Sean Johnson

5 things your dad can teach you about business

The new rules of business may be real, but they haven’t replaced the old rules entirely. Here are 5 easy ways to take your career to the next level by learning from your elders.

Reading through old notebooks this weekend, I stumbled on some notes from my old mentor. Notes about how to do business – how to carry oneself, how to set priorities, etc.

I roll in young, tech-savvy circles, and I’ve noticed that a lot of those things my mentor told me about business aren’t present in folks my age (myself included). In the hurry to put everything online, I worry that we’ve abandoned some of the old-school ways of doing business in the interest of progress.

Below are some of the things my mentor told me – most of them might sound obvious at first, but I’d challenge you to seriously consider whether you do these things consistently.

Show up on time

A lot of folks my age schedule meetings or appointments, only to show up late (or not at all, leaving a voicemail at the last second.) Respect other people’s time and attention by showing up when you say you will.

Do what you say you’ll do

It’s shocking how often people make commitments lightly, without considering their other demands (I’d definitely put myself in this category unfortunately.)

Don’t skip out on commitments you’ve made, don’t leave people in a jam, don’t come up with excuses for why you didn’t do something. Just do it, or don’t commit in the first place.

Work hard

A lot of folks my age work hard, as long as it’s something they think is “fun.” But the second their interest wanes, they decide to procrastinate, or try to get out of doing what they promised they’d do. And in the interest of “Four Hour Work Weeking” everything, they’ve tried to come up with clever ways of getting out of doing stuff.

We’re created to work. The natural state of man is to build, create, organize, do. When it’s time to rest, by all means rest. But when you’re supposed to be working, work as hard as you can.

Say please and thank you

One of my big problems with traditional networking has always been the ungratefulness of it all. People ask for something immediately, often rudely, and very often without having a genuine relationship in place first. And rarely, if ever, do you receive a thank you.

In the history of my company (to my knowledge, but I know most of what happens), there have been exactly two people who’ve sent a hand-written thank you card after a job interview. Both of them got the job. One of them became the Creative Director a year later :)

Saying please and thank you pay tremendous dividends in your professional career.

Dress the part

I get a hard time when I go into the office these days, because I tend to try and dress it up a bit. Part of that might be because I work from home most of the time and wear sweatpants and my “John Tesh rules” headband.

But part of it is because dressing up makes people think of you differently. It demonstrates that you respect them, that their opinion is important to you, that you took the time to actually get out an iron and clean your slobby self up before meeting with them.

It may sound superficial, but people really do treat you differently when you dress like someone who belongs at the conference table vs. the poker table.

How many of these things do you do (honestly?) What areas might it make sense to work on? What other rules from the old school do you think would be helpful to remember?

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