You Don’t Demand Employee Trust. You Earn It.

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Corporate culture is pretty much the key to everything in the world of business. According to a series of studies reported on by Forbes, nearly 90% of people who responded said that company culture was incredibly important for their firms. In fact, 92% said that they firmly believed that improving corporate culture would enhance the value of their business, while more than half of respondents said that corporate culture influences everything from productivity to creativity to profitability, value, growth and beyond.

At the same time, only 15% said that their company’s culture was where it needed to be.

It Begins at the Top

At first glance, these numbers may appear to be somewhat at odds with one another – but they really aren’t. Corporate culture begins at the top and, if anything, that 15% statistic can be attributed to one essential little word: trust. Leaders set the tone that affects the entire organization, and if employees don’t trust their leaders, they ultimately don’t trust the direction of the business that they’re devoting so much of their lives to.

Make no mistake: trust is not something that you can demand from your employees. It’s something that you have to earn – all day, every day. It’s also something that requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

Trust is a Privilege, Not a Right

Yes, you worked incredibly hard to become the leader that you are today. You put in long hours. You worked weekends. You devoted the majority of your life to your career and a constant push to achieve bigger and better things for yourself. Now you’re in charge of the proverbial ship, and everyone should just trust that you know what you’re doing by default, right?

There’s an old rule of storytelling that says that whenever possible, “show, don’t tell.” That essentially means that instead of having a character talk about some important development in the plot, SHOW the development instead by having them do something active. It’s why in “Star Wars,” instead of just having people stand around and talk about how bad the Death Star is, we see it blow up a planet to convey the same information in a much more active way.

This is the same mentality you need to adopt if you want to start earning the trust of your employees. If you make a mistake, don’t shift the blame – accept responsibility. Don’t ask any employee to do anything that you would be unwilling to do yourself. If you want people to come in on the weekend, you should also come in on the weekend. If you need your team to work long hours, guess what – you need to work them, too.

Show You Care

Every day, look for new opportunities to show your employees that you not only value what they do but that you’re all in this together. Remember that their productivity, hard work, and excellent performance needs to benefit more than just you and your career – it needs to positively impact them, too. They’re not going to follow you into battle because you tell them to. They have to want to do so.

The only way you can get to that point is if they trust you, and the only way you can get to THAT point is if you’re someone worth trusting. This simple distinction is often what separates a good leader from a great one.


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Using Continuity to Strengthen Your Branding Efforts

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Your brand is a lot more than just a name or a logo. It’s the feeling that someone gets when they come into contact, any contact, with your organization. In fact, the thing that really increases engagement and drives loyalty isn’t your products or services (though, to be fair, they do help quite a bit) – it’s this idea of the larger brand itself.

Because someone could potentially have that experience with your brand, the idea of brand continuity could not be more important. Regardless of how someone interacts with your brand, it should all feel like it’s naturally coming from the same place at all times. To truly master the idea of using continuity to strengthen your branding efforts, there are a few key things you’ll need to keep in mind.

One Brand, One Voice – No Exceptions

Continuity means all of your marketing efforts need to feel as consistent as possible regardless of what those efforts happen to be. In the world of print marketing, this can be as simple as making sure that all of the fonts in your advertisements match (or at least reflect) the fonts on your actual products themselves. This can also encompass larger ideas, like if you revamp or redesign your company logo in one place you immediately roll it out everywhere at the same time to avoid confusion.

In a single word, your goal is “synchronicity.” Every marketing-related decision you make must serve two masters. First, it must be purpose-driven with a strategic move made with a specific payoff in mind. Secondly, you need to make sure that it is NOT a move that is ultimately at odds with the way you talk to customers, the relationship that you have with them, or the idea that they have of your brand to begin with.

A Great Persona Makes All the Difference

Brand personas are incredibly helpful in this regard because they allow you to laser-focus your messaging on a few of your “ideal” customers in a way that makes it much easier to maintain one voice. If you segment your target audience into groups that are each represented by a singular fictional persona, it makes it much easier to make consistent decisions across all of your efforts. You can both make sure that continuity is preserved for all materials targeted at those people, but you can also easily get a “bigger picture” look about how each individual effort plays off of and compliments the rest.

