The Secret Entrepreneur: You never know

Play the long game in everything you do and it often pays off in the end, says our mystery boss

One of the really exciting things about being an entrepreneur is that you never know where the next opportunity will come from. Or more accurately, who it will come from.

It’s one of the reasons (aside from just being a decent human being) for always trying to be helpful to everyone you deal with – no matter if they don’t seem to be a likely customer or a useful connection. A little respect goes a long way.

This week has been a great reminder of that to me on several occasions. At the start of the week I was chatting about this with my sales manager at an exhibition, discussing that I always take a long-term approach to return on investment from tradeshows as you simply never know where the people you meet may end up.

Often if you look at hard figures from a show a few weeks afterwards they can seem disappointing, but when you start tracing things back some months later, things can look quite different.

Not 30 minutes after our chat I got a call from one such contact that I met at an event two years previously. We’d kept in touch and I’d helped him out with a few things but never expected any business in return. Things had changed and that call brought me a deal worth tens of thousands of pounds.

The same goes with job applicants. I have quite a few people speculatively contact me about working at my firm, often when we haven’t any open positions. I always try to take the time to thank people for their interest, and I always keep their details on file.

Just this week I made a job offer to someone who speculatively applied three months ago and was just perfect for a position that came up on Monday.

What currently makes this top-of-mind for me though is that as I write this I’m sat in the sun, sipping a coffee on a beautiful terrace outside a small castle in Central Europe, on a completely comp’d trip to an amazing conference. All because seven years ago I met the chap who now runs the event and helped him out with a few things, with no expectation of anything back in return.

The reverse is of course equally true. I have a friend who lost a huge client because the marketing director’s replacement was someone they had snubbed years ago when they were in a much more junior position.

You simply never know.

Read previous Secret Entrepreneur columns here on Startups.co.uk.

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