Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Credibility - you either have it or you don't. You either work at it or you fail.

Following on from yesterdays post about the business expo I thought I'd give you my thoughts on credibility. (After all its my blog and it would not be fair for me to give you your views on credibility).

At the end of the seminar on Social Marketing a young man asked a question.

"How can I get credibility. I have just left university and have a few ideas for an Internet business. How can I sound like an expert? All people see at the moment is a former university student"

Now for all I know this guy IS an expert at the field he plans to go into. But all I have to go on is his question. Looking at his question as an accountant I can see a number of things that need to be broken down and discussed.

How can I get credibility?

There is only one way to get credibility. Be credible. No shortcuts, no fantastic online tool. If you are answering a question know the answer. Online this is even easier than in offline life. If you see a factual question on an online forum and you think you might, possibly, but are not totally certain, know the answer, don't post. Be sure, do your research. Once you are as certain as you can be then post.

If the question asks for an opinion then actually be sure you have formed an opinion. Have you read up widely on a subject? Do not just read on article and regurgitate it. The more you can read up on a subject the better formed your opinion will be. Can you defend your position? Do you know enough to support what you have written if someone argues against it? The "I'm rubber you're glue" defense does not look good to professional people.

Know the difference between something that does not resonate with you and something which is badly constructed. If you look at any website relating to the arts (films, literature, music, painting etc) you will see plenty of examples of people attacking something as bad with any argument that people are idiots for liking X as they personally do not like it. If you are the only one in a crowd to disagree with something it may be down to group dynamics at work, but it is equally likely that it is you that has the problem.

Offline questions are slightly different. It is OK to sometimes say "I don't know the answer to that off the top of my head I will get back to you". Obviously you will not want to do this every time. But occasionally will not be a problem.

I have just left university and have a few ideas for an Internet business. How can I sound like an expert?

Again you need to do research. A few vague ideas is OK when you are at the very early stages of a business. The first thing any accountant worth their fee is going to do is strip everything down to the best idea. Next is to work out if that idea can actually make money. Plenty of people have ideas for business but most are unworkable.

Make a business plan, not for anyone else, but for yourself. I will go through business plans in another blog, but the key thing is can you actually at least break even. If you can sell a widget for £2 and it costs £1 to make then you can possibly make money. But if it takes 1 hour to make a widget you are never going to be able to live off the business.

Next work at the business, research everything you can about the market. Research other business in the same market. If you think you have found a completely new market then do your market research. Does the market really exist?

Now you can sound like an expert! And that is because now you are an expert.

All people see at the moment is a former university student

The easy bit. People will see what you believe. They will stop seeing you as a former university student when you stop being a former university student. If you have a business idea they be a business man. Again, see above, research, work.

Credibility is hard to get and easy to lose. Do not be afraid to admit your mistakes. Every one makes them and your credibility will be less hit if you spot and correct the mistakes before someone else does. Be sure of your self. If you have put the work in it will show. Do not be afraid to call others on things, but be ready to defend your opinion, and be will to listen to theirs. Do not be afraid to change your position if your view of the information changes. It is better to show flexibility than to be the last man desperately trying to stand up for a discredited cause.

PS. And finally spell check every document. That way you won't lose you crejibility

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