Why you need to “GIVE A DAMN.”

What’s the key element of entrepreneurial success? In three words, “GIVE A DAMN.”

Of course, these three words are not traditional, but when you think about it, they certainly drive home a point. Besides, when have entrepreneurs been considered traditional?  We step out of the box all the time, but sometimes we have the tendency to lose the human perspective that determines success. Our success is driven by our unique contributions, those things we do that set us apart from others.

I’m not just talking about a quality product or service; I’m speaking of the value you add emotionally, separated from your product or service. Ideally, this value should govern both our personal and professional life spheres.

So how can we do this? What can we do to be remembered well by colleagues, customers, family and friends? It’s fairly simple – give a damn. It’s all about attitude, and it works. I’ve strived to have this perspective for as long as I can remember, but only recently have I verbalized it in this way. This mindset has helped me take a non-profit, technology organization from virtual bankruptcy to success. And as I act as a consultant for other organizations, I use this phrase to drive the point that apathy is not only dangerous; it’s a one-way ticket to obsolescence and business failure.

Some people laugh at me for creating such a phrase, as they think it to be a bit offensive. But I always try to overcome this reaction by sharing ideas through which businesses can ensure their success, most of which seem like common sense; however, they’re often forgotten due to expediency and the bottom-line. Here are a few of them:

  • The Customer is Always Right – Even though this isn’t always the situation, companies should always handle every customer complaint by ensuring they are satisfied and taken care of.
  • Create Positive Moments of Truth – Everything you do creates a moment of truth, and you can make it either positive or negative.  Whenever someone asks me how I am, I always respond with the boisterous, “TERRIFIC!” Of course, I am not always terrific, but this response lightens the attitudes of those around me.  One of my employees asked one day, “How can you always be so terrific?” I told her, “It’s because some days are just more terrific than others.”
  • Take Responsibility – If you make a mistake, own it and don’t blame any circumstance that might have caused it; make it right and move on.  Once, I had a client communicate to me a specific product design. However, I interpreted her wishes incorrectly, even though I thought I’d done exactly as she asked. I did not blame her for the mix-up. Instead, I took responsibility and made it right, even though our company lost money on the transaction.
  • Always Do the Right Thing – On the whole, I think people generally always know what is right and what is wrong. The reason people do wrong things is because they can justify the situation in their mind as being “right.” It’s not worth cutting corners. Why? Because at the end of the day, the truth always comes out.
  • Be Thankful – “Please” and “thank you” still go a long way in the professional world. Go the extra mile to thank your referral partners, customers and employees because they all want to be appreciated. Frankly, who doesn’t? Periodically, I’ll even send a simple email to a client just to say thanks. People tend to respond in a very positive way since this is no longer common-place, and sometimes it has led to even more business.
  • Don’t Expect Anything in Return – Too many times people do something generous, expecting something in return. However, that “return” might not come in a form you expect. It might not even be tangible; however, trust that your kindness will be repaid, in one form or another.

“Giving a damn” will provide us that one additional push toward success. I’m not arguing that we should forget about business management practices that have led us to success. Rather, utilize the human aspect of your business (you!) to increase your chances for success.

Mark Lewis is an EO Louisiana member and the current Managing Director of Simmons & White, a professional management consulting firm. Mark worked for IBM for 13 years before starting an ISP in New Orleans in 1994. He has helped Louisiana rise as a technology state by serving as Executive Director of the Louisiana Technology Council for 10 years.

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