be confident.
People don't like doing business with someone unsure of himself or a person who does not seem to believes in what he's selling. They prefer working with someone they like and trust.
Your job is to always be the most confident person in the room. Confidence is not a synonym for arrogance or close-mindedness. You don't have to be a jerk to seem confident. You do need to do everything in your power to convince others that you believe in your product, your company and yourself. When you're confident, people respect your opinions, your time and you as a business owner. Appear more confident in these ways:
Memorize your 30-second elevator speech or pitch.
Understand body language and nonverbal communication.
Know how to enter a room.
4. Be truthful.
Honesty is really the best policy. There is way too much truth bending and flat-out lying in the business world. If you want to earn respect, tell the truth and not just when it's easy or convenient. Tell the truth always -- even if it means losing business or showing people that you messed up.
When you tell the truth (especially when it takes guts), people respect you. Truth telling builds trust. It sets you apart from other entrepreneurs who will do or say anything to make a quick buck.
Related: An Ode to Transparency
5. Be receptive.
You might not have all the answers -- and that's OK: You can actually use this to your advantage when seeing the respect and loyalty of others. Just be open to the opinions and suggestions of your customers, partners and employees.
Don't be afraid to let people know that you are approachable and willing to listen to their input and ideas. The more they invest in helping you solve problems, the more loyal they'll become to you and your company.
6. Be real.
Being real is one of the most effective respect-earning strategies to implement as a new entrepreneur. You've heard it before: People like doing business with people. If you want to connect on a deeper level with people, tell your story. Show customers and employees who you are, where you've come from, what makes you different, and why they should be doing business with you. When people learn more about you, they learn to respect you.
Remember every successful business owner in history -- from Johnny Appleseed to Mark Zuckerberg -- has started right where you are. Start taking these proactive steps and you can earn the respect and loyalty you deserve.