A couple weeks ago I enjoyed a cup of coffee and a conversation with the always fascinating Harry Beckwith. Harry had taken time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts on how people can grow their businesses.
To get things started, I asked Harry, "What are the three most important things you would advise a person to do, if they want to grow their business?"
Without hesitating, Harry replied "look the part."
He must have noticed the puzzled look on my face so he went on to explain. He said most people are naturally risk averse. So when they decide to do business with someone new, they´d prefer to reduce the risk of that decision.
Harry continued by telling me too many business owners don´t commit themselves to their business. They don´t invest enough so their business looks the part that it should. They skimp on things to save a few dollars without realizing their business ends up looking second class as a result.
You need to send the right message to people so they feel comfortable that you present the best option for them. If you show confidence in yourself and your business, they will too.
That´s why well-managed brands do so well. They have standards and they´re consistent. The business owner is required to invest in the business to make sure it delivers a consistent and desirable to their customers.
When people are confident of what they´re getting, they´ll be more likely to do business with you.
Harry´s second response to my question was that you need to "address your stereotype". In other words, figure out what people think about you and, more importantly, why they might not want to do business with you.
"This is closely related to looking the part" Harry said. "It´s about eliminating people´s fears about doing business with you."
The third thing Harry would advise people to do is to remember that every business is a relationship business.
We talked about how so many people and companies try to make business impersonal. They forget about the people factor.
Harry disagrees with Donald Trump on this issue.
"It´s all personal" he said.
The next thing I asked Harry is if there is anything he´d advise a business owner to not do as they work to grow their business.
In typical Harry Beckwith fashion, he gave me more than my money´s worth.
First, he said never take just one opinion. "Be open to multiple opinions" he said. "We all have a desire for simplicity and that´s why it´s easy to settle for just one opinion." Don´t do it Harry warns.
His second answer to this question was to make sure you´re in the right business for the right reasons.
"Never do something just for the money" he advised. "Pick a business that touches your spirit."
If you do this, you´ll be much more likely to have the energy, enthusiasm, creativity and drive to make it a success. It really won´t feel like work because it´s something you do with a passion.
The last thing I asked Harry before we called it a day was if he´d share with me the best business advice he had ever gotten. He said the best advice he had ever heard was to listen and to be open to many ideas and opinions.
"Have a quality of humble openness" he suggested. And "read the signs as you move through life."
It reminded me of a movie in which the main character learns to read the signs and when he does his life gets better because his decisions get better. In his case, the signs are highway signs written in English so it´s easy to read them.
I agree with Harry that we need to read the signs in our lives and our businesses. Lucky for us they are all around us.
Some of them are challenges. Some are obstacles. Some are open doors that all seem to lead in one direction (if we stop to notice).
It´s clear to me that Harry Beckwith has done a good job reading the signs in his life. He´s a successful author, trainer, consultant and business owner. More importantly, he´s always willing to lend a hand, to share some advice to someone in need. And his advice has always been on target.
You can get more valuable insights from Harry Beckwith by reading any of his best-selling books. My favorites are What Clients Love and Selling the Invisible. When he´s not writing books (or having coffee with friends) Harry runs Beckwith Partners, a positioning and branding firm whose clients include Microsoft, ServiceMaster, ADP, Merck, Hewlett Packard, and State Farm.