What trait separates successful entrepreneurs from those that fade into the sunset?
Why credibility? Think about the startup entrepreneur who is trying to convince a team of stakeholders and investors to pursue a new and innovative idea without a proven concept. Or the entrepreneur who runs into production problems and needs his business partners to extend credit for a few days, weeks or even months.
Sure, there are many great characteristics that can be attributed to successfully maneuvering these situations, but having the reputation as an entrepreneur who gets things done, stays true to his or her word, and has a history of successes creates credibility “currency” that can be cashed in instantly.
Without a doubt, establishing credibility cannot be done overnight, but entrepreneurs can engage in strategies along the way that will help build credibility more effectively.
1. Be sensitive
Have and demonstrate empathy for the people on your team and your customers. This goes beyond being politically correct in your business, but rather fully understand the backgrounds, desires and needs of all your stakeholders.
For instance, if you are a bootstrapped startup, emphasizing to your team the importance of cutting expenses and working more hours and for less than market rate will seem completely out of touch if you are spending elaborately or showing up to the office in your new BMW.
2. Be honest
Without a doubt, one thing that will kill credibility instantly is dishonesty. Lying will certainly crush your efforts, but so will unnecessarily embellishing or providing information or feedback out of context, selectively or in a manipulative way.
Stakeholders want transparency most from entrepreneurs, so just be straightforward about the business and your goals.
3. Be objective
Unless you are building your brand on a platform of being subjective, it is best to take objective stances on business matters and not get caught up in preaching. It is especially important to eliminate topics or subjects of discussion that do not pertain to the business and not directly related to meeting your goals.
Your priority is to focus your energy and resources on only those tasks and assets that help you meet your goals.
4. Be sincere
Optimism is an endearing trait of an entrepreneur, but not when it crosses the line to overzealous embellishment. When things are going well, highlight achievements and allow the team to revel in their accomplishments, but don’t go overboard with praise and recognition.
Avoid presenting yourself in a fake tone, and just be yourself. All your stakeholders will appreciate this.
5. Be knowledgeable
Having the skills necessary to accomplish your goals will instill confidence and put your stakeholders at ease. Understand, however, that knowledge does not necessarily translate to leadership, and in fact some individuals who focus only on specific areas of knowledge fail to see the importance of other disciplines and skills necessary to lead teams.
Find a balance between the pursuit of knowledge and skills necessary to lead your team.
6. Promote achievements
Now is not the time to be bashful. First, learn to recognize achievements in your business and in your career. Even small achievements can be recognized if they can be directly related to building your credibility. Next, learn to put your achievements front and center for all to see. Share them with stakeholders, list them on your website, and promote them on your LinkedIn profile.
Be proud of your achievements, and allow them to speak to your credibility.
7. Ask for endorsements
First, recognize that everyone you meet in your career, regardless of how small or insignificant a role they might play, is someone who can add value to your credibility. Be unabashed about asking for endorsements and testimonials from these individuals, especially if your role in the relationship added value and had a positive impact.
The more endorsements and testimonials you have from other successful professionals, the better it speaks to your own credibility.
8. Find your confidence
If you are early in your career, you probably lack the achievements, endorsements and experience necessary to build credibility now. Even without these, confidence is a trait that, when properly mastered, can speak volumes about you without ever saying a word.
If you are endeavoring to be an entrepreneur, you already have credibility above the millions of individuals who lack the confidence to even try. Be proud of that.
All of these tips are great for building your credibility, but remember that the process can take years of hard work and diligent execution. More important, know that an ill-advised choice or avoidable mistake can wreck all the work you accomplished in a matter of minutes. Take as much care to protect your credibility as you do establishing it.
What other tips do you have for entrepreneurs trying to establish credibility? Please share your thoughts with others in the comments section below.