(Listen to this post, here.)
I really had no intention of teaching myself an important lesson this past Monday. I thought I was just drinking coffee.
But there I was, sitting in a local Starbucks with my friend and fellow business owner Victoria. We were talking about the usual stuff: Our families, the weather and, of course, swapping ideas to help our respective businesses.
As is my nature, I was enjoying my own prolix (look it up) ramblings regarding my new book, The Likeable Expert: 121 Insights to Start Your Day and Grow Your Business.
Actually, it was more specific than that: I was talking about the likeable part.
About how even though likeability is so squishy and hard to measure, it makes a huge difference in the Word of Mouth world in which we all live.
I was saying something about how, “helping people who are in no position to help you back” is not just nice, it’s also good marketing. They are appreciative and they remember it (often a lot longer than even you do).
Uh oh. I should have realized I was tempting fate.
Because at that precise moment, a man strode into Starbucks, stood right in front of us, and loudly asked: “Does anybody here have jumper cables? My car is dead and I’m late for work.”
I confess, I paused for what felt like a very long time.
Not because I wasn’t sure if I had the cables (I knew I did). Rather, because I was enjoying my coffee and the conversation, and I really didn’t want to interrupt it all to go outside and help this guy.
But I quickly realized something: If you’re going to run around planet Earth spewing incessantly about likeability, you’re pretty much locked into actually living it too. So out the door we went.
A little while later, while driving back to my office, I started thinking about the importance of having a vision that guides the work each of us does.
Not a mission statement. Not a tag line. Not a niche.
Those may all be important, but I’m talking about something much more fundamental: What do you stand for? What’s the unifying idea that guides your business?
In my case, once I put my finger on the term “Likeable Expert” (or, more accurately, once my friend and branding genius Mark Levy told me to put my finger there), I’ve found it much easier to stay focused and consistent.
I know what to write about. I know what to talk about. I know what services to offer my clients.
And, maybe most important, when a stranger walks into Starbucks looking for help, I know how to be.
- What does your business stand for?
- Does it involve jumper cables?
- Sometimes I can’t think of a third discussion question. Do you think it’s alright if I leave it blank just this once?
Share your comments below!
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As always – I enjoyed your newsletter. You are so likable – and you always share helpful ideas and tips. No I do not have jumper cables in my car – but I do know what I stand for: Building a Wake Up Eager Workforce. (Helping leaders be the best they can be, so that they help their team be their best.)
I agree that it IS totally awesome to know what you stand for, it guides all of my actions. From my podcast, my newsletter, my blog posts, to the projects I say yes (and no) to and it guides how I live my life. Wake Up Eager – is the perfect verbiage for what I care about, what I do and how I strive to live every day.
Thank you Michael for all of your insight, wisdom and fun! I hope that your book is a smashing success!
Hi Suzie! I love Wake Up Eager. A beautiful, clear guide for you, I can see.
Hi Michael. Good to be reminded of what we stand for. Your post reminded ME. I didn’t know the answer for the museum I manage until my then-16-year-old asked me. I figured it out afterwards, after watching a Sony ad. I want people to be moved:
2) could involve jumper cables if they belonged to someone in our town and the story made you laugh or cry.
3) That’s what I love about your newsletter (and you). Refreshingly frank. (OK, sometimes just fresh!)
Love that! And put me on that newsletter list of yours please (I can’t believe I wasn’t already on it). See you at Thanksgiving (I’ll do my best to move you).
Once you lock yourself into offering three discussion questions, you have to follow through. Don’t you want to be reliable? Don’t you want to be likable?
Point well taken. OK, I’ll have four next time, just to make up the difference!
My jumper cables are on the shelf in my garage. Instead, I have this nifty card in my wallet from AAA. You just call the number on it and some nice person with jumper cables comes and bails you out. I’ve been an AAA member since I was about 20. I love the organization.
What does my business stand for? Being an advocate for, and supporting, Made in the USA. My vision / goal / reason for being is to help bring manufacturing jobs back to the US.
I know, I have a AAA membership too and it’s a great investment. But given that my knowledge of cars is pretty much limited to adding washer fluid and knowing how to jump start a car, I still carry those around.
Nice clarity on your vision, too!
After all these years (years, man! look it up) of reading your newsletters, that’s exactly who I expected you would be. Authenticity, kissing cousins with likeability.
I did look it up: September 18th, 2011. Looking forward to another six years together, Cindi!
Hi Michael! I’m new to your newsletter, and I definitely like it. The discussion questions are a great idea.
I just launched my copywriting website yesterday. It’s rough still, and I’m working out my mission for it and what I stand for. I would like it to be: I connect artists and musicians with people who will be inspired by them. I play with a local Irish band and I built their website and do the publicity. Last night we played an open mike night and the people in the pub were so joyful to hear us. But it’s all volunteer, and I would like to find some way to move from being a volunteer to actually being in business.
I don’t have any jumper cables. Like Dianna, I have an 800 number which I like a lot better. But then I wouldn’t be able to help somebody out that way, as you did.
Have a great day!
Hi Sue! Welcome and thanks for posting.
This is going to sound oversimplified, but if you want to move from volunteer to being in business, you need to start charging people for the work you do. And then, if you want to move from barely getting by to making a good living, you need to charge people more. Scary to get started but we’ve all moved through it and you can too!
I like your 3 questions. In their oddness, they bring balance. So I’m glad you included one, even if it was meta. That being said, the answers seem to indicate that you did ask it: What would you have done?
“In their oddness, they bring balance.” A great phrase! (That would be my second choice behind Likeable Expert.)
Thanks Suzan and good to see you in person last month!
Other great and powerful beings (not unlike yourself) have said,
“If you don’t stand for something …. you’ll fall for anything.”
Apparently there is a similar line in Hamilton as well!
Like I said, “great and powerful beings”
Oh, and BTW, you’ll love this …… it’s Saturday morning here….
I had to get up early because I’m attending “the Sleep Forum” in the city.
That sounds a bit like going to McDonald’s on your way to your aerobics class…
I am not sure I can fully embrace Thanksgiving without a 3rd question….;-0
OK, Kim, this one is just for you. Do you think Southside Johnny was thinking of you in particular when he sang this song, The Fever?