Running a business is like being on the dating scene... forever. Instead of looking for love, you're working for money and partnerships. Once you're past the stage of just looking for the next buck, you want to develop long-lasting and rewarding relationships. So if you want to learn about business, put down The Tipping Point and Delivering Happiness and pick up books like The Game and The Tao of Dating.
I scanned a variety of dating and relationship books -- from the pick-up artist types to the score-a-husband variety, and a few things in between -- and found business lessons. Here are my top five:
1. Be authentic. If you sound like your spouting a line, it doesn't matter how good that line is. A lot of sales and marketing books advise you to do things that sound great in theory but come off as insincere or gimmicky to your clients (many of whom might have read that same book). The Tao of Dating is about "embracing your inner goddess" and being your "authentic self." While you probably don't think of your business as a goddess, the message is the same: Know what your business offers and what it doesn't, then communicate that vision. If you're faking it, it's not going to last and your clients aren't going to respect you.
2. Understand your potential partner. Figure out what your "limiting assumptions" about clients are and replace them with facts. Are you going around thinking that you'll never land that account with Big Impressive Company 'X' because you didn't go to the right school or you don't have a high-profile campaign in your portfolio? Do you assume that stuffy-looking executive only likes old-fashioned techniques and would never go for your digital service plan? Sometimes common knowledge is just common and isn't in fact knowledge. Test your assumptions and get to know what your clients really want.
3. Confidence is sexy. If you're not sure you'll be able to satisfy your client, they'll see that and figure there's no reason to hire you. Books like The Game and other pickup-artist style dating books essentially teach insecure people to appear confident. Take it one step further and actually be confident. Fake confidence might be able to score a few dates, but in business you're looking for a long-term relationship. You have something good to offer -- act like it. Remind yourself of the reasons a client should choose your company over another. People are often so afraid of appearing arrogant that they act unsure of themselves and their company. Arrogance is having an exaggerated sense of your own worth. Confidence is being certain about the truth.
4. Keep that spark alive. Once you've landed that long-term client, don't forget to wow them after the honeymoon is over. Ditching you is much easier and quicker than getting a divorce (it could be as simple as not calling you back... ever). Don't forget about what you did to win their business, and keep doing it. Check in regularly to make sure they're still happy. Do whatever the business equivalent of fancy lingerie and spontaneous weekend trips is.
5. Don't force it. Your mom was right when she said there are plenty of fish in the sea. Some partnerships just aren't going to work. You can make yourself miserable trying to please people who are never going to be pleased. You can make a client miserable by wasting their time trying to give them something you're not capable of giving them. Work on your relationship, and compromise when you can. But remember: Sometimes He's Just Not That Into You. Some clients are toxic. And sometimes you're both perfectly wonderful and just need to work with someone more compatible.
Small business is about forming (and maintaining) relationships. Don't forget that these are people you're connecting with, not dollar signs. How do you woo (and keep) your business partners?