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Improve Your Business with Lessons from Reality TV

Think you can't improve your business by watching primetime television? Think again. You can find nuggets of gold hidden within each episode of those whacky reality TV shows. So while any business would benefit from winning an infusion of an extra million dollars, if you master the five lessons outlined below, you will have the tools that will help you earn that million dollars—without resorting to singing, dancing, or marrying a millionaire.

Lesson #1: Listen to criticism
If there's one thing judges do on a reality TV show, it's criticize. Sure, some of those critical remarks are uttered just to boost 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 his or her opinion. However, if your boss or a key client offers a suggestion or criticizes your actions, don't become 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 the other person’s shoes and try to understand his or her point of view. Even if you determine that the criticism will not improve your performance, at least show respect to the person offering the suggestion. When you listen to and use criticism constructively, you can make changes for the better and so become more successful.

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 10 million people watching them on live TV, along with three quasi-famous and sometimes ruthless judges scrutinizing their every move, they understandably find that 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 along 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 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. So unless you are certain you can retain your company's high standards, stick with what you do best, whether it’s juggling flaming torches, providing financial services, or producing the highest quality automotive parts. If you consistently concentrate on your strengths, you’re sure to be a success.

Lesson #3: Always act professionally
On reality television, the voters at home only know what the editors and producers choose to show them. They can include a contestant’s best or worst moments in order to skew 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 decide to retire and look for a successor. 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 jobs 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 or flaming torches 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 (in other words, they practice endlessly). The same is true in business. When you have a clear strategy of what you need to do, when you understand each step you must take to achieve a goal, 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 to actually close the 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 in business
While being on a reality TV show is fun, it can’t compare to 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.