The impact of negative brand continuity isn’t limited to a customer getting their wire’s crossed. Eventually, this problem will create a challenge that is much harder to overcome – a total loss of brand value in general. Not only will this see fewer sales for your actual products and services, but the same will be true of any retailers that may sell your products as well. This, in turn, will create fractured relationships, which goes a long way towards putting you farther away from your goals, not closer to them.


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Send Me All the Shoes You’ve Got!

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A growing shoe company sought to stretch their global influence, sending their first salesman to Asia to set up shop. After several days, he sent this dire message: “Bring me back immediately, you’ve made a terrible mistake. People in this village never wear shoes.” Months later, an enthusiastic associate asked for the opportunity to lead an international sales effort, offering to move anywhere. He packed his things and moved to the Asian outpost. After no immediate feedback, the boss began to wonder if they’d made another costly mistake. Soon, an overseas message rang through with joy: “Send me all the shoes you’ve got. I’ve never seen so many prospects!”

They say delayed hope can make the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Wouldn’t you like to experience more of the latter? New dreams can enliven enthusiasm and bring fresh joy for the days to come. But often the drudgery of life keeps our backs bent and our steps heavy. We are slaves to the checklist, struggling to lift our eyes above the tyranny of the urgent to see strategic breaks that might be right before us. Do you notice opportunities that others don’t? Do you have a vision for something that is bigger than the status quo? Would you like to?

Opportunity Isn’t Knocking; It’s Passing

Often opportunity isn’t knocking; it is passing. Many days opportunity doesn’t come looking for us; instead, we need to aggressively seek new ideas and perspectives, banging on the door until we finally crash through. Creativity may come in bursts, but often it is something that happens through our ironclad commitment to grow and evolve. How can you grow in resourcefulness or notice opportunities you are currently overlooking?

Team perspective can motivate enormous momentum. Surround yourself with good people, especially those with gifts and experience different than yours. What may seem daunting to you may be an exhilarating challenge for others! If you work alone, consider contracting a consultant to grow your skill set. Or network with a private coach for problem-solving, brainstorming, and peer advising. Often when you are pigeon-holed in one industry, it is harder to see broad-level solutions.

Extreme Differentiation Turns Obstacles into Opportunity

In stretching perspective, don’t just think outside the box, think contrary to the box itself. This strategy, called extreme differentiation, helps you uncover opportunities hiding in plain sight as you note the current gaps in your industry and brainstorm options that are dramatically different than your competitors.  Extreme differentiation pushes you to address problems that your competitors aren’t even considering.

Commit yourself to being someone who tries to see potential in every person and every situation. When it seems you have reached a dead end, take a hope-filled breath and view it as an opportunity to build something better. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, gave this example:

Thomas Edison knew a thing or two about turning an obstacle into an opportunity. When he was in his late sixties, his huge West Orange New Jersey laboratory burnt to the ground. Rather than cursing his luck and panicking, he gathered family and friends to marvel at the fire and immediately began planning for the future. Edison started plans for a much-improved lab, seeing the potential for improvement the disaster had presented. He said: “You can always make capital out of disaster. We’ve just cleared out a bunch of old rubbish! We’ll build bigger and better on these ruins.”

Find the good in whatever situation you’re presented with and you’ll be on your way to finding those hidden opportunities.

 

 


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The No Tears Guide to Letting Someone Go

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Having to terminate an employee is never fun. Even if you’ve had to execute this task hundreds of times over the course of your career, it never gets easier. Everyone understands how devastating and humiliating it can be to lose a job and, as a leader, you must find a way to handle the dismissal in the best way possible.

Come Prepared

Nothing is worse than a manager who is wishy-washy. Go over the employee’s track record ahead of time to confirm the employee’s performance merits dismissal. Ideally, you would have met with the employee previously and given them the proper warnings and a chance to rise to your expectations (think: three-strike policy). Regardless, the employee is going to want a clear answer to why he or she is being let go, and you need to provide a compelling reason.

Before the meeting, get all your ducks in a row regarding termination policies. Be prepared to settle the questions whirling in your employee’s mind: When will he get his last paycheck? Is she entitled to a severance package? What’s the timeframe for clearing out his desk? Before you draw up a termination contract, double check policies to ensure accuracy.

