Image credit: The Devil Wears Prada
‘If you just want to make money, go buy property: if you want a happy life in business, make relationships.’
Simon Brown, Senior lecturer at Harvard Business School
I’ve been in business for 9 years now, and when I started I had the impression that it was going to be about driving deals, ‘leveraging best practice’, ‘establishing core competencies’ and ‘thinking outside the box’.
Serious, business- like activities that would carry me through the grown-up world of business as I strode about in my padded-shoulder suit and fierce red lipstick. A bit like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.
Then I went to visit the first wallpaper printing company I ever used.
I was met at a business unit on an industrial estate by a very tall man in inky overalls. He introduced me to his incongruously glamourous and elegant wife who whipped out a picnic table and threw open the huge industrial doors onto the glorious sunny day.
The three of us settled down amid the printing machines and scoffed Cromer crab and strong tea while we discussed the best beaches in Norfolk, printing processes, our favourite stand-up comedians, costs, and how to extract the most meat from a crab claw!
I went away understanding that kindness, humour and connection were easily as important to me in ‘doing business’ as state of the art on-line ordering or an integrated supply chain.
These are people I speak to on a daily basis, people I sometimes have to beg to work on a Saturday to fulfill an order for me, who trust me to cough up what I owe them even if I have a temporary cash-flow problem.
It now puzzles me how people can so firmly separate their personal and working lives.
Most us spend more time at work than we do anywhere else so why wouldn’t we want to be with people we like if we can?
Of course there is the bottom line to consider and we don’t want to sacrifice our living to flaky or unreliable people just because they’re sweet, but isn’t that the same as in life?!