January 2012
What Smart Small Businesses Overlook By Scott Ginsberg

Never underestimate the power of continual application of the fundamentals. Forget the rudiments and forego the revenue.

Small business people are smart, but occasionally we forget basic elements that make us successful. And to ignore them is to ignore the potential of new business. Make sure you don’t forget these four keys:

Friendly costs nothing. My business card is a name tag. But it doesn’t say “Scott” — it says “Scott’s Friend.” I don’t give people a choice. Everybody’s my friend, whether they like it or not. Amigo del Mundo. That’s how I was raised. I want to be friends with everyone, all the time, everywhere. And I want to love everybody I meet forever and then some.

Over the years, these friend cards have created a lot of special moments. I’ll never forget one incident on the tarmac. I was waiting to board my plane when I felt someone’s eyes upon me. Glancing up at the door, I noticed the groundsman holding up his laminated security badge with one of my business cards facing outward. “Hey look everybody — I’m Scott’s Friend!” he laughed.

“Wait a minute. Where did you get that? Have we met before?” I asked.

“No, but you flew through here last week. And I think the zipper on your bag broke, because we found three hundred of your cards scattered across the runway,” he told me. I quickly learned that this groundsman made his entire staff wear my cards in their security badge holders.

He went on to explain, “Our airport just got a new general manager. His name is Scott, and he doesn’t have any friends.”

It’s not who you love — it’s whose life is better because you love them. How many friends did you make last week?

Simplicity is eloquence. It happens all the time. Name tag companies send me their fancy, cluttered badges to wear instead of my own. No thanks. Not that I don’t appreciate the gesture. In fact, I save all the name tags people send me. But my brand is a friend of simplicity.

Is yours?

Or, do you try to be too fancy, make things bigger than they need to be and create riddles that take too long for impatient customers to solve?

Simple means instantly repeatable. Simple means easy enough for a kindergartner to understand. Simple means explainable in less than ten seconds with less than ten words. Simple means eliminating the extraneous, letting the necessary speak and disengaging the inessential.

Unfortunately, simple is hard. It requires more energy, more brainpower and more courage than complexity. But simplicity, pursued relentlessly, can change the world. Is your brand a friend of it?

The problem with the Internet. When I went to my 10-year high school reunion, I had this romantic, cinematic vision that I’d walk in the door, tell everybody the story about how I made a career out of wearing a name tag and watch as they listened in disbelief. One of those how-do-you-like-me-now moments.

But it doesn’t work that way. Not anymore. Instead of asking what I’ve been up to since graduation, former classmates I hadn’t seen in a decade came up to me — didn’t even say hello — poked my chest and asked to see my name tag tattoo.

That’s the downside of the Internet: We never have to wonder about anything anymore. No finding things out on accident. No learning things through trial and error. No imagining things by sitting around and pondering. The Internet just gives you a blank box and puts the entire world behind it. And personally, I think that’s too easy. The secret is, we can never bury our sense of wonder. It’s what makes us human, helps us feel alive and enables us to connect with each other. Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge. I say imagination is more important than anything. What does your brand say?

Decide what your legend is. Whether I’m attending a conference with colleagues, practicing yoga with friends, interacting online with readers or having dinner with family, people constantly tell me stories about telling my story.

A few years ago I was on the bike at the gym. The guy next to me noticed my name tag. And after a few moments of awkward silence, he launched right into the rumor: “You know, I once heard a story about some guy who wore a name tag everyday in college. I think it was a sociological experiment or something. But they made a documentary about him. And I think he set a world record. Pretty crazy, huh?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him. The rumors were far too interesting to listen to. And I didn’t want to ruin the image he had about the story. So I just kept asking questions. “Did you ever meet him?” “What ever happened to that guy?” “Do you think he went crazy or something?”

I wonder if he knew I knew. The point is, your brand tells a story whether you like it or not. And while facts are misleading, rumors are always revealing — even if they’re wrong. If you want to make your legend worth crossing the street for, if you want people to feel proud and eager to spread your myth, you have to manage your story like an asset. Because people don’t just buy what you sell — they buy what you tell. Are you spreading positive rumors about yourself?

Scott Ginsberg

Scott Ginsberg wears a name tag 24/7, since November 2000, to encourage people to become friendlier and more approachable. He is a professional speaker and the author of The Power of Approachability. He works with people and organizations who want to become better communicators — one conversation at a time. To learn more about Scott, visit www.hellomynameisscott.com.


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