Real Business is Personal and Authenticity Lasts a Lifetime

I filmed at a business innovation conference a few years ago. The conference was run by MBA students from a prestigious Canadian university and attended by prominent business people from all over North America.

I was paid by the MBA students to film the conference. That included all the keynotes, some of the breakout sessions, and all of the fancy snack and alcohol consumption. I was a one-man crew, handing all of the lighting, audio and camera. I filmed all Friday night, all Saturday day and night, and half of Sunday. I was also underpaid, but that’s another story.

The most important thing for me to capture was the interviews with the four keynotes and the seven conference organizers.

I’ll admit I was a little intimidated at the conference. I was an Arts student with no business experience and some of the concepts went over-my-head.

I did learn one very important life-lesson though:

Real business is personal and authenticity lasts a lifetime.

Let me explain.

When I interviewed the keynote speakers, they talked to me. They asked me where I was from, how I was doing. They remembered my name. They even offered to help setup some of the equipment! I found talking with them easy and engaging and at no point did I feel like I was wasting their valuable time.

When I interviewed the MBA students, however, I was treated much differently. I was rushed. They never remembered my name. One student expressed a significant amount of surprise that I had attended, and graduated from, the same university as him. During our interview, this same gentleman even asked me to step away from the camera so that he could talk to the air instead of me. In all my years of filming, I‘ve never encountered someone more comfortable talking to a pretend person than a real one.

The difference between how the keynote speakers and the students treated me was night and day. To the keynotes, I was a human being. To the students, I was the lowly video guy they paid to make them look good for prospective job opportunities.

The thing the keynotes knew that the students didn’t was that real business people treat people like people; they talk to the custodian like they talk to their CFO. They talk to the videographer like they talk to an investor. And though they didn’t have time to talk to me, they made time.

What the students didn’t understand is that real business isn’t an image, suit or business card; it’s not smoke & mirrors.

Real business people treat other people with respect. They are professionals in the truest sense of the word. And in their professionalism, they embody an authenticity that cannot be manufactured.

People are your customers, they’re your coworkers, peers and colleagues and competitors. The impact your authenticity has on them is everlasting and will be remembered long after your business card is tossed in the recycling bin.

Thanks for reading.