Keep your promises, tell the truth and take responsibility for your mistakes.
Yeah, I know… this sounds like the advice your parents and grandparents repeated to you as a child. Right up there with “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”, or “Wash your hands before dinner”. However, the reality is that simple wisdom like this has never been more needed in the business world.
Especially within the growing sub-culture of digital entrepreneurs who are building massive audiences with people they’ll probably never meet the majority of in ‘real life’. Never before has there been a generation so connected to others, while simultaneously being self-centered – think about it. And it’s even more important to think about it, if you’re driving change and influence.
We care about trivial things like how many strangers ‘follow’ us and ‘like’ us on social media platforms, while neglecting to be punctual and respectful towards the people we actually know – I’ve had many podcasters invite me on their shows, only to either be late for our appointment, or stand me up… becoming complete no-show’s.
It’s easy to call yourself an Entrepreneur. But can you call yourself a professional?
I believe the answer to that question will separate those that thrive, from those that struggle to get by.
In my opinion, never before has being seen as a professional been more important. Not only because of its ability to form good character, but also because it makes up the very DNA of ‘Professionalism’ – a habit which every entrepreneur has the duty to perform… especially if they wish to become, or remain influential and successful.
What is Entrepreneurial Professionalism?
Well, for starters, being a professional has nothing to do with following items:
- Having a certain level of education (like a MBA).
- Making a specific amount of money.
- Being the best in your industry.
- Being well known, or famous.
None of that is required to become a professional.
You could have a ‘fruit and veg’ stall in any Central London market and still carry yourself as a professional.
It really boils down to conducting yourself in a way that shows you respect yourself, your business and the people you interact with and serve.
That’s what separates the amateurs from the professionals.
And since this type of behavior has no prerequisites (other than committing to be professional), there’s no reason why every entrepreneur should neglect this habit.
Why Entrepreneurial Professionalism Matters in Today’s New Economy
U.S. labor data is predicting that by the year 2020, over 40% of the U.S. population will either be a full-time freelancer, or involved in some sort of freelancing to supplement their income (study by Intuit 2020 report).
This is the ‘New’ economy many authors and entrepreneurs have been speaking about for years (myself included). A time when men and women have the opportunity to take control of their destiny and build a business. But with this opportunity comes great responsibility.
For anyone with the aspiration to become their own brand and build a business based around that brand and what it stands for, they must embrace professionalism as a way of life.
Why? Because choosing otherwise will only serve to benefit your competitor who does!
It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out, or if you’ve been in business for years. Every person who wishes to be seen and respected as an influencer in their market, or niche is responsible for being professional.
With this in mind, I formally present to you, five habits you must implement in order to call yourself a professional.
#1 – Professional Entrepreneurs Keep Their Word
This is one of the biggest problems I’ve seen (and experienced) among entrepreneurs. Someone says they’ll do ‘XYZ’ task for you, or call you at a certain time, or send you a specific email, but then cancels last minute or simply flakes out, only to explain a few days later how busy they were.
But here’s the deal, being ‘busy’ is not an excuse for missing deadlines, or not delivering on promises. A professional does whatever it takes to keep their word and fulfil their promises (no matter how small they are). It’s plain common courtesy and it’s something that is slowly disappearing – we’ve got to bring it back as a focus of modern day entrepreneurship.
- You may need to pull an all-nighter to finish a project. Yes, I know sleep is important, but a professional would rather lose sleep, then have someone lose confidence in their word. It will also serve as a lesson to yourself to not take on more than you can handle. Losing sleep is not fun, and the groggy feeling you have the next day will remind you to not bite off more than you can chew.
- You shouldn’t over-promise in order to impress someone, or to make a sale. This is the fastest way to destroy your reputation.
- You need to start getting into the habit of saying ‘no’ more often. Saying ‘yes’ to everything will fill your plate and boost stress levels. Remember, when you say ‘yes’ to something, you instantly say ‘no’ to something else.
