Reciprocity: it’s real, it works.

ID-10058192As a business owner, I have a constant internal debate: Profitability or service? Help people or concentrate on the bottom line? I’m certain that I’m not alone in that debate. As someone who really enjoys helping people, yet has a good business sense and the need and desire to run a successful business, it often feels like these two concepts can’t co-exist. They can.

I started North Forty Road because I love great design and its ability to teach and present information in cool ways. Eventually, I came to see my work as serving the world and helping other businesses better themselves, which I enjoy even more than the design itself. It is a service, and it is based on trust, and providing that service allows me to learn new and different things with my clients. I find that “learning together” very exciting to this day.

Recently, I got bogged down with financial goals for my firm. Last year, we set new goals that were a real stretch, and worked hard, and reached them. So, I set even higher goals for 2013, and kept those numbers at the forefront of my thinking for the last several months. Bad idea. Didn’t work! The phone stopped ringing, new clients were looking for projects that weren’t a good match, current clients stopped being responsive.

It took awhile, but I eventually realized that the problem was me, or rather my mindset. Once I shifted my focus back on helping people, everything shifted back into high gear: calls started coming in, and the money began flowing again. And the best part? I love helping! That’s not news, really – I always have. But, making the helping secondary to the financial goals is not only more fun and more meaningful, it also comes back in financial success.

So, yes: set goals, pay attention to your numbers. But, no: don’t make the numbers your priority. Love your work, love your clients, give, and help – the reward is great on so many levels!

(Photo courtesy Renjith Krishnan,

Honesty. It’s such a lonely word.

ID-100144408It’s sad to say, but true, that you can set yourself apart from your competition by simply being honest.

How often are you frustrated by feeling you’ve been “taken” by the cable company, the phone company, the car dealer, and more? Those who take the low road have made it difficult for even the most savvy to trust anyone.

As a business owner and salesperson, I find that trust takes time to build. However, it is easy to do. I take the simple route of being straightforward and honest. Not all web developers do this: It is really easy to dance around the truth when your product is complicated and similar to all that stuff under the hood of the car. You need to trust your web developer the way you trust your doctor or mechanic.

In talking with clients, there are many moments when it would be easier to gloss over things, or even outright lie. The news I deliver is not always good news, but simply keeping to the truth at all times builds the trust needed for a long-lasting business relationship. Consistency and honesty are the most important traits that have helped position me as a good business partner for many small businesses.

Read this great article on honesty and clarity – it helped me understand a little more about why honesty works, which goes hand in hand with it just being the right thing to do.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /