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12 Simple business principles for a more creative and fulfilled year ahead

12 Simple business principles for a more creative and fulfilled year ahead

These are some work-related learnings and bits of 'wisdom' which I have picked up along the way. These are based on exchanges with friends, learned while traveling, or based on day to day experiences at work. I hope they may also be of use to you.

Overview

1. Be yourself
2. Always tell the truth and be transparent
3. Act according to your priorities
4. Act sustainably
5. Be sincere, not serious
6. Build true value
7. Share everything
8. Be empathic
9. Always act in your clients' best interest
10. Only do what is important
11. Keep on moving
12. Your perspective defines your experience

1. Be yourself

This may seem straightforward, but I must admit I spent segments of my career being who I thought I should be at work, rather than just being myself. Later I came to realize how refreshing it is, when you meet people in a business context that speak, act, and present themselves as they are. It lays the foundation for a more sincere and open interaction on both a personal and business level.

Photo by Christian Lunde on Unsplash

2. Always tell the truth and be transparent

You might say: "Well that's a given." Is it? Having worked in sales for over 20 years, I have been in the situation more than once, where I could have withheld information from a client to close a large sale. A beautiful seaside villa I was showing on Mallorca springs to mind. My commission would have been 6 figures. It had humidity in the foundations and basement. I recommended the client to pass. He later stated I was the only realtor he met that didn't "only have dollar signs in his eyes." Years later he still asked me to advise him on property. Acting in this way, also means I can live with myself.

Photo of a woman's eye

Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash

3. Act according to your priorities

It is astounding how often we do not act aligned with what we hold to be true. It is easy to say: "My family/life partner is my highest priority." but then still spend too much time on our phones or at the office. Our sense of duty to our work sometimes seems to override the recognition that our loved ones need us.

As an example: Today my wonderful girlfriend had prepared breakfast. When she called me, I was on an app and I could probably have spent a few more minutes on it without a fuss. However, I choose to close my phone immediately, in line with my priorities.

Besides our significant others, how we treat ourselves, is also essential. If you can't take care of yourself, you can't take care of others. I make it a daily priority to look after my body and mind. I have found that a combination of yoga, meditation, running, a healthy diet, enough sleep is essential. Making enough time for family, friends, and personal interests, means I am also happier and able to perform better at work. This scales much better than simply adding more hours to my workday.

A playground showing a hopscotch on a playground

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

4. Be sincere, not serious

I picked this up traveling in India. Seriousness is of the mind; sincerity is of the heart. This principle states, that if we become too serious, we block our creative energy and tend to more easily get stressed, worried and rigid in our attitude. In western society, being serious is often seen as a virtue... It isn't.

Instead, I try to simply be sincere and do my best to perform my responsibilities to the best of my ability. This allows me to have a more flexible, less rigid view and also means, I can put my heart into my work.

An artisan creating something

Photo by Anna Claire Schellenberg on Unsplash

5. Act sustainably

The only way we can make a positive difference for the environment is to change our behavior. That includes business travel. I remember some years ago, I flew between 4 countries in one week and felt pretty important. I was meeting with key accounts, which is necessary from time to time. However, since then, a lot has happened with virtual conferencing technology such as Teams, Zoom, WebEx, etc.

I consider it important to meet a client face to face for the initial meeting, as this is where the foundation for our work is laid. After this, having regular communication via web-conferencing systems and phone calls is much more valuable than the 'mandatory' quarterly onsite visits. Nowadays if a F2F meeting is necessary, I generally take the train and try to cluster meetings.

Photo of german high speed train ICE 

Photo by Daniel Abadia on Unsplash

6. Build true value

Don't waste your time performing activities that create no inherent value for your clients or your company. Value in this context is based on the agile perspective of 'creating something that is inherently useful', not simply monetary value.

An approach based on thinking: "How can we enter market XYZ to also profit from new budgets becoming available next year?" is hollow and useless in its essence. Although understandable coming from our past trajectory, it is based on 'Old Business' thinking.

Moving forward as a society, our goal should be to enable each other to sustainably achieve more with less and make our lives healthier and happier. Every company has great talent and know-how. The key lies in taking the time to understand your clients' situation and seeing where your capabilities bring value to them.

The question could instead be: "How do our capabilities help our client to solve what we have discovered in talks with them and their peers?" This is a better basis for sustainable business. Building true value makes more efficient use of limited time and resources.

