by Alan Louis, PhD in Commerce.
What Does it Take to Succeed in Business?
When I speak with young professionals who are trying to enter the marketplace for the first time, or others who are struggling to survive, I am often confronted with the same questions. In the case of the young business person, the questions are about how they can explore the myriad of opportunities they believe are waiting to be harvested. In the case of the seasoned business person, the questions appear to be more about their anguish. Sometimes the questions are in the form of a desperate plea for help.
One of the questions that I am frequently asked is, “What does it take to succeed in the business world?” I cannot claim to know what it takes to be successful but what I believe I do understand is the ‘Language of Commerce’.
While there are many reasons for setbacks and challenges in business, I believe that one of the central reasons for these is because business people do not always understand the marketplace language.
It appears to me that many people are active in the marketplace but don’t seem to have the ‘Marketplace Handbook’. Imagine something similar to the little language book extensively used by tourists who travel to foreign lands and need to ask questions of locals.
In the biblical book of Daniel, we read that Daniel was encouraged to understand the language of the Chaldeans, then the marketplace language. In a commercially sound culture, Daniel needed to know what to say and how to demonstrate his competence. By understanding the business language of the day, he was able to take up a very senior administrative role.
So What Exactly is the Language of the Marketplace?
Let me first say what it is not. It’s not the continual statement of one’s honesty and integrity. The marketplace will not believe what you say about yourself. They will judge your actions for themselves and formulate their own opinion.
Even if you do display clear acts of honesty and integrity, it is my experience that the marketplace is not the forum for you to get an opinion on your character; you need to get that opinion only from those who have your best interests at heart (and here I mainly imply your wife and/or parents). This is probably one of the best pieces of advice I can offer, as invariably you will one day find yourself unjustly criticised in the marketplace as a piece of dirt with no integrity. If these words are familiar, relax, you are in good company. If these words are not familiar, I will be keeping a reserved seat just for you.
People make many crucial mistakes in commerce, I mention only two for your enlightenment:
Avoid Boastful Talk about Yourself
People in general love to talk about themselves. If you boast about yourself or talk too much, you may lose contracts because the market makers are generally not interested in others – merely in their own success.
So, how do you secure contracts in the marketplace? First, if you want to win a contract or gain clients, demonstrate that you care by letting others do the talking. Dale Carnegie (in the book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’) summed it up well when he said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
This leads to the second way in which to secure contracts: by understanding client expectations and then outperforming on those expectations (which means talking less and listening more – we were given one mouth and two ears remember).
In today’s marketplace, customers are demanding more than ever, expecting to get what they want when they want it, and often requiring it to be customised to suit their needs. If they do not get what they seek from one company, they can easily obtain it from another. By listening carefully and then outperforming on customer expectations you have the opportunity to create what Ken Blanchard called ‘Raving Fans’ (in the book ’Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service’).
How do you turn clients into ‘Raving Fans’? By achieving the level of service excellence that turns them into an advocate of your products or services in the marketplace.
Don’t get Hastily into the Boxing Ring
Would you readily have entered the boxing ring to face Muhammad Ali? If you even contemplate that for a moment you will quickly realise that he was superbly conditioned, both physically and mentally, for the rigours of boxing, while you are not! Countless rounds of combat have served to toughen his resolve and provide him with hard-earned experience.
In the same way, do not act too hastily and accept a fight with a Master business tactician. Like the great heavyweight boxing champions, the Master has encountered numerous troubles in his/her career and so is fit for the commercial boxing ring! You are probably not at their level of discipline, resolve and experience, and are setting yourself up for a financial and emotional knockout blow.
Avoid the ring if you can, it only leads to pain and injury.
Marketplace leaders is a sound US organisation established by Os Hillman which gives more pointers in the language of the marketplace.
The Bible gives wise advice in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
About the Author: Dr Alan Louis is a third generation entrepreneur in a family with a 100-year business history. He devoted his life to Christianity since the age of 7. He was awarded a PhD in Commerce, is an Ironman Triathlete Gold medallist and was inducted in the IBC Hall of Fame for entrepreneurship. Internationally he has served on more than 100 private corporate boards, and has experienced the ups and downs of commerce for 3 decades.