By Monique Lewis
It is often easy to misread another’s intentions. We may feel that we can read another’s emotions, but we can never read their thoughts. For example, If a coworker is simply having a bad day it is easy to misinterpret that the coworker is annoyed at you. This of course can lead to disagreements and arguments. In many cases where an otherwise well-meaning person’s intentions are unclear, it may be helpful to give the benefit of the doubt.
The following are 11 business stories where it really paid off to give the benefit of the doubt.
1. SAW POTENTIAL
“My name is Nick von Geijer, I’m 18 years old, and I launched NICKSWORLD a couple months ago. I started this company in hopes of working with leading like-minded individuals who understand the importance and impact of having a social media influence. There’s huge potential for a business opportunity when you can connect with influential individuals; this is one of the main principles I run my business on. A few months ago, this is the realization I came to, and with my ability to create pristine and innovatively designed apps and websites, I decided to venture into the world of social media to connect with the influencers that come with it. There’s a lot of different ways I’ve given people the benefit of the doubt, so far. I’d say one of the most important ways I’ve done this is with my employees. I’ve met countless individuals who want to be the next designer or developer for one of our apps. A lot of the people who approach me are young, like me, and with the odds against them. There’s been many times when I see a part of myself in other people; character traits such as having obsessive motivation and willing to work hours on end with no results.These are some of the main deciding factors we have at NICKSWORLD, when hiring employees. A prime example of this is when I gave someone with potential a design job. This individual had a great sense of innovative and sleek design, and this is what made me consider him. Despite his skills with design, he had a problem with delivering projects on time. Fast forward a few weeks, I had given this individual multiple chances to design part of a website or a section of an app for me. Each time this individual would not deliver in a timely fashion, always made an excuse about sending the work due to me, or would deliver extremely late. Many people have problems with this, and I know it’s something people can overcome, if they set their mind to it. Even though he kept failing delivery of these projects I still gave him chance and chance again to work for me because I saw potential. Giving this person a chance was a process and a temporary sacrifice I was willing to take, and giving him the benefit of the doubt, knowing that the end result would prove positive, despite his typical tendencies, I mentored him. Eventually after coaching him time and time again on what he needs to change, this individual is one of the main designers for our apps. He no longer misses deadlines and makes excuses for not doing his work. We’ve worked on many projects now, and I know that if I didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt and believe in him when he most needed it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Having him on the team has proved very successful for my company. Just remember to always stay open-minded and give people a chance, even if it ends up with you not being instantly rewarded. It could prove massively positive in the long-term. -”Nick von Geijer, CEO & Founder — NICKSWORLD
2. SHE GIFTED ME!
This story is about giving the benefit of the doubt regarding work background and experience, and believing in someone’s aptitude and ability to learn the job and grow into it. Jewel Ward, Founder, recounts a time when taking a chance paid off in unexpected ways.
“About 20 years ago, as the web and data communications network companies were taking off, I worked at a regional ISP in our billing systems development and implementation group. We needed to hire an experienced person for a CAS Analyst job for our billing system.
A friend of mine had a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Art History from a top university. She did not have systems experience, although she had technical aptitude and computer experience. She had been struggling for years, working multiple part-time retail jobs while she tried to find full-time career employment.
I knew she could do the work, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt, although she did not have the billing systems background and experience for the CAS Analyst job. I recommended her to the hiring manager. He saw her potential as well, and the company hired her. After years of working long hours in low-paying jobs, she had a full-time position with a real salary and health care benefits. She could finally afford to buy a car and go to the dentist, for example.
She excelled in the role. She worked very hard and learned everything she needed to know for the position and more. Not only that, she used the job to launch her IT career. She gained various technical certifications and later worked at companies such as Lockheed Martin and IBM. She is now a director at a technology consulting company.
The last part of the story is that when I began my company 2–3 years ago, the first year was tough. I barely made any money. When she found out I was struggling, she gifted me — not loaned me, gifted me — a sum of money to help me cover expenses.
What is the moral of this story? It is to believe in people. Give them the benefit of the doubt when they are struggling. Help them soar by providing opportunities and support-moral, financial, and otherwise. Their success is your success. (Even if they don’t gift you money later when you are struggling!)”- Jewel H. Ward, Founder and Principal, Impact Zone Consultancy
3. IT WAS A POSTAL SERVICE ISSUE
In an environment where customer service is king, giving the benefit of the doubt can often be a hard necessity. EvaDane jewelry founder and Amazon merchant, Lexie Broytman, often fields this conundrum.