Photo by N. on Unsplash

7. Share everything

Don't send PDFs to colleagues, send PowerPoints. You've created a great demo movie for a new product? Place the Final Cut project on your company's cloud and inform those that can use it.

As far as possible, I always send the raw data and all relevant information, so it can be used as a jumping board by others. This will enable everyone in your organization to do more in less time, which rapidly scales if adopted by many.

I always immediately share relevant new information, for example on Teams. A short message with information that enables others, means everybody can move forward faster.

A hand handing someone a flyer saying "unity > truth?"

Photo by Robert Koorenny on Unsplash

8. Be empathic

Training our innate capability of placing ourselves in someone else's position and understanding their motivations and desires is becoming a must-have skill in the modern workplace. Empathy helps us to reach positive outcomes in everything from sales negotiations to teamwork, and makes work as a whole more enjoyable and 'real'.

"Empathy is a fundamental construct of relationship building, which itself is a key facet of effective leadership... Take the time to learn empathy, and you'll likely see a big change in your business through more trust, honesty and openness." - Forbes "Empathy Is No Longer A 'Soft' Skill For Leaders"

A door saying "us"

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

9. Always act in your clients' best interest

As knowledge workers, generally we are specialized in narrow-ish fields. This means at times we may have more knowledge on certain topics than our clients. If we are to gain the privilege of being considered a 'trusted advisor' we must, without exception, always act with our clients' best interests in mind.

Facilitating an authentic and precise decision is the only way to build lasting and valuable business relationships.

"Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters." - Albert Einstein

On a side-note: A few weeks ago, I came across a little booklet placed on the train by Amnesty International. It contains the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first Article states:

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

10. Only do what is important

I do my work with care, but the core of what I focus on is based on its potential to deliver value. As stated in the Agile Manifesto:

"Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential." - Principles behind Agile Manifesto

As an example, when creating solution concepts, I may start with a client interview or meeting, followed by a high-level whiteboard abstraction and brainstorming session with my team. The results are then transferred to PowerPoint in less than 1 hour. (The duration of the train ride from Hamburg to Berlin is an ideal deadline.) Fast is good, to distill a clear storyline and communicate efficiently.

I very rarely design graphics and charts. After the overarching topic has been laid out, I search for images that convey the message. Almost everything is already available on the internet in a form that can be used or easily adapted. (Try unsplash for free to use stock images or flickr with its search settings set to 'creative commons' and ranked by 'interesting'. Make sure to always name sources.)

Photo by Jesus Kiteque on Unsplash

11. Keep on moving

This one I picked up from a dear friend in India. Buddha used to conclude his discourses with the words "Charaiveti, Charaiveti".

"CHARAIVETI (चरैवेति) an aphorism from the Aitareya Brahmana, means “Go on”. A powerful and potent word, in true Upanishadic style it exhorts us to move on and keep going!" - Ashaperinchery Blog

We often tend to spend more time than necessary on things, because we become enamored with the task itself or because we strive for perfection. The 80-20 or Pareto principle alone should give us a clear indication that this is not an ideal basis for efficiently creating value.

In my experience, there is no better way to raise your productivity and improve the quality of your work, than by tight, self-imposed deadlines. Keep your pace and flow going. Keep on moving!

Man riding his bike at sunrise

Photo by Viktor Kern on Unsplash

12. Your perspective defines your experience

Your beliefs, how you carry yourself, and how you speak, all influence what you experience in life. As an example:

"... if you believe that you’re capable, competent, and deserving of your dream job, you’re probably more likely to notice and seek out opportunities that could help you get there. You’re also more likely to perform well in an interview." - Psychology Today

As understandable as it can be sometimes, negative expectations can easily become self-fulfilling prophecies. We open ourselves to the best possibilities by remaining optimistic and in parallel working diligently towards our goal.

I have found that gratitude and appreciation, both towards life and others, also make a substantial difference in how I feel. The more grateful I am, (also for the little things), the better I feel and as a result, so I tend to experience life more positively. Enjoy what you have and whenever you feel grateful, take a moment to express it, both internally and to others.

Man sitting below different mirrors

Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash

I hope some of these ideas may be of value to you. I would love to get your feedback. Feel free to use the comments section or write to me on LinkedIn.

Title Photo by Brooklyn Morgan on Unsplash


Erik Heirman

Erik Heirman

I believe technology should be at the service of society. I trust in agile methodology & principles, client centric innovation and design thinking.

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