Set the Scene

It should go without saying, but terminating someone in a public setting is the ultimate faux pas. You’re not making an example of someone; you’re making the rest of your team dislike you. Find a private room in the office and shut the door. Silence the phones and computers. The time of day you call the meeting doesn’t matter. Honestly, there’s no “best” time to dismiss an employee. Ideally, get it done as soon as possible since delaying the inevitable makes an already hard situation worse. Once you start the meeting, cut to the chase. Small talk isn’t going to soften the blow. Aim for a considerate tone, but avoid sounding emotional during the conversation.

The Right Way Versus the Wrong Way

There are two ways most termination conversations can go. If a manager does it the wrong way, you’re likely to have the employee react in one of two ways: tears or yelling. Take the following two scenarios:

Wrong Way

Sylvia is called into a meeting where she has to sit and wait for fifteen minutes while you finish a personal phone call. You try the direct approach and tell her she’s dismissed effective immediately. You don’t give her much feedback on her performance and direct her to HR about her final paycheck and insurance benefits. You usher her out of your office in less than ten minutes.

What went wrong here? Sylvia is likely to feel humiliated over the abrupt dismissal. She is confused over what went wrong and will have no idea how to plan out her next move.

Right Way

You have had consistent contact with Sylvia prior to the meeting about her performance. You’ve offered guidance on how to help her succeed in her role. After multiple attempts at trying to resolve the situation, you and Sylvia both realize the position and company isn’t the right fit for her. When you call her into a meeting to let her go, she’s not surprised. You give her all of the details about her termination and ask for her to sign a termination contract after she takes the time to look it over.

In this scenario, you have let Sylvia go compassionately and professionally. She can use this experience to excel in her future endeavors. Your reputation as a fair and considerate manager stays well intact.

Inform the Masses

Avoid causing a workplace-wide panic by being transparent with the rest of your staff. You don’t have to give your team all the details about the dismissal but offer reassurance that the termination wasn’t the first in a string of firings.

Firing an employee is hands down the hardest part of being in a leadership position. At the end of the day, reassure yourself that the termination is necessary to avoid ultimately hurting the company.

 


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From Survival to Full Bloom

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Eliza Blank was tired of the gloomy atmosphere in her cramped New York apartment. Eliza began dabbling with houseplants, and her passion quickly bloomed into a budding small business. In 2012, Blank launched “The Sill” to bring color and hope to stale Manhattan apartments, equipping new “parents” by transforming certified plant killers into botanical aficionados. The Sill works to match the right plant to the right space, offering hands-on coaching that helps “aspiring green thumbs (and potential customers) feel at ease.”

The Sill operates both on and offline, recently opening its second brick-and-mortar shop in New York’s Upper West Side. Last year, sales topped $2 million, and a website redesign doubled online traffic and newsletter subscriptions. But the Sill had a few obstacles along the way. In the first year, the company’s co-founder bailed as Blank hustled to handle marketing, orders, and deliveries. “It was me, a desk, and a computer – I was writing the product descriptions, potting the plants, delivering the plants, and doing everything myself . . . I (sometimes) joke that I’m the CEO, but also the janitor,” Blank says. “I’m still straddling those two roles.”

While Blank credits several factors to her success, education as a service was a key component. Since prospects were often daunted by caring for a living product, the company organized sales around blogging, coaching, and newsletters. “Not everyone who comes to the website is there to shop. We believe it serves us to serve prospective customers through helpful content,” Blank says. As clients gained confidence, sales exploded. Even if blog readers don’t come to buy, Blank believes valuable content is a catalyst, because “we are then top of mind when the time comes to purchase – and the trust is already there.”

