Don't Belittle People Or Your Users

Ever since starting 1530 Technologies back in October of 2008, I’ve been working closely with the startup community here in Chicago. Not only as a source of potential clients, but also potential partners. I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing people and startups. However, one of the running themes I’ve encountered among startups and their employees is something I would call a disdain for people.

For example, I’m constantly surprised at the number of startups that describe their potential customers as, basically, idiots. They start by telling me that “they’ll show them how [insert business here] should be done” or “[potential customer] is currently doing X [laughs]”. Now, they can tell themselves that they’re only talking to me and not their customers, but that’s not that easy. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to get someone to believe in you or your company when you’re not being 100% honest with them. Maybe you’re a spectacular liar, but chance are, they’ll know that you’re just full of shit. You can’t truly care about solving a persons problem if you hold them or their problem in such low regard.

I also see other entrepreneurs ridicule and make fun of non-entrepreneurs for no real reason. I was in the offices of the Illinois Technology Association ( ITA ) recently and overheard some employees of a startup making some not so nice remarks about the receptionist that was currently working. They didn’t even know her name even though they see her everyday. They were treating her like she didn’t matter and, what’s worse, their CEO was joining in on the fun. I couldn’t believe that a CEO would set such an example for the other employees. Since I am a member of the ITA, I use their offices frequently. I not only know all of the receptionists names, but quite a bit about them. I don’t do it to curry favor with them, I do it because they’re people too and I like being nice to people. Just because they’re not doing the same job I am or working in the same industry as me, doesn’t make them any less of a person or not worth my time.

Being nice to people doesn’t cost you anything and it doesn’t take much of an effort to care a bit about people. If you simply listen to people, you’ll be quite surprised at how much more you will understand. You’ll become better at interacting with people and you’ll also become better at understanding them and their issues, which is a huge first step to actually solving their issues. It’s one of the best traits you can nurture in yourself and it never goes out of style, no matter what you’re doing. So the next time you’re talking with someone, ask yourself if you’re really listening to them and what they’re saying