I met the man who would become my father-in-law when I was 22 years old, freshly out of college, and still quite impressionable. He was an executive for Eastman Kodak in NYC; a seasoned businessman who’d had a lifelong career with the film giant. Years later, when I took a leap of faith and began my own business in the beauty industry, he would challenge me with a simple question: “What is success?”
I used to think “success” was a measurement of how many pay raises, promotions, degrees, and accolades I could collect. Surely, that’s a part of the definition as each of those things is a demonstration of succeeding. I now know that in order to have accomplished them was because of the relationships with the people who helped me along the way. My success in business (or any other endeavor) is because of the way I treat people. For me, it has all come down to great manners and a few other specific nuggets:
I am the company I keep. I’m constantly looking for people with the same professional interests and ethos as me. I delight in finding those whose work ethic is even higher than mine; it gives me something to rise to and inspires me. Hang out with the people you want to be like, because there’s so much to learn from their successes, experiences and trials.
The answer is always “No” if I never ask. This took many years to learn, and how I wish I would have discovered it earlier! I’m absolutely giddy about how many “Yeses” I receive, and I’ve learned not to take it personally if a “No” is handed to me. Ask for what you want, and be prepared to graciously accept whatever the answer is.
Default to the truth. No matter how difficult a situation is, telling the truth is simply the best way to go. Have you ever had to keep track of a lie? Who you told it to, what you said, to what degree you said it? It becomes a black hole. Just tell the truth, and deal with the fall out. Life is much easier and other people want to do business with you, if you have the reputation of being an honest person.
I gotta play the game. With my clients, “the game” is listening to not only what they want, but also what they don’t want. It’s having an understanding of where they are coming from. With my peers and colleagues, “the game” is networking within my industry; being involved in social media, attending events, and keeping track of milestones in others’ lives. Knowing these things, and cultivating an earnest, authentic interest in the people behind them, is a large part of my success.
Thank you, Jeb, for helping me to understand that success is the relationships.
Photos taken by: Sean Money + Elizabeth Fay