I'm always amused by big and little ways that business, entrepreneurship, and academia are similar. Some are surprising, the topic of this article probably isn't too surprising. I still find it warrants discussion, if only for the mad SEO our articles pull. I joke.
In this continuation to our ongoing series of practical personal improvement for entrepreneurs, I suggest the following question: Am I doing this to impress or produce?.
The tragic and hilarious personal origins of this topic
I recalled the other night, while falling asleep, a particularly cringe-worthy episode of my undergraduate years. I was at an American Chemical Society National Conference in San Francisco and was under a delusion that many sheltered undergraduates suffer prior to their entry into graduate school and/or adult life: that I was hot stuff.
A full professor had finished his presentation on a genuinely impressive calculation he had devised and executed. It was, no doubt, the result of hundreds of hours of work by himself, his graduate student researchers and perhaps thousands of hours of supercomputer time.
When the Q&A began, I was inspired to ask a question whose sole purpose was to make myself appear clever. The reality was, most likely, that my ruse was highly transparent to everyone there. I still laugh at this episode
It's recollection spurred me to consider ways I might still be doing this (very human) behavior
What does this mean for business?
I don't think anyone would level a blanket argument against intentionally acting to impress. With the right charisma and rehearsal, one can powerfully convey very specific images of their business or person to contacts, audiences, or organizations. At the event that we attended this past weekend, there was plenty of utility in flaunting the impressive qualities of ourselves and our business.
I did, however, catch myself reveling in how much my scattershot of random computer science skills impress my business partners. I paused for a second and reinforced an important idea: I'm here to produce, not impress. You see, if there wasn't already a mutual respect for our skills and experiences, we wouldn't have partnered in this. Flexing is wasted energy.
In another vein, this same type of vain pursuit has some rather attractive applications in managing customer relations. My basic customer service philosophy is to regularly produce the client's desired results (in our case: high-accuracy order fulfillment, incredible customer support, highly aggressive issue resolution, and responsible cost management) while periodically sprinkling in neat little "before and afters" that have been accomplished since they outsourced to us.
Don't waste your energy on useless impressions. I'm laughing now because that also applies to ad spending, another thing that is rarely done responsibly.