The best advice I ever got: Farah Perelmuter

Written by Susanne Ruder
Farah Perelmuter

CEO, Speakers’ Spotlight

Xchange asks Canada’s leading businesswomen to share their most meaningful business lessons. Each issue brings you the advice that has helped shape the lives and companies of these winning businesswomen.

Farah Perelmuter is CEO of Speakers’ Spotlight, a Toronto-based speakers’ bureau. Founded in 1995 by Perelmuter and her husband, Martin, the firm represents such speakers as Dini Petty, Roberta Bondar and Deepak Chopra. She ranks 84th on the 2004 PROFIT 100 list of Canada’s Top Women Entrepreneurs.

BEST ADVICE: Don’t let short-term greed get in the way of your long-term goals

Perelmuter distilled this strategic business advice from her mother’s words of wisdom: Always be nice to everyone. “It’s very simple, but I found that it reaps huge rewards,” she says. “It’s something that a lot of people overlook.”

Too many businesspeople fight dirty or burn bridges when a business deal or relationship goes sour, says Perelmuter. “They get caught up in the moment, let their pride get in the way and don’t think about the long term.” The result? If you win, you might get that piece of business now, but the client won’t want to work with you again.

When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of winning long-term business, Perelmuter says letting short-term contracts go could be a good thing if there’s too much discord involved in securing and maintaining that contract. Business is “all about relationships,” she says, and preserving them means you’ll have a better shot at maintaining your integrity and reputation with clients, suppliers, employees and competitors. “We’ve let some business along the way go because we decided to always take the high road. And the business always came back to us tenfold.”

For example, “when two bureaus recommend the same speaker and there’s friction involved and the client is in a difficult place, we’ll let it go. And that solidifies our relationship with the client in the future,” says Perelmuter. “Inevitably, those clients will come to us next year when they’re looking for a speaker and every other year after that as well.”

In another instance, the Perelmuters “fired” a demanding client who drained company time, effort and resources that could be spent more productively. Sure, the firm sacrificed its share of that hefty income in the short term, but they politely parted ways because the speaker’s behavior compromised the firm’s long-term reputation and employee satisfaction.

The same principle applies to how you treat employees. “I can’t stand how so many people speak down to receptionists or assistants,” says Perelmuter. It’s not only rude. “Often those receptionists or assistants get jobs elsewhere and they all of a sudden become clients. So that’s why it’s always important to be nice to everyone – you never know how they’re going to re-enter your life.”

© 2005 Susanne Ruder

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com