Successful entrepreneurs do this first: they build strong personal character.
The first time you meet a particular person, you respond to their presence with trust. This person, you realize, seems to be trustworthy. They will do the right thing. Integrity and honesty, plus compassion and grace, live in this person. You may not know why you respond this way.
You meet someone else. Immediately repulsed, you cannot explain why.
Sometimes we can pick up on character quickly. First impressions make or break a person. Character can make or break a career or a business venture. The saying “hire for character, train for skills” exists for a reason.
Which employee provides the most value to the company, and which has the character of a person you’d keep?
One employee keeps meticulous records of financial transactions, making them essential to the accounting department. The same employee uses these skills to hide embezzlement.
Another employee occasionally makes mistakes in their record-keeping. However, you trust this person to the end of the Earth because you have seen their integrity and loyalty.
An employee makes you laugh and turns the workplace into someplace fun, but always blames others for their mistakes.
Another employee does not seem like fun, but they often take responsibility for problems, even if they did not create the issue. Then they clean up the mess.
Which employee has character?
How about you?
As you develop your business, your character shapes that business. The future of your enterprise proceeds directly from you and your character.
For example, you need to attract partners of various kinds to grow your business. You need other C-level executives to help run the day-to-day of your operation. They watch you and listen to you. They form an opinion of your character, whether consciously or not. This picture of you determines how they behave and whether they stick around.
You need investors and stockholders to grow. With a history of strong, solid character, these will more likely commit to supporting your venture. They may even seek you out if your reputation is strong enough.
An example of this happened in 2008 and 2009. The financial crisis which engulfed the country and much of the world resulted from a lack of character. Many people knew unwise decisions weakened the stability of the financial sector. They did not have the character to speak up. Banks without integrity loaned money to new homeowners they knew could never repay the debt. Aware of the problem, these banks sold the bad mortgages in batches to other institutions. Eventually, the market collapsed, taking a lot of the general economy with it. People with an already existing distrust of financial institutions now found even less reason to trust their bankers. All of this happened because of character, or the lack thereof.
Any entrepreneur wanting investors and other partners would do well to keep this in mind. Character is everything.
With your workers, too, your character sets the tone. Employees, they say, do not quit jobs. They quit managers. If your character and the character of your internal leadership leave your workers unable to trust you or your management, they will leave. Quality talent will always walk right out the door and find another job right away.
How do you display good character?
Having a high Say-Do ratio is paramount. Doing what you say you will do sets you apart from many other potential business owners.
Treat people well.
The ‘waiter test’ informs anyone paying attention, revealing much about your character. The test is simple – how does this person treat their waiter? Kindness, compassion, grace, and tipping well all speak to strong character. Rudeness, constant complaining, dismissive behavior, and miserly tipping tell a different story.
Trust your people.
Of course, the well-being of your company lies ultimately with you. However, your partners and workers need to know they are trusted.
Avoid prideful behavior.
Giving credit to another speaks volumes about your strength of character.
Speak with confidence. Act with confidence. If it seems you trust yourself, others will trust you more readily.
Character has nothing to do with what we say.
Character has nothing to do with how we feel.
Character has everything to do with what we do.
Like hitting the gym regularly, spending regular time developing your character develops inner strength, propelling your efforts vigorously towards success. As a bonus, others will notice, and as they do, your enterprise will grow.