“There are many times where customers will complain simply to receive free or discounted merchandise. Of course not every customer has bad intentions, but I’ve been surprised at how far users will go.” Some people choose to abuse the system, causing sellers to ship additional product for free. “However, there was one instance which caught me off guard,”noted Broytman.”I had a customer contact me rather harshly claiming the item was damaged upon arrival.” Knowing EvaDane had not shipped faulty product, we refunded the purchase and sent a new item for the inconvenience caused. “In the end, it turned out to be a postal service issue and the item was roughed up in transit,” recalled Broytman. “We all have bad days and get frustrated, saying things that may be more cutting than intended. That customer really appreciated us looking at their complaint seriously. They have since ordered large quantities of product and continue to be a very loyal customer.” — Lexie Broytman, Founder & Designer, EvaDane Jewelry
4. FOUND MY PASSION
Melissa Bird of Brāv Lift says, “I believe that when we give the benefit of the doubt we open up ourselves to new opportunities. I was on a social network one morning. I received a private message from one of my connections, asking me if they could give me a call. I said yes, hesitantly. I have had people try to pull me into scams even on LinkedIn so I don’t know why I agreed to give this person the benefit of the doubt. But I’m glad I did. Today I am still working with them on an initiative for Brāv. You never know who’s on the other end of the line so take a chance!” — Melissa Bird, Brāv Lift,
5. DON’T DOUBT YOURSELF
Jennifer Holland recounts her time on Shark Tank, and taking a (very profitable) chance that paid off for her company.
“Heading into the Shank Tank as a presales idea has been one of my biggest business risks to date. I remember I was waiting to walk down the shark infested corridor to meet the sharks. At that moment, my legs started to shake and I couldn’t get any words out. The producer asked me to start walking, but I was frozen. My six year old son was pulling my hand to walk and I just couldn’t move. I looked down at my son and he said, ‘Mum, you look after all four of us all the time, you can do this!’ He was right. I walked away with a deal and learned that anything is possible if you believe, act and persist. Believe in yourself and your ability to achieve it. Act on your idea because no one will do it for you; and above all, persist, no matter the setbacks or hurdles.” — Jennifer Holland, CEO and founder of Throat Scope — the world’s first all-in-one light and tongue depressor.
6. WE CONTINUED TO GO WITH OUR INSTINCT
Dmitry Koltunov knew his product would be successful and believed in his potential customers, his team and himself.
“One circumstance in which we gave the benefit of the doubt was during the creation of our open API. When we built it, we did not have any customers for it — the only products we built were ones we had customers for. But in the case of the API, we had an inkling that if we built it, they will come, so that’s what we did. It wound up taking us more time than we had wanted, but we persisted, even though all we had was anecdotal evidence that people would find it useful. Despite all the cautionary startup tales of people saying they would buy a product once it was ready, only to not follow through with their word, we continued to go with our instinct, believing that if we had a good open API, it would be a force multiplier. The team at ALICE saw that it was a way for us to collaborate with other companies and foster an ecosystem, and it was also contrarian because no one in our industry was really doing it.
Now that it’s been built and completed, we have a number of players using our API, including vendors we would have formerly considered competitors. As a result, we’ve grown our client database and increased our partnerships, and we’ve now set the standards by which the rest of the industry will build their own API or use an existing one (via a HTNG workgroup).” — Dmitry Koltunov, CTO and co-founder of ALICE
7. PITCHING TO INVESTORS
Pitching to investors is never a guaranteed payoff, but it worked for Co-Founder & CCO Gino Engels when OTA Insight needed an injection of cash to be sustainable.
“Several months after we started working on our startup back in August 2012, we were running out of cash and were desperately looking for ways to survive and make it in the emerging London startup scene. We didn’t have the product finished, so generating revenues was not an option and our savings were gone.
In order to gain visibility, we tried to sign up for a pitching competition that was geared towards startups. While we originally missed the registration deadline, we got picked up from the reserve list after another startup dropped out at the last minute.
We only had one day to showcase our product to an audience, who consisted of angel investors in the London startup scene. In the morning, we delivered our pitch and then in the afternoon, we met with interested angel investors in the hope of them writing us a check.
It was a very tough crowd. From pre-product, pre-revenue and without a website, it was a difficult task to prove that the concept made sense and that people would pay money for our product (if we eventually managed to make it). There was one particular investor (a managing director at Goldman Sachs) who was very inquisitive about our company and asked the most difficult questions.
Convinced this pitching wasn’t going anywhere, I told my cofounders we had little to no chance of winning. But when I mentioned the Goldman Sachs executive, they convinced me to give him a call, even though it seemed like a long shot. Against all odds, my co-founder Adriaan picked up the phone and arranged a meeting with him. And just like that, he ended up writing us our very first check.
