Shifting The Conversation: What It Really Means To Add Value

Whether you are a graduate looking for a job, a leader who manages a team, or an entrepreneur looking to grow your business- seek to add value first, in every relationship you encounter.

This article is written by Maha Abouelenein, Chief Value Officer for Gary Vaynerchuk and EVP Of Business Development, VaynerX

The coronavirus pandemic is changing a lot of things in society and in business. We’re hearing a lot about working from home or businesses closing down temporarily, but few people are talking about the nature of doing business, and how it’s transforming.

In other words: it’s not about producing “nice to haves,” it’s about becoming a brand that can be truly useful, and bring value in a time when people care about the essentials. This isn’t how business is going to be done- it’s how it already has to be done.

The shift is already happening- and it’s here to stay. The way we measure outcome is tied to how agile we are, how we rise up in a crisis to lead, and how we pivot to do one thing particularly well: add value.

The companies, and their leaders, who invest in agility and speed will ultimately drive meaningful change. I know, because I work for one. I serve as the Chief Value Officer for Gary Vaynerchuk and Executive Vice President of Business Development for VaynerX, a modern communications company.

VaynerX is very forward thinking. After all, it is the first company to have a Chief Heart Officer leading Human Resources (or the People and Experience team, as it’s known internally), which puts heart and culture at the center of the organization. That speaks volumes.

Providing and prioritizing value is the company’s DNA, which makes being the Chief Value Officer a full circle experience, because my career has been defined by practicing this consistently. Whether you are a graduate looking for a job, a leader who manages a team, or an entrepreneur looking to grow your business- seek to add value first, in every relationship you encounter.

What it really means to add value

“Value” is a word that’s thrown around a lot- but here’s what it means to me: ultimately, value is measured by how much you add to the reputation of whoever you’re serving.

In the context of business, I always think about what makes me different, and how I can leverage that to bring a certain level of quality to any interaction or relationship. How can I give them something that they can’t get anywhere else? How can I be more useful than anyone else given who I am and what’s unique about me? How can I continuously raise the bar?

To me, the greatest compliment one can receive is to be told you’ve helped bring a certain quality into someone’s life. It’s what I always work to do, because it helps everyone win -every opportunity you can take to improve others- is an opportunity to improve yourself.

Corporations can do this too. For example, when Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy turned their perfume lines into hand sanitizer lines, they were adding value. When General Motors turned their production line to make ventilators instead of cars, they were adding value. Did you see how Starbucks is introducing “entryway handoffs,” where customers can pick up drinks without even entering the store?

Brands should always seek to provide the greatest value to every situation. 

Thanks to the coronavirus, consumer behavior has changed profoundly. People are assessing themselves and the world around them more than ever. They are focusing on what they actually need. They’re focusing on what actually creates value- what is essential.

For organizations, that means short term profit cannot be the sole metric of a company’s success. The growth and health of a business should be measured by the human side of growth.

For example, how does a company treat its employees? Are they environmentally conscious? Do they have an authentic mission they’re working towards? Do they lead with empathy? Are they acting in ways that consumers care about?

The human side is what helps create depth in relationships: with your clients, customers, employees, colleagues, and everyone you interact with. It’s what makes you unique, helps build your reputation, and helps grow potential revenue. 

Here are some ideas on how to add value to the people in your life:

1. Show, instead of tell“Showing” instead of “telling” is a powerful concept when it comes to landing a new job opportunity or new clients. It’s something that people don’t do enough.

However, that’s how I got my current job working with Gary Vaynerchuk.

After reading his book on a friend’s recommendation, I met with Gary and offered to bring value in the ways that I knew how- I learned about his business, and talked to him about the best strategy to enter the Middle East market.

As we spent more time together, I started to share more about my background, expertise, and how I create value in areas like relationships and business development.

For about a year, from December 2017 to November 2018, I stepped up to show Gary what value I can bring to him. I offered to set up a visit for him to Dubai, helped land a speaking gig for him in the UAE, and organized his entire visit. I planned his meetings with 21 CEOs, business roundtables, press, live interviews, and a private dinner reception.

After that trip, Gary hired me as a consultant. I was embedded into his organization and his team immediately, where I was able to add even more value in multiple buckets that led to revenue growth. Later that summer, Gary offered me a full time job to start January 1st of this year.

Moral of the story: instead of trying to convince someone of your value, you just need to show it to them!

2. Connect people to each other This is what I love to do most! I love introducing people to each other, and helping create relationships where both sides have something to gain. Even if I don’t get any of the “wins” that the two people create together, they’ll remember me as the source of their relationship.

It’s an incredibly rewarding thing to do, and something that brings me happiness even if I get nothing from it. It’s rewarding in itself, and motivates me to do more.

Be a connector. You will always learn something from the process, regardless of outcome.

3. Elevate before you createBefore you can create value for others, you need to raise your own value first. I always preach about being a lifelong learner, and how you should elevate yourself.

That means you have to lean into what you’re really good at, and invest in building those skills. It takes self-awareness to understand what makes you unique, but once you do, focus on building it more and more. Bottom line: seek to add value to yourself, before you think about adding value to others.

What story are you telling?

As a communications executive, I can tell you I am more excited about how authentic the communications are becoming because of COVID-19. We are getting the real thing over Zoom, from the CEO’s living room to the news anchor’s kitchen. Even influencers are switching up their messaging and companies are going back to remind customers of their missions.

Getting back to the basics is cool again. And that makes the value factor a game changer.  If all things are equal, value is what will matter. It’s the element of the story -your story- that people will care most about.

A parting thought: when you are considering partners, or seeking new business opportunities, ask yourself: what are you doing to create value for others? Are you looking for the added value in that opportunity- and can you make it count?

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