Empathy: Are You Using Your Biggest Startup Weapon Properly?

Empathy: Are You Using Your Biggest Startup Weapon Properly?

It’s often we don’t always know our greatest gifts, and just where these assets can get us. We focus so heavily on training ourselves to be a specific person, without recognising that it’s often important to focus on amplifying your own personality first.

And one of those gifts is empathy.

Empathy is simply the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. And it can get you very far by knowing you have it, and using it to your advantage.

An account manager at Station Five introduced me to a contact he was speaking with, who at the time wanted to develop an app for their startup. The individual made it clear he had already signed with a company, and would be, as he claimed, “wasting my time” if I was okay with it, to get a second opinion on their strategy. Now I know many founders who, when a job doesn’t pay, don’t return these calls, or emails, or bother to get in touch with the person at all.

“I’m too busy and I need revenue, not to be handing out free advice”, they justify to themselves.

I hate that attitude.

I gave that person as much advice as I possibly could. For one, it’s just part of who I am: empathetic towards people I know need help and who I want to have the right information (which is how the podcast came to be born).

And secondly, by default, helping people is marketing you and your startup. It’s saying: “Hey, I know my stuff, and whilst you may not need me on a larger basis now, this is how I can help you in the future.”

If you love what you do, shouldn’t you be willing to offer that insight to everyone you can?

Over 18 months later, that same person contacted me with an introduction to his colleague who was looking to build an app. With that introduction came immediate trust, as the relationship was predicated on a value add.

It’s that simple.

But in today’s fast-paced world, people get too caught up in the “now” and what they want, and don’t stop to think about how others might need help.

Being Empathetic Towards Your Team

I spoke to the former CEO of Facebook Australia on the podcast recently, Stephen Scheeler. Stephen told me how today, people and culture matter more than ever before. But more importantly, there’s one thing he said that I’ll never forget: it’s all about how your people “feel.”

You can listen to the podcast here.

Empathy in Business

By being empathetic towards them and their career progression, you’re not only being a great human being, you’re serving your business as best you can. That’s because the success of businesses today depend on the people in them and how their talent is unleashed; how they FEEL about what they’re doing everyday.

The Benefit of Empathy in Sales

Take a look at the best salespeople you know.

It’s not the ones that can talk the best or the most. It’s the ones that can listen the best, and understand the pain the customer is in, and how their product can best solve it.

Ian Altman, a guest on my podcast, grew the value of his own companies from zero to over $1 billion with his knowledge and expertise around sales and marketing.

Ian told me a story I will never forget. He was pitching for a job when he was asked if his company tailor their software to the client’s requirements. Ian was accompanied by one of his sales staff, who was desperately nodding his head claiming they could do it all. However, they’d never taken on a similar job.

Armed with some empathy, Ian spoke frankly with the client, stating honestly that whilst they hadn’t tailored their software in this manner before, they could try. He also added it wasn’t something they specialised in.

The company expressed huge appreciation for Ian’s honesty. Ian was the first person to be brutally honest with this client, with all others working so hard to simply win the work.

Due to all the salespeople the client had encountered, they were ironically suspicious of why everyone was telling them a customised solution was so simple. This change in character from Ian helped his company to win a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal.

Finishing Note

If you’re empathetic, use this as a strength, don’t hide it to be a “hardened” or “resilient” founder.

There are too many people who lack empathy, or who get lazy in offering value for free, and this quality can be a huge differentiator.