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When you open a business, you take the stage.
Most of your best customers will come from personal meetings. And most of those meetings will happen when you’re not prepared: in the coffee shop, in local groups, or at your kid’s soccer game.
But even when you’re not face-to-face with someone, your actions still reflect on your business. And that means you’re always on. Most of us live in communities with only one degree of separation–if I don’t know you, I know someone who does–and your reputation travels faster than any Google AdWord ever could.
And perception is reality: no one will take the time to get to know “the real you”. They don’t have time.
There are three types of reputation:
Bad – people actively warn others away from you
Indifferent – “I never hear anything about them”
Good – people actively describe you as “amazing” or “the best guy I know.”
It’s not enough to just avoid a bad reputation, but let’s start there:
Don’t cut people off in traffic.
Don’t rant about “bad clients” on Facebook, even if you think other gym owners will pat you on the back.
Dress like someone you’d trust with your wallet.
To cultivate a good reputation:
Over tip everywhere you go.
Smile at everyone.
Make eye contact.
Say “Good morning!”
Seek ways to connect the people you meet.
Ask yourself, “How can I make this person’s day?”
Finally, cultivate an “offstage” area. Even at Disney, where the “stage” is hectares of sun-scorched asphalt and every employee is part of the production crew, there are tunnels where Goofy can de-Goof. He can take off his giant head, say a few swears, kick the wall if he has to. Your “offstage” might be your home, or maybe you let it all loose at the gym (not your own.) I think every entrepreneur needs a release valve. Mine’s on my bike, where no one can see me scowl.
Remember: people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou said that.
Making people feel good is a practice. It doesn’t come naturally to most of us. But practicing makes US feel good, too. And as a bonus, if you’re an entrepreneur, you really don’t have any choice, because the camera is ALWAYS on you.