Every year I deliver a lecture about being independent and kick ass at LJMU. Every year the students ask me two things; have I been subject to sexism (I’m a leftie female writer and journalist, what do you think?) and what’s the most important quality in a successful business?
If running a business could be summed up in a single quality I’m guessing more people would feel it was open to them. The way we talk about success, the fact we tie it up with monetary success to the absence of all else, is fairly limiting. I make plenty of money, more than enough to live on (touches wood) but that isn’t what I measure my success by. I’m happy. I am genuinely wake up on a Monday morning, sing a little song, skip my way to the office, happy. I laugh a lot. I work with people I find stimulating or who can teach me things. I am surrounded by some incredibly talented and inspiring people. I feel unbelievably free and empowered. That’s my happy. Not what’s in my bank account (although being able to splurge when I’ve had a bad meeting is undoubtedly good too).
So I sit and wonder what the quality is tethering that happy to me. Like every living soul I have good times and bad times. But I have built this thing around me with good people. Kind people. Thoughtful people.
And this is key, to me. I’m not interested in being busy if it’s with work I hate. Anything which, quite frankly, takes me this far away from bed on a daily basis has to offer me more than just earning me money. That’s both a luxury and a privilege, and one I’ve worked hard to master. I want to work with people who are kind, who care and are passionate. I’m tired of penny pinchers, or brusque, rude, in it for the cheap awards do spectators. I want doers.
This week a chap emailed me about a project. The second time he interacted with me it was off, slightly too dismissive, more than a tad patronising. My stomach sank until I realised that I didn’t have to say yes. So I didn’t. I politely declined.
When we talked about tech and business in the last month we’ve talked about the need for exponential growth, about getting richer and richer, unicorns and trillionnaires. That’s great, if it’s what you want. But let’s not assume it’s what everyone wants. I want to work with nice people, people who care about what’s around them. If some of them are wealthy, that’s great. But equally whatever their economic status, I’m not bothered. I’ve written before I’d much rather be the person people think of for their enthusiasm, positivity and joy. They’re working with me because they know I’m good, they keep working with me because they like me.
Kindness, so often underrated, out of nowhere became my top answer. What’s the most important quality in a successful business? Kindness.