Not your ordinary business lessons

Posted by A. Smith on Dec-30-2009

I could spend hours, heck weeks, thinking through all I’ve learned over the past 15 years in marketing. Instead, I am going to share what comes top of mind because these are the ideas that live in my head. This is not an end-all-be-all list. It is a rapid reflection of lessons that keep me afloat and moving toward excellence:

(Top five lessons that came to mind, unedited, in no particular order)

  1. I am not an expert.
    This is one of the first things I tell clients. And, it’s true. I am not an expert. I bring expertise to the table…and so do they. I respect my clients and have come to truly understand the meaning and power of real collaboration. When I enter a room, I always go in believing the answers are already there.
  2. It’s okay to struggle with confidence so long as confidence wins out.
    On the last day of my first job (which I left because I was moving), my boss Sandy said to me, “You have the skill, now you need the confidence to go with it.” In delivering this phrase, she gave me confidence. I whisper this sentence to myself almost daily.
  3. There’s nothing more powerful than a story well told.
    I just witnessed a wonderful example of this. The agency I share space with is kicking off an ad campaign for a local nonprofit to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Many organizations would celebrate this milestone by simply focusing on the number. In this case, however, they are telling 50 heart-opening, human stories every Sunday in 2010. Ah, I get chills just thinking about this. If given the option of communicating about helping hundreds of people or telling the personal story of one of them, tell the story.
  4. Part of my responsibility is expectation management.
    One of my not-so-glorious responsibilities is to help clients understand that branding is a process. Overnight success is unrealistic. PR, for example, requires meaningful story ideas and time to nurture and grow them. Companies shouldn’t expect one press release to land them a front-page article in the New York Times – but they do. Therefore, it’s important that I am clear and honest upfront: Commit or don’t bother.
  5. People are the heart of business
    I inherently believe that every employee matters – and contributes to business. This belief was reinforced for me a few years back when I was a patient in the ER at Maine Medical Center. My brain was bleeding and I was completely disoriented. I remember very little about that night – except for the friendly janitor who calmed me down by giving me a Tootsie Roll and reassuring me that everything would be okay. He got through to me in a way no one else could. I love Maine Med, and he is among the reasons why. Every person at an organization has the opportunity to live its brand.

These are just a few of the many lessons I have learned. And, I know it’s just the beginning. As we approach the end of this decade, I encourage you to reflect on your personal journey. What lessons have you learned in business?

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