#2 – Professional Entrepreneurs Respect Their Own Time
You’ll find that some of the most successful people have more free time and grow their business faster than people who are always busy. At first glance you may think “When I become successful, I’ll have more time!” but, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, it’s the other way around… when you free up more time, you’ll become successful. And this only happens by valuing your time.
After all, time IS our most valuable commodity, as entrepreneurs, as I went into detail on in this past post.
When a professional begins valuing their time, it means they’ll begin making changes in how their manage their time, as well as making the most out of the time they have each day. For example:
- Saying ‘yes’ to only high impact activities and projects (this requires more long-term thinking).
- Preparing, or requiring an agenda for any meetings they take on.
- Charging what their time is worth – and not feeling bad about it.
- Saying goodbye to multitasking, instead focusing on building a team.
- Being super punctual for appointments.
- Identifying and distancing themselves from time vampires, such as people who want to ‘pick your brain’.
#3 – Professional Entrepreneurs Remain Cool Under Pressure
There are two things I can 100% guarantee. The first is that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. And the second is that you will face trials and setbacks in business.
J Paul Getty, one of the richest men who ever lived gave the following advice in his book “How To Be Rich”:
“The successful businessman – the true business leader – is the individual who develops the ability to retain his composure in times of stress and in the face of setbacks!”
Maintaining composure not only gives you the ability to make better decisions, but it also sets a proper example to your family, staff and anyone you do business with.
This is a habit you must begin implementing immediately. It might not come naturally to you, but I have seen great strides in people that I’ve worked with, just because they focused in on this as a habit that they were passionate about forming and developing.
#4 – Professional Entrepreneurs ‘Own’ Their Mistakes
No matter how professional you are, you will make mistakes.
I embrace screwing up! Sincerely. It’s a learning game that I have no problem playing. I chase down opportunities to learn, by making mistakes.
Some will be because of good, old-fashioned negligence, while others will be complete accidents. But either way they must be acknowledged.
Yes, it’s embarrassing to be called out on a mistake. But what’s worse is to act as if nothing happened. This doesn’t mean you can’t move on, of course you have to move on. It’s a simple, three step process and something we all need to get better at, if we want to build our brands and businesses in a highly-respected manner:
- Acknowledge the mistake.
- Apologize for making it.
- Amend it and move on.
#5 – Professional Entrepreneurs Value Their Reputation
This is the big one. The one that’ll separate the ‘men from the boys’ so to speak (and the ladies from the girls, obviously!).
Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “The way to BE nothing, is to DO nothing!”
I love that quote. It reminds me that what you DO matters. It matters the moment I do it, immediately after, and months (if not years!) later.
Yes, you can have big goals and a winner’s mindset, but unless that translates into action – it’s worthless.
A true professional understands that their reputation is far more important than their monthly profit and loss statement. Yes, we all want to grow a grow a profitable business, but not on the back of ‘dodgy’ actions.
Instead, do it right, and for the right reasons:
- Stand by your refund process (even if a request comes in on day 29 of the 30 day period).
- Put a premium on the importance of over-delivering on customer service.
- Refunding overpayments – this is a major trust builder.
- Conduct yourself appropriately at networking happy hours (many reputations have been lost because of alcohol!).
- Represent your experience (or lack of experience) correctly.
- Keep your word – no matter how small the promise.
Final Thoughts on Professionalism in Entrepreneurship
Remember what I always say…
Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not around. When you’re not at that coffee meetup, or that big conference, or on that mastermind call… how do you want your prospects, peers, friends, team members and customers to talk about you?
That’s your brand!
All of this comes back to embracing a professional mindset. It’s not that hard to simply ‘do things better’. With a little planning, execution and genuine passion to get it done the right way, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more professional entrepreneur – and the benefits WILL come your way.
What did you think of the message within the post? I’d love to know. Please tweet me, or drop me a message on Facebook. If you have entrepreneurial friends that you feel should read this, too – please share it with them. I’d greatly appreciate it!