Now, we’re working with over 16,000 hotels globally with a team of 70 employees around the world and earning close to $1,000,000 in monthly revenues. Without giving the benefit of the doubt, who knows what would have come of our idea.” — Gino Engels, and Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer at OTA Insight
8. A RANDOM, COLD CALL
A random, cold call aligned BlueRock Energy with top partnerships and opened unimaginable doors. This was a call Phil VanHorne is glad he answered, now 7 years later.
“You know how you always hear about how you shouldn’t accept a cold call? Good thing we didn’t take that advice! One day, a sales associate received a message from the CEO of a New York City-based PR agency called North 6th Agency, who we had never heard of. The CEO said he saw BlueRock Energy being advertised at a basketball tournament over the weekend and wanted to know if we would be interested in PR. At that time, we had just completed our contract with another PR firm and so we were on the fence of hiring a new agency right away. But after giving it some thought, I decided to connect with their CEO, Matt Rizzetta. Right at the beginning of our call, we immediately hit it off. After getting to know his background and our mutual love of sports, I knew giving him and his agency a chance would open new doors for us, and that was a risk I was willing to take! Fast forward seven years later and they are still our PR agency and have taken us to places we couldn’t imagine, including a partnership with the Buffalo Bills. We’re not sure what BlueRock would be without having given North 6th Agency a shot!” — Phil VanHorne, President & CEO of BlueRock Energy
9. FACEBOOK ADS
Facebook Ads didn’t work before; in the right hands, it turned out to be the best decision ever made. Steven Benson, CEO of Badger Maps, not only received great results from the campaign, but now has an unstoppable marketing department.
“I remember a particular situation where a relatively new salesperson on our team was very interested in placing advertisements on Facebook for our business. She was very determined and felt that it could really work well for us, but both I, as the CEO, and the person in charge of our ad spend, were pretty skeptical.
We had tried advertising on that platform several times before, and it didn’t perform well at all. I thought that it simply wasn’t a good fit for us to find prospects and that our target audience doesn’t use or engage on Facebook.
However, the salesperson kept trying to convince us and even backed it up with doing a ton of research on the platform. Finally, because she was so excited about it and convinced that it will deliver great results, we gave her the benefit of the doubt and set aside some budget for her to experiment with on this project. It turns out that she was right and we were wrong; I’m glad we gave her that chance. She figured out a way to make Facebook ads a great success, and the ads brought in leads at a profitable cost of acquisition.
Fast forward a couple years, it also turned out that she ended up being a great team member on the marketing team. She had been interested in several other marketing campaigns, after the success with Facebook ads. That was where she was truly shined and what she actually enjoyed doing. She’s an amazing marketing manager at Badger Maps and I’m glad I let her experiment with that first marketing campaign that helped her find the right career path.” Steven Benson, founder and CEO of Badger Maps
10. RELINQUISHED CONTROL TO GAIN VALUABLE OPPORTUNITIES
Sheila Simms relinquished control to gain valuable opportunities and grow her business exponentially.
Sheila Simms tells us her story: “My whole life, I tried to control everything outside of my home life as life at home was so out of control. I needed to know all the details of how everything was going to unfold as I trusted no one. For 2017, I decided to do things differently. I decided to become “unplanned” and relinquish control. I decided to trust and give others the benefit of the doubt. Well, something amazing has happened — revolving doors of conversations and windows of opportunities have emerged taking my business and my life on a path I only dreamed of! One example is, in June, I started trusting Remi Alli, Founder of Brāv, and gave her the benefit of the doubt when she asked me to lead their Brāv Shift division to bring about awareness of conflict and start an online show and I am happy to announce the show is starting in November!” — Sheila Simms, Founder, Built By 2 Hearts
11. I WAS TRULY HESITANT
The right shoot becomes a profitable business, and expands to an essential component of successful digital marketing. James Orfanos discusses how a concept grew
“This business started by a fluke. Greg and I met at my school, New York Martial Arts Academy. We became pretty fast friends, and one day, he approached me with the idea of creating a video for my school. I was truly hesitant because I had so much on my plate at the time. He was persistent; finally, I agreed to let him do it. When the video was posted, I was impressed with the number of impressions, conversions and referrals that one video received. In seeing that response, I realized video was definitely an impactful marketing tool that could enhance any business. From there, Top Notch Cinema was formed. Had I never given Greg the chance, I may have never pursued this avenue.” — James Orfanos & Greg Parker, Top Notch Cinema