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When it comes down to it, good business is deceptively simple. While it definitely requires hard work and dedication to build something from the ground up — and sometimes people do just get lucky — all of that work will not go very far if a founder does not know how to build (and maintain) good relationships over the long term.
And what is the key to building good relationships? I would argue that empathy is one of the biggest factors at play here.
Why do I think that? Well, whether you can not only hear other people but understand them and respond accordingly will impact your project on every level. It all starts with having the emotional intelligence to know yourself and the empathy to understand others.
Creating a successful idea from the ground up
There are many reasons why startups fail. After all, it is a high-risk business. However, one big reason is that a founder leads with what they want, rather than what consumers or users need or demand.
From the very beginning, you should know who wants to use your product and why. If you can’t answer these questions in a sentence from the jump, it means one of two things:
- You need to conduct more preliminary market research.
- There is no demand for your product.
In order to know what people want, you need to be able to understand and empathize with them. What they want and need has to be important to you.
For example, maybe you launched something and it hasn’t connected with consumers how you had hoped. Being able to take in that information, accept it, listen to consumers and pivot accordingly may save your business.
A common myth is that entrepreneurship is a glamorous one-way ticket to doing whatever you want all the time. However, if you want to build a successful business from the ground up, this could not be farther from the truth.
From the very beginning, you need to solve a problem for users or customers. This means that you have to take the time to build something for them, rather than for yourself. Empathy is key to understanding what people will find valuable. Beyond that, you need to be able to take customer feedback seriously, even if you don’t agree with the feedback you receive.
This is how you build one of the most important relationships in business: the one between your business and your customers.
The importance of self-knowledge when it comes to scaling and growth
This is something that almost all founders want, but few beginners have any practical idea of how to actually accomplish it; after all, everyone wants to be the next unicorn company. Growing from a one or two-person operation to a vast team is exciting and challenging. It’s another instance where the relationships that you build, and the one that you have with yourself, will either make or break you.
As many founders begin their companies as a one-or-two person operation, they will have to make significant changes in their mindset and strategies as their companies grow.
In the beginning, it is often necessary that founders do everything themselves, and they get used to wearing every hat. This is why many fail to plan for the future, do not make their companies scalable and end up burning out early.
With a small enterprise, it is conceivable that one or two people could handle absolutely everything in the short term. However, most could not handle that for decades. As the business ages or grows, this DIY approach becomes absolutely impossible. If you have dreams of being the next unicorn, you simply cannot realize them alone.
This is where knowing your own limits as a founder is so key. Being in touch with your own needs and the reality of your situation is just as important as the ability the be in tune with your team and your customers.
Leading with empathy
Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can structure your business so you can focus on what you are good at, and leave the rest to your team. If you do not have a strong foundation as a founder, how can you build something equally as strong? How can you lead effectively?
There is a lot of pressure out there to be good at everything, know about everything and do everything yourself. If you let it get to you, this pressure will crush you. It is simply not possible for one person to achieve this. Having the emotional intelligence to know yourself and your team will transform everything. Instead of being under constant stress and reeling from the pressure to attain impossible standards, you can approach every day and decision with clarity.
From this place, you can truly build the team that you need. Working with other people does come with its complications and struggles. However, once you can understand other people, you can lead them.
Most people thrive in team environments where they feel useful, active and appreciated. However, right now, in the U.S., we are still in the midst of what has been called “The Great Resignation.” Countless Americans are leaving their jobs, many businesses are struggling to find workers and every day, more and more think pieces come out approaching this event as if it is an unsolvable mystery.
You have likely seen the headlines going around which ask questions like “Why doesn’t anyone want to work anymore?” In difficult situations, it is easy to place blame, complain or simply say that problems are impossible to solve and give up. It is hard to approach difficult situations with empathy. However, in this case, it is clear that a fundamental relationship that keeps businesses afloat has been ruptured. Asking how that can be fixed is more productive than simply throwing up our hands.
As a founder, you have to be ready to tackle complicated situations with empathy. Whether you agree with other people or not, understanding where they are coming from is key. This will shape your initial business idea, how you launch it, how you connect with customers and how you build the winning team that makes it all happen.