Relationships flourish when people feel heard and valued.
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December 25, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
They had me at “Sea Salt and Orchid.”
A fan of handcrafted candles and soaps, I was excited to find a company creating intoxicating blends with artisan craftsmanship and natural ingredients. When my order arrived, I breathed in that fresh sea salt and orchid scent and thought, “I love these candles.”
Then, I saw the handwritten thank-you note and the generous samples sent as a token of appreciation for my order, and I thought, “I love this company.”
Why gratitude works
What gives gratitude such immense and transformative power in business? It boils down to two things:
Business is about relationships. At the heart of every business is … heart. Especially for entrepreneurs who are so personally invested in their business as a way of making an impact in the world, the outdated mentality of business as cold, cutthroat and devoid of any personal interaction is being replaced with the understanding that business is personal. As our modern business model shifts from transactional to relational, gratitude and appreciation emerge not only as life skills, but as business skills.
Relationships flourish when people feel heard and valued. People stick around when they feel seen and when they know they are cared for and valued. This holds true in life, and it holds true in business — especially as we trade those older, transaction-centric definitions of success for something deeper and longer-lasting. If you want to make one sale, it may be enough to give people an excellent product or service. But if you want to establish an ongoing relationship that paves the way for repeat business with loyal customers who will sing your praises to their family, friends and the world on social media, give them the knowledge that they matter to you.
The building blocks of gratitude: Attention and creativity
A couple of years ago, Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast host John Lee Dumas was broadcasting a series of Facebook Lives called Tea With JLD. In one episode, he joked that it wasn’t technically “Tea” with JLD, because he didn’t have any tea and was sipping coffee instead.
Guess who had tea in time for his next broadcast? I had sent him a package with the note, “Now you can really have ‘tea with JLD!’” This small gesture on my part helped enhance a friendship of mutual respect and support that we continue to enjoy. The key to practicing gratitude in life and business is to pay attention to the person you appreciate so you can understand what they want or need, and then find a creative way to make it happen.
A colleague of mine, Neen James, had been trying for months to get an appointment with the CEO of a major communications company. She admired his business acumen and thought there was great potential for collaboration, but he was always too busy to meet for lunch. Until she sent him a package with all the ingredients for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The resulting lunch led to the start of a dynamic and mutually beneficial business relationship, and it all happened because James listened and got creative.
How to embrace gratitude as a business skill
Ready to supercharge your entrepreneurial journey with the power of gratitude? Here are six keys to practicing gratitude and appreciation as a business skill:
Be personal. Send a handwritten thank-you note or a gift that is specific to the person. One client sent me an amber acorn pendant with a note about how working with me helped her grow her business from an acorn into a strong and flourishing tree.
Be clear. Who do you want to thank? How will you thank them and when will you thank them? For recurring situations like when someone interviews you on their podcast, you can have your expression of appreciation planned out in advance, so it is simply incorporated into the way you do business.
Be generous. You can thank speakers who speak to your organization or those who go above and beyond. The more gratitude you express, the richer your relationships will be.
Be consistent. Have a policy and process in place to thank people throughout the year. Make thoughtful and creative gestures of appreciation part of your strategy to nurture your relationships. You can also make the process easy on yourself by being prepared. Have gifts and mailing supplies ready to go so you aren’t scrambling every time you want to send a note or gift.
Be public. Recognize the contributions, efforts and victories of others online by highlighting them in social media posts, blog posts, articles or emails to your subscribers.
Be strategic. It’s completely possible to be heartfelt and strategic at the same time, and a branded gift can position you well in the eyes of the receiver. I regularly send thank-you notes and a box of tea as a gift to entrepreneurs and business leaders who share their expertise as guest contributors to my programs and masterminds. The tea cans are labeled in my brand colors with the words “Be supportive,” “Be connected” and “Be visible.” The gift is both a strategic one and a genuine expression of gratitude that nurtures these ongoing relationships.
Related: 5 Ways to Show Customers You Care
Personal creative gestures and heartfelt gratitude go a long way in building the kind of business relationships that last. If you’re looking for one simple thing you can do today to create real and lasting impact in your business, simply thank someone.