How to Aspire to ‘Business Brilliance’ as a PR Pro


Lewis Schiff

Successful entrepreneurs inspire both envy and admiration. Whatever your point of view of particular entrepreneurs, though, it's safe to say that there are lessons to be learned from discovering which common traits made them successful. From the vantage point of professional communicators who earn their keep by being guardians and promoters of corporate brands, these lessons come into play when they look at the value of their own personal brand.

To learn what makes self-made, American entrepreneurs different from the rest of us, Lewis Schiff, author, entrepreneur and executive director of Inc. Business Owners Council, surveyed 800 household decision makers—50% representing high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth households. His research yielded his most recent book, Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons from the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons, and his seven principles of business brilliance.

In his keynote address at PR News' April 8 PR Measurement Conference at Washington, D.C.'s National Press Club, Schiff will show how PR pros can apply those seven "Business Brilliant" principles to a road map for risk management, team building and decision making, and for personal success. He offers a preview here of his keynote address.

PR News: One of your seven principles of business brilliance is "know-how is good. "know-who is better." How would that apply to the work of PR pros and marketers?

Lewis Schiff: Much of the middle-class mentality focuses on the development of technical skills in order to succeed (lawyer, doctor, etc.). However, at the higher levels of wealth, we see that all of those "trades" can be hired for. The most successful among us build strong teams while they focus their energies on creating extremely effective networks. Depending on the task, an effective network can be five strong relationships or 5,000 thin relationships. However, for the most important strategic relationships, we see that very successful people have very deep relationships with just a few people.

For communicating, a large network is desirable. But for influencing strategy and crafting smart messaging, it probably makes more sense to cultivate fewer relationships where there is greater intimacy and support, rather than a "WAN" or wide-area network.

PR News: What is the underlying flaw in the popular dictum "do what you love and the money will follow"?

Schiff: That's not what the self-made wealthy say. Simply put, if you can't find a way to make money doing what you love, you won't be able to do it for very long. Beware the  conventional wisdom—it's not enough to do what you love! You must also find the money in whatever you do.

PR News: What's the #1 lesson communicators can learn from the common qualities of great entrepreneurs?

Schiff: Understand what you hope to gain out of important relationships. Do the research, have a goal and an understanding of "what's in it for you." When your communications or your relationships are not serving your enlightened self-interest, say "next!" and move on to the next one.

"Business Brilliant" author Lewis Schiff will keynote  PR News’ PR Measurement Conference on April 8 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI

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About Steve Goldstein

Steve Goldstein is editorial director for Access Intelligence’s PR News brand, which encompasses premium, how-to content, data and competitive intelligence for public relations professionals; PR News Online; PR News conferences, webinars and awards programs; and PR News guidebooks. Previously at AI Steve was editorial director of min, min ’s b2b and minonline as well as managing editor of CableFAX: The Magazine and CableWorld. Before joining Access Intelligence, he was executive editor of World Screen News, and editor of Film/Tape World, which covered film, television and commercial production in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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