If you'd asked me four years ago about the most valuable thing in business, I probably would have answered, "Expertise." Now I know that it's something quite different.
Back in 2009 after a six-month stint at a marketing firm (and subsequent layoff), I was all too aware of what I didn't know. Why would someone hire me to handle their marketing? That would be like hiring Macaulay Culkin to run your life. (Okay, okay, low blow.)
Yet hire me they did. Why?
Because I asked questions and listened to the answers. My friend Rick likes to say that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
My clients could tell that I cared, and they liked that about me.
I've written in the past how likability can be a powerful brand positioning strategy. But creating a prosperous business and freedom for yourself doesn't stop there. Focusing only on likability turns business into a popularity contest. If the right people like you, then you're "in."
But what happens when you start saying no? (And you should.)
What happens when you decide to not be likable after standing downwind of bad clients? (And you should.)
What's the answer? What is the most valuable thing in business?
My adventure in business over the last four years has led me to believe the following:
- Expertise is more valuable than skills.
- Likability is more valuable than expertise.
- Focus is more valuable than likability.
- Passion is more valuable than focus.
- Focused passion is most valuable of all.
Focused passion goes by other names, such as "gumption," "finishing," and "follow-through."
Or you can simply call it "caring."
Keeping your head down and "just doing your job" isn't safe in the new economy. My last boss shed tears when he told me that he had to let me go. He said I was "indispensable."
Nothing can guarantee success, not being likable, not always saying yes, and not even being a linchpin in somebody else's business.
Creativity, innovation, sales, skills, intelligence, strategy, likability, and expertise all have their place. But my bets are on caring. That's where I pour my time and energy.
I believe that the more deeply we care about our work, the more successful we'll be. In other words, bring your heart to work.
Your heart is the most valuable thing in business.
If you can get past the cheesy sentimentality of that statement, then you'll see that it is true.