Lately, when confronted with a business issue, I find myself asking one question:
“What would Don do?”
Don of course, is Don Draper. The erstwhile creative director for Sterling Cooper in the fictional world of Mad Men, Draper, albeit a personal mess, is also something of a business genius. Now, maybe I ask this question because like many people, I am going through Mad Men withdrawals right about now, but I don’t think so.
I think Don has something to teach us about business.
Here then, are the Top 5 Don Draper Lessons:
1. When in doubt, schmooze: Don is a world-class schmoozer, and in this day and age of e-communication, when you can work with someone for years and never actually meet them in person, the art of the schmooze is something to remember.
What is schmoozing, really? It’s about creating rapport. Sometimes, you need to put down the ‘ol keyboard, back away, and pick up the phone. Or make a lunch date. Or meet for drinks after work. Or hop on a plane and meet in person.
The point is, as Don knows, there are times in business when it is not about the money, it’s about the ego. It’s about feelings. It’s about being appreciated. And when those are the issues, no amount of tweets or e-mails will fix the problem, but a good face-to-face meeting and a hearty laugh just might.
2. Creativity can trump efficiency. In the world of Sterling Cooper (before Don and gang flew the coop), there were no shortage of capable people, but Don Draper was the star. Why? Because he was more creative than the rest, and creativity can yield unexpected results.
Is the same not true in your business? One mistake small business owners make too often is that they get comfortable – they know what they know and they do what they do and they get predictable results.
That is all well and good, but if you want to take it to the next level, you simply have to mix it up. You need to try
· A new marketing campaign, or
· A new product, or
· A new strategy
Whatever the case, don’t lose sight of the fact that it is the creative idea, the unexpected idea, the twist, that can often yield the best results.
3. Risks bring rewards: Don Draper is not a wild risk taker (in his professional life at least) but he is a risk taker. Don seems to live the motto “no risk, no reward.” So whether it is adapting to the new world of television ads or chucking the corner office to start his own agency with Sterling and Cooper, Don knows that risk is part of the game.
And again, it is the smart, prudent risk that can make the difference. Swinging for the fences when you have a mature company is not a great idea; there is too much to lose. But a savvy risk is the sort of play that can create significant results.
4. Reward loyalty: Great business people know that loyal soldiers are not yes men, rather, they tend to be honest, hard-working, ambitious, truth telling diligent employees. Those are qualities that should not be taken for granted. If you have a great employee, a Peggy Olson as it were, take care of them and they will take care of you.
5. Have fun: Whatever else you want to say about Don Draper, there is no doubt he enjoys his work. That’s a good reminder. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day machinations of your business – in e-mail and phone calls and bills and presentations – that you can forget why you started down this entrepreneurial path in the first place. One reason is that it is fun.
So don’t forget to enjoy the ride.
That’s what Don would do.