Help People With Street Smarts

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“If you were to go around asking people what would make them happier, you’d get answers like ‘A new car. A bigger house. A raise in pay. Winning the lottery.’ Very few would say, ‘A chance to help people.’ And yet that is what brings about the most happiness of all.”

I wish I would have said that, but the late comedian George Burns did. Still, that’s how I’ve felt all my life.  And I am a very happy guy.

I love sharing what I have learned over my lifetime of business and community involvement.  That has been my motivation for writing what turned out to be seven “New York Times” bestselling self-help business books, speaking to audiences on six continents and writing this nationally syndicated column for the last 24 years.

Over the years, our sales force at MackayMitchell Envelope Company has questioned me about sharing my secrets, be it the Mackay 66 Customer Profile, sales techniques or networking secrets. My response is simple. I’d rather share, especially since only a small percentage of people take action and use my street smarts learned from many years of business. I’m even willing to let the competition in on a few of my techniques. Many have thanked me for it.

Much of what I have to offer is not the kind of information that business schools teach.  I call them “street smarts,” and I’ve shared many in past columns.  Here are a few more ideas to consider:

Idea #1:  When you are calling someone who has an assistant, take the time to talk to that person and get to know them. If a spouse answers at home, extend the same courtesy to show them they are important to you as well. And if you must make a business call to the home, be sure to ask if it’s a convenient time. Home time is sacred, so limit those calls to emergencies unless it’s prearranged.

Next idea:  Stay in the moment. This is a lesson I learned firsthand from Goldie Hawn, who also wrote about it in her book “10 Mindful Minutes.” She says it’s important “to learn how to concentrate, so that we’ll become aware of when we’ve lost focus and be able to maintain our attention for longer periods of time.” That is all-star advice for our busy lives full of distractions.

Next idea:  The single most powerful tool for winning a negotiation is the ability to get up from the table and walk away WITHOUT a deal. Deals seldom get worse when you walk away … but they often get a lot better.

Years ago I was honored with being the leader of a trade delegation to China. I had been warned by a grizzly old seasoned veteran who had traveled to China 50 times and had done lots of negotiations with them. He warned me that the Chinese would be tough negotiators and that I needed to insist that they honor contracts.

After five days of our tour, his warning came true. They exorbitantly charged us for travel and hotel … much more than the contract allowed. I immediately called a summit meeting with the two top Chinese officials traveling with us. I stated my case, but they held firm. I immediately got up, shook their hands and said we would be going back to the States in the morning.

After dinner that evening, I returned to my hotel room to find a note that they had changed their minds and would honor the terms of our contract.

Next idea:  Knowledge is power. It’s not just what you know, but when you know it.

Next idea:  If you ever lend money to a friend, never, never do it without a certified statement from their accountant and possibly putting it in their will. I’m not talking about a few bucks, of course, but a significant loan.Then repayment is understood and there will be no surprises. It’s a business deal, after all, and it can save a friendship. 

Last idea:  Every person you sit next to at an event or on a plane, the person on your left or right … introduce yourself. Do not judge a book by its cover. To many people under the age of 35, I am an old geezer, so I often make the first contact to put them at ease. It’s surprising how much you have in common with people you thought were strangers.

Mackay’s Moral:  When you help others, you are also helping yourself.


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