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Elizabeth Sutherland (AP) Elizabeth Sutherland (AP)
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The Marketing Edge - The Power of Nice

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For more than a decade there’s been a little yellow book on my desk. It’s a book I regularly reread to freshen up on what I think is one of the best business philosophies I’ve ever read.

It’s called “The Power of Nice” by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval and, as its title suggests, is about how to conquer business with kindness. It’s a short book, full of fun anecdotes about how being nice, or kind, has had an incredible impact on someone’s life and career.

The authors are two entertaining, engaging advertising professionals responsible for the AFLAC duck and the Toys R Us jingle among many other successful campaigns. (You’re singing “I don’t wanna grow up…” in your head right now, aren’t you?)

In the book, they detail six principles of being nice that can change how you do business in a positive way.

  1.     Positive impressions are like seeds. Smiling at people, saying hello in the morning and thank you for a small action throws off positive energy that can affect how those around you think of you.
  2.     You never know. The person sitting next to you in the theatre may be the sister of your boss. Or the owner of the company you’ve always wanted to work for. Don’t assume a stranger has no impact on your life. If you treat each person you meet with respect and kindness, when you meet them across a boardroom table the next morning, things might go better than you anticipated!
  3.    People change. You have no idea who might be important to you ten, twenty years from now. Junior members of a company grow to be division leaders. The cleaning lady will someday start her own business that needs professional help from accountants, lawyers, even an advertising agency.
  4.    Nice must be automatic. A lack of manners gets noticed. And in today’s business climate, the difference between getting the job and getting passed over can be for reasons as simple, and as basic, as a small, but nice, gesture. But don’t get hung up worrying about each interaction with prospective clients or customers. Instead, focus on being nice all the time and know with confidence that you won’t forget to be nice when it may really matter.
  5.    Negative impressions are like germs. “Just as positive actions are like seeds, rude gestures and remarks are like germs – you may not see the impact they have on you for a while, but they are there, silently infecting you and everyone around you” say the authors of “The Power of Nice.” Don’t let a bad impression be the hurdle you have to overcome. Business is tough enough!
  6.    You will know. The power of nice is not in being superficially friendly or going out of your way to provide small favors while calculating the return for you. It’s about understanding the long-term value of niceness – to you and to the others around you. Niceness is a powerful force, that when combined with talent, intelligence, and hard work, can make you a very big success.

Personally, I like myself better when I’m nice. It makes my soul happy. But it also is a great business tool that pays dividends when deployed consistently. I encourage you to give kindness, graciousness, and generosity a bit of extra effort this week and see how it goes. I’ll be interested to hear what you learn!

(Elizabeth Sutherland is a partner in Sutherland Weston.)

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