Improve Your Business with Lessons from Reality TV

By Jon Wee and Owen Morse

Think you can’t improve your business by watching primetime television? Think again. Even the world of reality TV has nuggets of gold hidden within each episode. So while any business would benefit from having an extra million dollars infused into it, when you master these five lessons, you will have the keys that will help you earn that million dollars.

Lesson #1: Listen to criticism: If there’s one thing judges do on a reality TV show, it’s criticize. Sure, some of the criticism is done just to get ratings, but most of the criticism has some merit…if you really listen to it.

In the business world, this does not mean you ask everyone you see for their opinion. However, if your boss or a key client offers a suggestion or criticizes something you do, don’t get defensive. Instead, listen to what the other person is saying. Does their comment have some validity? What part of their suggestion can you implement? Step into their shoes and try to understand why they’re offering the comment. Even if you determine that the person’s criticism will not improve your performance, at least show respect to the person as he or she is offering the suggestion.

When you listen to and use criticism constructively, you make changes for the better and will go a lot further.

Lesson #2: Do what you do best: We all have certain things we’re very good at doing. However, in the quest to win, some contestants have tried to come up with something totally new and different to wow the judges. Unfortunately, they weren’t comfortable performing the new material on stage, and it showed. After all, with ten million people watching you on live TV, and with three quasi-famous and sometimes ruthless judges scrutinizing your every move, it’s hard to perform well when you’re out of your comfort zone.

In business, it’s all too easy to be tempted to go with the masses. For example, if a hot new product or service suddenly storms the marketplace, it’s natural to want to offer that same product or service to your customers. After all, if so many people want the hot new “thing,” why not be the one to supply it to your existing customer base?

If the new product or service complements what you currently offer, and if it is something you know you can do well, then perhaps it is a good idea to offer it. However, that great new offering may be outside your area of expertise. And if you attempt to offer that product or service to your customers simply on a whim, your lack of knowledge or experience will show.

Unless you are certain you can retain your company’s high standards, stick with what you do best, whether that’s juggling flaming torches, providing financial services, or producing the highest quality automotive parts. The more you do what you know and concentrate on your strengths, the more success you’ll have down the line.

Lesson #3: Always be professional: On reality television, the voters at home only know what the editors and producers choose to show them. They can include your good moments or your bad, and that definitely helps determine who the finalists will be.

The same applies to business. You never know how the person you’re interacting with right now can impact your future. You never know when or where you’ll see that “annoying” client again. You never know when your boss will retire and need to promote someone to take his or her position. Because of all these unknowns, treat every single person (even those you’re not crazy about) the way you want to be treated. Everyone deserves your respect, and everyone likes to work with people who do their job well and conduct themselves professionally. Display an air of business sophistication and a positive attitude at all times. In the end, it will pay off.

Lesson #4: Have a strategy: Everything about a reality TV show is strategic. Smart business professionals plan diligently. In fact, they plan so much that they make business success look easy. Have you ever wondered why juggling chainsaws looks  easy when professional jugglers do it? It’s because they know the mechanics of what they must do, and they actively prepare their strategy (they practice). The same is true in business. When you have a clear strategy of what you need to do, and you know the steps you must take to get there, not only do you accomplish your objective, but you also make it look easy.

Lesson #5: Don’t spend the million dollars until you’ve actually won it: In the business world, sales projections and anticipated clients won’t pay your bills. You need the actual sale to impact your bottom line. So just because you thought the sales presentation went great, don’t celebrate that new client until you receive the signed contract. You never know how something will turn out, and often things don’t work out exactly as you had planned. Always be smart and realistic in your approach; that’s the only true way to win in the end.

Win Big: While being on a reality TV show was fun, it’s not nearly as fun as the thrill of winning in business every day. To get that “thrill of victory” on a regular basis, take these five lessons to heart. Before you know it, you’ll have that million dollars, and you won’t have sing, dance, or juggle to get it.

Read other articles and learn more about Jon Wee and Owen Morse.

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