Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

Russian Students at the Russian River!

Russian Students at the Russian River! 150 150 MIchael and Bonnie Harvey

Recently, we had the pleasure of hosting 40 Skolkovo Moscow School of Management entrepreneurship graduate students. They were in the area to visit Silicon Valley and learn from the temples of American Entrepreneurship. Once their tech tour finished, we asked them to join us in Russian River wine country. They got to experience some time basking in nature, had a few discussions about entrepreneurship, enjoyed lunch outdoors, and of course, had a wine tasting after learning about Sonoma County wine.

Skolkovo is among the top universities around the globe and is affiliated with MIT. These students were already in their 30s, many of them with their own businesses. Other students were either considering the idea of entrepreneurship or just wanted to learn.

Familiarizing These Russian Students with Soft Skills

We knew that they already learned a lot about hard technology during their time in the Valley. Between all the VCs and the tales of lucky tech success, we thought a more natural environment and a different type of discussion would be refreshing. So we gave them our course on “How Soft Skills Earn Hard Cash.”

We guided them through the three foundational soft skills (Acknowledgement, Appreciation, and Communication), and how they relate to the three foundational business relationships (Vendors, Buyers, and Employees).

Even though you need much more than soft skills to find success, their absence can lead to cripplingly expensive turnover, loss of credit, higher operational costs, and worst of all—a loss of customers. In short, you must be able to balance soft skills and tech skills in order to be successful.

The students’ genuine interest in achieving business success was impressive. We started our discussion by identifying what we had in common—a need for extended terms and credit, a desire for loyal and enthusiastic employees, and a need for continuously increasing business.

Yes, there are many cultural differences between our societies, but business is business. People are people. How they are treated can make a monumental difference in their decisions regarding your goods and services. As a businessperson, possibly the most important consideration you can pay to others is respect for their concerns.

If they are your employee, do you have their best interests at heart?

And do you show it? For example, are your people able to enhance their careers within your company? Do you give them the recognition, security, compensation, education, and vacation time they need to stay loyal to you?

If they’re your buyer, are you servicing what you’re selling?

Do you stand by your warranties? Do you provide the support they need in order to do business with you, promote their products, and increase their purchases? Do you address buyers on every level, from your warehouse to your end-buyer, so your products can navigate freely through all channels?

If they’re your vendor, do you respect their salespeople?

If you know you’ll be late on a payment, do you call in advance with a plan to bring your account current? Have you developed a long-term contract so they can confidently extend the credit and terms you need to support your business?

This all comes down to one thing—being able to put yourself in the other guy’s shoes. Understand that by getting them what they want, you get what you want. Our friend Ivan Misner likes to say, “Take off the bib and put on the apron!” Or, as we say, “If you’re going to be a jerk, get out your wallet! It’s going to cost you more.”

These lessons cross all cultural boundaries and have withstood the test of time. Anybody that can change the world with a great idea will benefit by practicing these soft skills. They can make or break your success.

When we initially got into business, we were under the misconception that our products would sell themselves—they were Gold Medal winners at less than $6 per piece! We didn’t understand why people weren’t breaking down doors to get to us. It cost us a whole bunch of money, time, and frustration to finally develop and understand these crucial skills that ultimately brought us to success.

We were ecstatic to share the real benefits of applying soft skills in business with the extraordinary Skolkovo students. We wish them nothing but the best in their own endeavors and we’d love for them to visit their “Outdoor Classroom in the Wine Country” again! Надеюсь увидеть тебя снова в ближайшее время!

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