10 Tips to Help You Launch Your Business Career
"We'll call you," said my interviewer.
They never called me.
I felt like a complete failure. I was 21 at the time. I really wanted to work for one of the top financial companies.
I didn't get the job.
Who cares? Life turned out great. But I didn't know it at the time.
Back then, I thought it was the end of the world. But it wasn't.
That wasn't the only time I got rejected for a job opportunity. I've been rejected so many times I've lost count. I think the number is over 10.
It didn't matter.
Over the next 11 years, I ended up working for companies like MTV, Cisco, VMware, Box, Optimizely and starting two of my own businesses. Things worked out.
Remember, even in the worst of times, you can bounce back.
Through it all, I've taken notes from authors and executives such as Guy Kawasaki (I literally just saw him present live in San Francisco on December 8), Tony Robbins, Seth Godin, James Altucher, Keith Ferrazzi, Jeff Bezos, Jeff Weiner, Daniel Pink, Aaron Levie, John Chambers and my coworkers that were top performers.
I put those notes into a list of 10 career tips to help you crush it in your career:
1. Test your assumptions
We just don't know.
You. Me. Everyone.
Guy Kawasaki, previously the Chief Evangelist for Apple, recently talked about how venture capital firms invest in multiple companies (for example, 20 or more) in the hopes that at least one hits it big.
It's easy to make assumptions. It's hard to predict outcomes. If predicting outcomes were easy, we'd all be millionaires by playing the stock market.
So when it comes your career, test your assumptions.
Think you'd be a great manager of people? Try stepping into that role. See if you can actually coach someone to greatness.
Think your new sales strategy would increase revenue by 200%? Roll it out and review the results.
Think you could get a promotion based on your performance this year? Ask and find out.
Stop with the "I think" and start with "Let's try."
2. Make data driven decisions
"I think we should have a red button."
"Because I think it looks better."
"But how do you know more people will actually click on it and buy more stuff?"
"I don't. It's just a gut feeling."
Have you had this conversation before? Doesn't it drive you crazy when people make decisions at work based on purely a gut feeling? Or when the decision is made because it's the highest paid person's opinion?
Stop going with your gut feeling. Instead, leverage data to arrive at the right answer.
Understand the challenge. Create a hypothesis. Run the test. Collect the data. Note the needed changes. Implement the solution. Or maybe you're better off making no changes at all.
The data will tell you.
3. Be customer centric
"But why would we do 1 click ordering?"
I don't know if someone asked that question at Amazon. But it wouldn't surprise me if someone did.
The 1 click ordering was such an awesome differentiator for Amazon. It made ordering easy. It made ordering painless. It made me want to buy a lot more stuff from them.
It made the customer experience delightful.
A lot of questions at work can be answered by the following question: What's the right thing to do for the customer?
Not every question, but most of them. Use it as a guiding principle and it'll help your career.
Still don't believe me? Okay, let me give you one more story.
My friends Nate, Chris and Wes were wondering why sweat pants haven't changed in such a long time.
I mean, what if sweat pants were actually fitted and high quality materials so that you could wear them outside without looking like you were about to take a long nap?
"That would create an awesome experience for the person wearing the pants," they thought.
So they used that as a guiding principle, created a minimum viable product and launched it on Kickstarter. Oh, did I mention that they already raised $17,787 for this project?
That's why you focus on being customer centric. #Winning
4. Be fearless
"But what if we fail?"
That was the reaction of one of my business partners I used to work with. I had pitched the idea of a lunch and learn marketing event for prospects.
"We might fail. But we won't know unless we try it."
"But this will cost us $500."
"Yes, but if we close even just one deal, we'll probably make over $20,000. Let's give it a try."
We launched the lunch and learn marketing event. We had over 10 customers attend.
Guess what happened?
We closed one deal.
5. Have a bias towards action
Simple as that.
When I started my blog, I literally called my friend to help with the design and started working on it the same day. Within 2 months I had signed up 500 subscribers already. Action drives results.
6. Ask for what you want
I was having coffee with a coworker a few years ago and we talked about our career goals.
"I'd really love to be an account manager some day," said the sales development representative.
"Have you asked your boss for a promotion?"I asked.
"No," he responded.
"Have you ever asked your boss what it would take to get a promotion?"
If you don't ask, you'll never know. Speak up.
7. Add value first
Let's dive deeper. If you're going to ask for an advancement in your career, make sure you're adding a mind blowing amount of value to the company first.
In sales? Think about all the enterprise customers you're going to bring on board.
In marketing? Think about how you'll drive exponentially more marketing qualified leads.
In engineering? Think about how you're going to help create a game changing product.
You get the point.
Find out from your boss what it would take to get a promotion and write those goals down. That way, once you hit them, you can ask for the promotion.
If there's any uncertainty on their part, you can point to the huge amount of value you've been delivering to the company. Just make sure you document this.
8. Be 100% transparent
Once, I hosted a huge marketing event. It cost us a ton of money. We were hosting 100 people after all. The hope was that we would close at least 5 deals from it.
I went onstage. I did a huge presentation. I got a lot of laughs and smiles. And then our team showed a product demo.
It was a sure bet.
Except it wasn't. We only closed 2 small deals.
We failed. So what did I do? I let my boss know about it. I told him we failed.
I also told him that the first thing that I thought about after the event was, "How can we make this better?"
I did this for one reason: Transparency builds trust.
Want to know what happened next?
My boss and I decided to do marketing event. Again. Except this time, it would be 10x better.
9. Understand that work is personal
Let's say you work 40 hours a week. This means roughly 24% of your life will be spent working.
That's a lot of time.
So why spend it being someone you're not?
Instead, let's embrace the idea that work is incredibly personal.
Bring your awesome, whole self to work every day. People appreciate authenticity. It allows them to connect with you on a different level. It builds deeper relationships. It creates trust.
At my current job, we give each other kudos when someone does a great job. And you know what? It feels awesome. It can make my day.
So remember, it's not just work. It's personal.
10. You can be a leader, with or without the title
Titles are just...titles. Don't get too caught up with the title. Focus on leading first and the title will come later on.
Lead by example.
Lead by serving others.
Lead by inspiring people to be great.
If you want to make a impact on the world, you need to lead.
So...are you ready to lead?