Interior designer and entrepreneur Nate Berkus knows that running a successful business starts with strong human relationships. Berkus is a celebrated design expert, as well as a bestselling author with a show on HGTV, and more.
In a recent Office Hours episode, Berkus spoke with author and entrepreneur Suneel Gupta about prioritizing honesty and relationships in order to win – both personally and professionally. It’s something that’s helped him greatly during 26 years in the business.
“It propels you forward when you're looking at every situation as, ‘How can I build this relationship? How can I build this partnership in a meaningful, long-lasting way? How can I put this lens of genuine authenticity on everything that I'm trying to do?’” Berkus said. “People sense that.”
His mindful spirit plays into his design approach too.
“A home should be thoughtful. A space should be thoughtful,” Berkus said. “The way that you do that is that you collect and you assemble things over time, whether someone's helping you with that or you're doing it on your own.”
Read on for more about how Berkus builds his team, strengthens relationships, and prioritizes downtime so he can show up fully as his best self.
1. Root Yourself in Real Relationships
If you’re starting a business relationship, do you want to be yourself? Consider what kind of relationship you want, Berkus advised, because it’s likely you want it to be long-term.
"I’m a huge fan of Brene Brown who talks about how vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity,” Berkus said. “When people are vulnerable with each other, it allows them to be human and real. That goes a long way in a professional setting.”
Berkus likes getting to know the people he works with: for example, do they have kids, where are they from, and has he ever visited their hometown?
“By crafting and forging a relationship that transcends the business relationship, those are the things that connect us as humans. It does make everything more fun, and it does solidify business relationships,” he said.
2. Admit You’re Imperfect and Ask for Help
“When you walk into a room and you just tell the truth – whether it’s you’re nervous, you’ve never done this before, or you’re not good at this but you’re willing to learn – everyone has felt the same exact way,” he said.
For example, his first major partnership was a product line for a major retailer. Berkus admitted he didn’t know a lot about the tines on a fork or the dimensions of sheets. Of course, he wasn’t on his own and didn’t have to know every detail.
“That enticed them to help me, and it allowed me to become even more vulnerable,” he said.
At the same time, not all projects or partnerships are the right fit, and it’s important to accept when things don’t go your way. That’s a natural part of being in any business, he noted.
“You’re never going to win everything. The older I’ve gotten, the happier I am when something doesn’t work out. I know and believe that I was dodging a bullet or that was not meant to be.”
3. Prioritize Rest Every Day
Building a business doesn’t mean always being busy: Berkus knows the importance of taking a break in order to give his best.
“The moments as a parent, businessperson, or spouse when I am frazzled and not giving my best, I step away for 15 minutes and come back restored.”
Waiting for a “grand vacation” rarely works out, he noted. There’s stress associated with travel, even though it’s amazing.
“What can you do for yourself in your day-to-day life that makes a difference?” he asked.
Taking multiple breaks for actual rest is ideal to sustain happier, productive teams, according to Berkus.
When you take your time to be thoughtful about your relationships – including your relationship with yourself – you become a stronger leader and person. By being honest and open, plus prioritizing rest, you build a better road to connect more easily and work together more seamlessly with people.
This interview is part of Office Hours, a series that connects you with entrepreneurs and experts and tips for running and growing a business right now. Find other can’t-miss conversations here.