The importance of maintaining our good name and reputation
A little while ago, I met one of the founders of a well-known auto club. In Israel – where racing is not a sport, but an illegal activity, being a Corvette owner and a big sports cars buff in general - I was very curious to meet others of my own kind.
After a short but nice conversation over the phone, I was invited to their weekly meeting spot.
After seeing some of the most amazing vintage cars I ever came across, I was invited to meet some of the club members at the nearest coffee shop.
After introducing myself, and the car I own, I mentioned that “due to some personal circumstances, I was thinking of selling my car but not sure yet..”
So, after a few long but interesting meeting with everyone, I drove back home with my friend and a big fat smile on my face.
Great gathering that ended up successfully, right? Well..not so much.
A few days later, I called the guy who invited me to the meeting in the first place only to discover that some of the members were disappointed in me.
As a pretty judgmental person, I decided to ask for the reason and discovered that the reason was because they saw that I put my car for sale at a post which was uploaded a few weeks before the meeting.
What was innocent to me - I just thought I was going to see the price people offer me for my car (a Corvette is not an official car to be sold in Israel so it doesn’t have a price in the Israeli BlueBook) eventually took a wrong turn for others and gave some the impression that I wasn’t being completely honest with them (after all, at the I didn’t realize I have to tell every single detail to each and everyone of them)
So, after a pretty long phone conversation where I explained myself, all issues were cleared. But then it hit me, how sometimes it is easy to forget how we can easily destroy our reputation (sometimes without even knowing about it) especially for a small place like Israel and with the advance of the social media today it can be destroyed rapidly for everyone and everywhere!
We live in a small world, where meeting new people became very accessible and easy – and our first impression is critical, a new door can be closed for you at the same speed it can be opened.
Think of someone you meet though a colleague, and after a few questions about this person, you realize that some people say…well..not the best things about him. Maybe you won’t disqualify this person for the get-go, but you’ll definitely keep a small “red alert” inside your mind on this person- a red alert that is going to be pretty hard to remove once it is there.
In today’s business world, where the most effective marketing is social marketing – answer me this: “how ‘neutral’ will you be after you’ll hear from a friend that he had a bad experience buying from ABC Company?”
As a business owner - I like to see the amount of effort you’ll spend trying to explain the potential customer why you friend was disappointed but “in your case things will be different”. So you what you do need to realize is that your personal reputation is no different than any other business or product you see on the shelves, except the fact that it is more important!
So the same way a business owner stares (hopefully) at his products and thinks to himself: “how does my customer see this item / how should see this in his own eyes?” you should do the same for yourself!
I mean, think about it – we all come with our own unique external packaging (the way we dress, the way we talk, how polite we are to others etc..) and internal packaging (after all we all have something interesting to offer and some knowledge to share) but, even in the prettiest, most luxuries showroom in the world – if a person thinks something negative about us – we have a problem!
Remember, not everyone has a second chance to make amends for the first negative impression they have on us – and is doesn’t even have to be from someone you know – technology today allows every person with a computer, a link to the internet and 5 minutes to spare to gather a lot of information about you – some information you had no idea on to begin with. A fact that doesn’t necessary goes against you but sometimes it can do some good – recently, a friend of mine was looking to rent an apartment in New-York. Imagine her surprise when she discovered how much information the guy who wanted to rent her the apartment knew about her. This alone is what made the deal between them a lot smoother and faster and saved them both a great deal of time.
I, myself was personally “saved” from taking a very bad business decision that was eventually avoided only for this tip only – a former business colleague of mine introduced me to a “business entrepreneur” who seemed to me like a very genuine person. After a quick search on the internet I discovered that in the past (or maybe present) he was doing business with a person who was pretty known for his criminal record. Another thing that I noticed was that he ended up in court after being indicted several times. Those two small pieces of information are what helped me to think more than twice before even giving him a cent and saved me from investing a big influx of money in his venture, not to mention the great amount of time I saved.
Appearing badly on the internet doesn’t automatically mean that we see a clear “deal breaker”. Richard Branson, the legendary entrepreneur who leads his “Virgin” brands, and one of my personal business guru, once made an almost fatal mistake in his first years of business after trying to avoid customs in Europe while trying to transfer music records without paying tax.
In his own book he say so himself that he knew it wasn’t legal, but he only thought of bending the rules a little. Think of the amount of damage this one mistake could have done to Mr. Branson’s business future if it was made today in the social media era.
So, in our times, where almost everyone has the ability to communicate and fast, we must maintain our most important brand – the one that will follow us for the rest of our lives, our very own name.
So, how can I try to avoid the embarrassment on our own reputation?
Here are the 5 golden rules:
Google, Google and Google- Before even thinking of meeting other- when was the last time you googled your own name in order to see what’s out there? (Try typing your name with and without quotes- sometimes the results are a bit different but with today’s advancements it’s not a big must). You can be surprised sometimes by what you’ll discover appearing out there.
“So, how do I look?” – Sad, but true- sometimes we build our opinions on others according to what he or she wears. This fact alone could trick you when trying to engage with someone in business and life in general. So stop for a few seconds – stare and the mirror and try asking yourself “what do you see?” are you overdressed?Too much “bling”? too exposed? How’s your hair? Got something between your teeth? How’s your breath? ….you get the point. And remember this: always fix yourself up where no one sees you (parking lot, bathroom etc..) The key point is that after the first encounter with someone, the last memory you’ll want to keep in his mind should never be because of what you were wearing, but for what you were saying.
“Great weather we’re having…” So, after checking our external appearance, maybe it is time to check ourselves on the issue with whom we want to discuss.. the last thing we want, is to come to a gathering or a meeting without knowing what is it that we actually want to get our of the other person.. What do we have to offer? A good chit-chat is always good but you don’t want to overstretch it too long because the other person might see you just as a nice guy at best, or as an annoying person at worst. Ask yourself: how do I want this meeting to end? After all, the last thing we want to say on our way back home is “nooo, that’s what I should have said!” this line better left funny only if you’re watching Seinfeld reruns..
“Let’s talk humor” – Humor is very important! And sometimes underestimated. It has a huge affect on others, sometimes even draws people to you like a magnet. So, as funny as this might be, just make yourself a list of funny jokes, responses, ice breaking lines, and funny comments (also good in order to avoid certain issues at hand). Many advantages to quick humor responses: It gives the affect that you have a gift for having quick brilliant responses, makes you seem more interesting and witty. Just make sure you don’t say anything too offensive or personal.. in general try to avoid “extreme” subjects, keep your generalize opinion and racial, chauvinist jokes to yourself. Maybe you think they are funny among your friends, but with strangers – it could be fatal to your name! Ohh..one last thing – the younger you are the more serious you should be. If you’re young and like being funny remember that people tend to see you sometimes more as a “clown” than anything else, while the older you get- the more respect you automatically get from otherssay the same funny jokes!
“Last night was pretty nice, right??” After the meeting, it is highly recommended that you do a follow up call to the person you’re interested in meeting. Just keep it light, it doesn’t have to be on any specific issue at hand, but more on how fun you had meeting this person again, and how you should “definitely do this again sometimes”. Why is it so important? First of all, it shows you have good manners, that you like the other person, that you might overlooked something important that was said the day before, and leaves a “good taste” to the whole meeting in general.Or, just like in my personal example- maybe you need to clear a few things that weren’t going well the day before, where in that case: “the sooner the better!”
“One can survive everything nowadays, except death, and live down anything, except a good reputation.”