Blogging That Brings Business to Life

Perhaps you’ve toyed with the idea of business blogging yourself, but you’ve been hesitant to try. With so much to do, why bother with something that doesn’t yield immediate, obvious benefits? Content and social media can be a cost-effective way to not only complement your print marketing but also to promote your company, grow revenue, and enhance your reputation as a trustworthy resource. Check out these tips from blog coach Gary Dek to make your business blogging easier:

  1. Research competitors’ blogs to learn what works or to strengthen your own unique voice.
  2. Identify your target demographic and blog specifically to this audience.
  3. Publish in-depth resources that answer questions, offer step-by-step guides, and solve specific problems.
  4. Promote your content through social media, direct mail, e-mail, or asking core customers to re-post.
  5. Involve everyone on your team to contribute topic ideas, design concepts, or content submissions of their own. Work to humanize the company in a way that’s enjoyable and fun!
  6. Consider using guest bloggers to put your content in front of new audiences and give you greater influence and credibility.

Drive People Online with Direct Mail Marketing

Want to drive people online to your growing content? One of the best tools to increase website traffic is direct mail. A 2015 Direct Marketing Association study revealed that 78% of people react to direct mail immediately, with 44% visiting the brand’s website and 34% searching online for additional product information. Recent research shows that very active smartphone users are reading more print materials than any other target demographic!

As you grow your online AND offline presence, we’re here to help! As your local printing connection, we’re more than just a contracted vendor; we’re an invested partner, committed to efficiency, precise brand matching, and to the customer care you deserve. Stop in and see us today!

 


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Why Developing Good Leaders is Critical to Your Business’ Success

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Regardless of the type of business you’re running or even the industry that you find yourself operating in, everyone knows that quality leadership is essential. It’s equally essential for you to realize that leadership doesn’t begin and end with whoever’s name is on the door. Experience goes a long way, but the type of raw, natural talent necessary to become a good leader isn’t something that can necessarily be taught. It’s something you’re born with.

That’s why when you do recognize that you’ve got the makings of an excellent leader working with you, it is imperative that you do whatever it takes to help cultivate and develop that talent whenever possible.

Identifying Good Leaders

First thing’s first: not everyone working for your company has the makings of a good leader, regardless of how you currently feel about them. According to one recent study, only about one out of every ten people have the talent necessary to rise to this status. That means that spotting a candidate isn’t something that is just going to happen every day.

When you do see someone with the qualities of an excellent leader, you’ll know it. They’re usually the first people to arrive and the last to leave. They’re the people who keep a consistently cool head under pressure and who naturally seem to help elevate the rest of their teams to the level where everyone involved is doing their best work. They work incredibly hard for seemingly no reward at all because they just don’t know any other way to go about their day.

When you see someone who fits that description, make a note of it. They’re probably going to be running your business one day.

The Development Process

Once you have identified one of these fabled “good leaders,” the first thing you have to do is support them in any and all ways that you can. Never be shy about feedback, even when it’s critical in nature. The chances are high that they’re the type of person who welcomes constructive criticism anyway. Don’t just tell them what they’re doing correctly; make sure they know what they can do to improve and, more importantly, how they can do it.

Next, challenge them whenever possible. Don’t throw your growing leaders into the proverbial deep end of the pool to fend for themselves, but don’t allow them to simply spin their wheels either. Challenge and adversity are two important qualities that make all of us stronger. Little by little, this person will start to grow and evolve in front of your eyes and your business will become all the better for it.

Looking Towards the Horizon

Finally, remember that good leaders are an investment in the future of your company. Good leaders don’t just help in terms of collaboration and more substantial productivity.  They’re also innovation creation engines at the same time. By taking the time to develop the good leaders in your midsts today, you’re going a long way towards guaranteeing future success for your business.


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Best Practices For Integrating Your Remote Workforce

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As technology continues to evolve, so do the lives we lead – both personally and professionally. According to one study conducted by Gallup, nearly 43% of employees in the United States spent at least some time working remotely in 2016 – a significant 4% jump from just a few years earlier in 2012. Remote work is such an attractive proposition that it has even begun to play a major role in an employee’s decision of whether to work for a particular company – something that poses a number of interesting implications for their employers.

Chief among them is the idea of what a “team” is supposed to be. Your employees are all important individually, but their contributions are supposed to add up to a larger, more critical whole. How is that possible when a large part of your workforce barely sets foot in the office, if they do so at all? In truth, integrating your remote workforce into your in-office one is a lot more straightforward than you might think; you just have to keep a few key things in mind.

