Nice Guys Finish First

Anyone who knows us here at The Bookkeeper knows that we’re a pretty friendly bunch. That extends to all aspects of our lives, most notably in the way we do business. We do not care for the cynical “nice-guys-finish-last” mentality, which opines that success requires selfishness and back-stabbing. We firmly believe that kindness and goodness take you farther in business and in life.

Not buying it? Check out our tips on how to make niceness work for you.

1.) Be nice when you network.

networkYou may have also heard this phrased before as, “Don’t be interesting; be interested.” People remember the people who make them feel important, much more than the people who are just trying to look important. Imagine that you’re out at a networking event and you meet two people in identical fields.

Person A bounces around the room like a ping pong ball, making his introduction (really more of a pitch) so fast he doesn’t hear your name when you respond. He’s already moved on to his next scripted paragraph, explaining why his company is the best and how you need him for your business. He shoves a business card in your hand and tells you he’ll see you at coffee next Tuesday morning. (Did you agree to an appointment? At this point you’re so overwhelmed you’re not even sure.) Before you can open your mouth to say that Tuesday isn’t a great day for you, he’s spotted another mark over your shoulder and is striding off.

You may meet Person B later in the night. He has the same profession as Person A, but never mind that; he really wants to hear about what you do. And he actually listens when you tell him about your business. In fact, he knows someone in a complementary field who could be a really good referral partner for you; would you mind if he introduced you two? At no point does he try to sell you on his business. If you express interest in enlisting his services, he’d certainly love to follow up with you, but he lets you make the first move. Overall, he seems like he is genuinely just there to help.

So, who would you rather do business with? The nice guy, right? And if you want to work with nice guys, then everyone else probably does, too. So be the nice guy.

2.) Be nice even without the potential of reward.

meetingYou really can’t fake niceness. People can smell insincerity a mile away and we’ve all known that “friend” who only seems to come around and be helpful when they want something. True kindness is a way of life.

Here’s a real-life example (and, I won’t name names, because he’d be embarrassed if he knew I wrote this about him): I know someone who is an expert with a certain type of software. (We can call him C.) A friend-of-a-friend he’d been introduced to a week or so earlier contacted him one day about a glitch he was experiencing with the program. This man wasn’t a client, nor even a close friend; just someone he’d met once. But he spent a good part of the day emailing with the guy and trying to find out the source of the problem. They found a solution, the problem got fixed, and C forgot all about it.

A month later, the man he’d helped shows up at a networking meeting. With no prompting, he spoke up and gave C a huge kudos, and encouraged anyone who was looking for those type of services to go to C. He even said, “This is the man you want to do business with.”

He didn’t have to do that. C never said, “Sure, I’ll help solve your problem, but you’d better get me some business out of it.” He did it just to be nice. And would do it again, even if the favor hadn’t been repaid.

Because, when you’re nice, you…

3.) Do it for you.

wonderful-life2Legendary basketball coach John Wooden once stated, “You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” This can be especially true for those of us who go into business for ourselves. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can get a bad rap, as being either bloodthirsty financial sharks or paranoid penny-pinchers. But cynics aren’t the ones who start new businesses. Optimists and dreamers are the ones who launch new ventures and, while everyone would enjoy making a lot of money and becoming very rich, it’s rarely the main goal. People go into business for themselves to do what they love, to create something new and exciting, and for the freedom of being their own boss.

To look at it in (literally) black-and-white, take perennial Christmas favorite “It’s a Wonderful Life”. You can take the role of one of two* important characters in that story: nice guy and town hero George Bailey, or the miserly Mr. Potter. Only one of them is happy at the end of the movie.

* Okay, three important characters if you count Clarence. But we’re just saying you should be a nice guy; no one is asking you to be an angel.