11/05/2012 06:48 pm ET Updated Dec 05, 2012

Why Your Business Must Be Likable to Succeed

We often ask ourselves: "What are the secrets of the successful business?" According to Dave Kerpen's new book, Likeable Business: Why Today's Consumers Demand More & How Leaders Can Deliver, the secret is to be likable. Likable businesses, according to Kerpen, practice 11 different principles that differentiate them from their competition. In the follow up to his first book, Likeable Social Media (which I also highly recommend), Kerpen takes these principles a step further, arguing that in order for businesses to be successful today, they must truly become social, employee and customer-centric organizations. The principles of a great social media strategy are actually similar to the principles of a great business, he says.

Here are Dave Kerpen's 11 Principles of Likable Businesses:

  1. Listening. Listening is the foundation of any good business. Great leaders listen to what their customers and prospects want and need, and they listen to the challenges those customers face. They listen to colleagues and are open to new ideas. They listen to shareholders, inventors, and competitors.
  2. Storytelling. After listening, leaders need to tell great stories in order to sell their products, but, more important, in order to sell their ideas. Storytelling is what captivates people and drives them to take action. A likable leader has a strong vision and purpose and always has stories to sell that vision.
  3. Authenticity. Great leaders are who they say they are, and they have integrity beyond compare. Vulnerability and humility are hallmarks of the authentic leader and create a positive, attractive energy. Customers, employees, and media all want to help an authentic person to succeed. There used to be a divide between one's public self and private self, but the social Internet has blurred that line. Likable leaders are transparent about who they are online, merging their personal and professional life together.
  4. Transparency. There is nowhere to hide anymore, and businesspeople who attempt to keep secrets will eventually be exposed. Openness and honesty lead to happier staff and customers -- and a happier you.
  5. Team Playing. No matter how small your organization, you interact with others every day. Letting others shine, encouraging innovative ideas, and following other rules for working in teams will help you become a more likable leader. You'll need a culture of success within your organization, one that includes out-of-the-box thinking.
  6. Responsiveness. Today's leaders are responsive to their customers, staff, investors, and prospects. Every stakeholder is a potential viral sparkplug, for better or for worse, and the winning leader is one who recognizes this and insists upon a culture of responsiveness. Responding shows you care and gives your customers and employees a say, allowing them to make a positive impact on your company.
  7. Adaptability. There has never been a faster-changing marketplace than the one we live in today. Leaders must be flexible in managing changing opportunities and challenges and nimble enough to pivot at the right moment. Stubbornness is no longer desirable. Instead, humility and the willingness to adapt mark a great leader.
  8. Passion. Those who love what they do don't have to work a day in their lives. People who are able to bring passion to their business have a remarkable advantage, as that passion is contagious to customers and colleagues alike. Finding and increasing your passion will absolutely affect your bottom line.
  9. Surprise and Delight. Most people like surprises in their day-to-day lives. Likable leaders under-promise and over-deliver, assuring that customers and staff are surprised in a positive way. We'll explore a plethora of ways to surprise without spending extra money. We all like to be delighted, and surprise and delight create incredible word-of-mouth marketing opportunities.
  10. Simplicity. The world is more complex than ever before, and yet what customers often respond to best is simplicity -- in design, form, and function. Taking complex projects, challenges, and ideas and distilling them to their simplest components allows customers, staff, and other stakeholders to better understand and buy into your vision. We humans all crave simplicity, and so the likable leader must be focused and deliver simplicity.
  11. Gratefulness. Finally, likable leaders are ever grateful for the people who contribute to their opportunities and success. Being appreciative and saying thank you to mentors, customers, colleagues, and other stakeholders keeps leaders humble, appreciated, and well received. It also makes you feel great, and karma is always returned to the bottom line.

Dig into Kerpen's book for fascinating examples of companies who practice those principles.

I would also love to hear from you. What do YOU think makes a likable business?