Integration Begins With Leadership

The absolute best practice for integrating your remote workforce in with your “live and in-person” employees begins and ends with you: their leader. Never overlook an opportunity, no matter how small, to bring remote employees into the fold and make them feel like they’re a part of the greater good. If you start an email chain, for example, don’t just include the “in-person” employees.  Make sure that everyone who needs to know is involved, regardless of location.

Don’t hold those weekly meetings on-site and then send remote workers a summary after the fact. Embrace the benefits of teleconferencing and allow them to dial-in live and in person. If you’re hosting a company get-together or are taking employees out for a well-deserved meal, make sure that you extend the invitation to those outside the office. This is especially important if they work from home (or elsewhere) 100% of the time. These are small moves, but they’re also meaningful ones that help remind people that wherever they are, they are equally valued in your eyes.

Encouragement and Communication

Another critical step to take to integrate your remote workforce better involves slightly adjusting the way your in-person teams communicate. Make it a priority to embrace instant messaging or collaboration platforms like Slack to keep team members connected together. Not only will this make in-person employees feel a bit like they’re a part of the “remote” world, but the reverse will also be true. Your remote workers will feel more connected to your office as well.

Always remember the one factor that matters the most: encouragement. If someone does a terrific job or blows your expectations away, acknowledge them on the most prominent stage even if they work remotely. Just because someone isn’t regularly in the office or the other employees don’t see them every day doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve their fair share of recognition. Any move that you would make to reward an in-person employee should be extended to your remote workforce. Not only will this help make them feel like they’re equal contributors, but it will also go a long way towards bringing your teams together to form the cohesive whole that you need them to be.

 


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Business Cards: Why They’re Still an Important Marketing Tool in the Digital World

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With all of the talk about the importance of properly marketing your product or service, it’s important not to overlook the most valuable commodity of all: yourself. As much as that beautiful-looking flyer attracts the right type of attention for your product, a business card is designed to do the same for both your professional image and your career as a whole.

But do business cards still have a place in a digital world? In an era where finding someone is easier than ever thanks to tools like social media, do people still need to go through designing, printing, and handing out a business card? The answer is one that might surprise you.

Business Cards: By the Numbers

Just going off of statistics, it’s easy to see that the answer to the question “are business cards still an important tool in a digital world?” is a resounding YES. According to one study, there are about 10 billion(!) business cards printed in the United States each year – or roughly 27 million each day.

But diving deeper, it’s clear that business cards perform a function that goes far beyond just handing out contact information. They actually serve an important role in your business at large, too. For every 2,000 business cards that you pass out, you can expect your sales to increase by an average of 2.5%. Business cards do everything from show someone you’re serious to increase personal brand recognition and awareness.

One of the major strengths of print marketing and the use of business card is that they’re physical. They’re something tangible that people can hold in their hand and, most importantly, share with friends and other family members. In an era where people are getting bombarded by more digital messages than ever and emails can be deleted in seconds (and people can be muted on social networking sites like Twitter), never underestimate how essential this simple fact really is.

The Power of the First Impression

Just because business cards still serve a purpose does not mean that all business cards are created equally. There are a number of design tips that you can use to make the RIGHT kind of first impression the next time you hand out your card to a customer or at that next big networking event.

StatisticBrain estimates that prospective clients will hold onto a color-filled business card a full ten times longer than they will a standard white card. Color also increases the impact of engagement on a person’s ability to follow simple directions; this is an advantage too powerful to ignore.

Approximately seventy-two percent of people say that they judge the company or brand that a person works for based on the quality of their business card. Likewise, thirty-nine percent of those who responded to a survey said that they would choose NOT to do business with someone if they had a “cheap-looking” business card.

Business cards are still essential in a digital world, and that means you need to devote the time to doing them well.


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Content Marketing Is More Powerful Than Ever

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At its core, content marketing is the idea that by creating and distributing high-quality content that is relevant to your products, your services or your brand, you can more easily attract and even retain people who are interested in what you’re selling. If you sell stereo equipment and write a quality blog post about what to look for in a new home theater, you’re more likely to attract new customers by combining that blog with the sales flyer you sent them in the mail.

Put Information in a Format That People Want To Embrace

When people think of content marketing, they usually think of text. While this is true, it’s important not to neglect the visual element. Case in point: pairing your marketing message up with the right visual image can increase the amount of information a reader will retain dramatically. According to one study, people are only 10% likely to remember information they hear 72 hours after they hear it. If that same information is conveyed in a piece of effective, content marketing with a relevant, attention-grabbing image, that number increases to an incredible 65%!

Color Really Does Mean a Lot

Continuing a discussion about the more visual side of content marketing, one of the most important elements that prove these types of marketing collateral can be more effective than ever all comes down to a single word: color. Another study found that if you’re able to include colored visuals in your content marketing (or any marketing for that matter), you instantly increase someone’s willingness to read and experience that content by an astounding 80%.

People Love Learning

Consider the fact that content marketing can be a lot more than just “marketing” – it can be an educational tool, as well. Take infographics, for example – especially since the advent of social media, infographics with rich, striking visuals have quickly proven to be powerful ways to get your message across. In fact, according to one recent study, an infographic is likely to be shared three TIMES more than any other piece of content on social media. When combined with print marketing, you can help establish your brand as an authority in your field to a much larger audience than imagined.

Content Marketing Creates a Higher Return on Investment

If you needed additional reasons to believe that content marketing is stronger than ever, look no further than one of the most important indicators: ROI. Studies have shown that not only does content marketing cost roughly 60% less than traditional outbound marketing like digital ads, but it can also potentially generate THREE TIMES as many leads!

Stats like these go a long way towards proving that content marketing is an excellent way to take your marketing message and present it to your target audience in a way that they’re more than ready to receive. With the right piece of properly designed collateral, you accomplish everything from increasing awareness of your brand to establishing yourself as the real authority you are….. and everything in between. When you consider that 200 million people now use ad blockers as they browse the internet, high-quality, properly designed content is about to become even more important as time goes on.


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5 Ballet Business Lessons You Should Make a Point to Learn

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Business has quite a few things in common with ballet. Ballet is just as demanding as business, although in other ways. To succeed as a ballet dancer, one must put in a lot of hours of practice. To succeed in business, one must put in a lot of hours of work. For both, plans and dances must be executed in a precise way or the result will not be ideal. Because of these similarities, several things can be learned from ballet that can be applied to business.

1. Create Your Individual Style

Although there are basic components of ballet that ring true, someone who develops their individual style and dares to try new things is someone who will go further than an individual who sticks to only the basic rules. The same is true in business. If you want to succeed, you must stand out from the crowd. Find your own path that is unique to your goals even though you will be utilizing the same building blocks as everyone else.

2. Continue Learning Throughout Your Career

A great ballet dancer never stops learning new techniques and new dances. They simply cannot stop after they have learned only one dance and be successful. In business, this is also true. You must continue to seek out education. Whether it is another degree or simply a class to help you hone in on a skill set, you should never stop trying to learn more and improve your abilities.

3. Practice Makes Perfect

In ballet, perfection is valued and coveted. To reach this kind of perfection, dancers will practice for days, weeks, months, and years on end. They understand that they have to practice to get better and one day achieve that perfection they desire. In business, the same is true. You may have success the first time you do something, but more often than not, you will have to try again. If you believe in a business idea, keep trying and practicing until you get it right. Practice does, after all, make perfect.

4. Know There is a Place and a Role for Everyone

In a ballet dance that involves multiple people, there is a role for everyone to play. Not everyone can be the main dancer, even if they want to be. Someone has to play the supporting role. In business, it is important to understand this because the same is true. Even if you want to be the top dog on a project or in a company, you have to understand that sometimes you simply have to play another important role.

5. Develop and Build Trust

Trust is a huge component of ballet, especially if you are dancing with a partner. If the two partners do not trust each other, it will be apparent, and the dance will not be as beautiful. In business, it is equally as important to trust your partner. Otherwise, you may not give much effort to the project, or you may hold back and cause the business to suffer. Build trust with those you work with and the business will prosper. Choose not to trust, and it can crumble, just like a ballet routine.

There are several parallels between ballet and business. These lessons learned in the ballet circuit are important because they strengthen the dancer. Learn from these lessons, and you will become a stronger individual in the business world as well.


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