Why Dale Carnegie, the Iconic 19th Century Businessman, Is Still Relevant Today

Women’s Venture Fund

One of the bestselling books ever written is Dale Carnegie’s hit of 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence Others.  TIME magazine ranks it #38 in the list of business books of all time and GoodReads notes it as #75 of all books including fiction works by R.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien and Agatha Christie.

What are the takeaways from this seminal book that endures even today despite all the technological advances since the 1930’s? At its very core, Carnegie’s book and the Training Institute he founded that still turns out tens of thousands of participants each year, espouses the key principles that lead to success in business and our personal lives. Here are excerpts of Carnegie’s time-tested principles with WVF commentary that can jumpstart your journey to great leadership and steady your course to successful entrepreneurship:

Become a friendlier person
Stop being judgmental…learn to listen to other people and show genuine interest in what they are saying and what they want.
WVF: Developing and honing your listening skills is a key asset for today’s salespeople. To be effective (and profitable) salespeople (like you) practice relationship selling where you don’t just push product but you strive to meet consumers’ needs through effective listening, questioning and crafting solutions.  

Win people to your way of thinking
Develop the skills to empathize with your audience; show respect for their opinion even if it not your own. L earn how to demonstrate your ideas to make an impression using facts, figures and stories.
WVF: Entrepreneurship is all about marketing yourself and your services; branding is everything. Work at making a good first impression by knowing your audience, crafting a story that will be remembered and being genuine in your interactions with customers and prospects.   

Be a leader
Partner with your team through respectful and constructive criticism. Praise good work performance and be encouraging when suggesting improvement. Share any relevant mistakes you’ve made in the past and pass on your learning experience. You’ll make the person happy to embark on your suggestions.

WVF: When you hire employees you’re bringing on partners in your success. Treating them well, investing in their business growth will ensure your own success. Even solo entrepreneurs need leadership skills as they deal with vendors, professional service providers and potential partners. Make a resolution to learn as much as possible about your industry in order to be regarded as an expert who can be trusted and relied upon to deliver solutions.

Overcome worry: Break the worry habit before it breaks you
Face your worry by asking what is the worst that could happen; then prepare to face it  with constructive, rational solutions based on all the available facts. Take action! But decide just how much worry you should be expending refuse to give it more. 

WVF: This iconic businessman reminded us to consider the high price we pay for worrying in terms of our health. Adopt best practices in every aspect of your businesses; fill in your knowledge gaps with expert advice; learn to delegate to avoid becoming overwhelmed and ineffectual. Learn how basic risk management can help you protect your business and avoid some of the stress of entrepreneurship.

Cultivate a mental attitude that brings you peace and happiness
You should expect ingratitude along the way so don’t waste time and energy resenting the ingrate. Count your blessings, not your troubles…don’t imitate others…profit from your losses …create happiness for others…and never try to get even with your enemies.
WVF: We always urge new entrepreneurs and  those repositioning their businesses to be unique in their offerings. Find a problem and solve it with an innovative product or service. As for profiting from loss: Learn from your mistakes and those of your competitors.  

Don’t worry about criticism
Strive to do your best every day, no less. Be your own critic with honest analysis of your own mistakes…  An unjust criticism could be a compliment in disguise.  

WVF: Let’s talk briefly about self-criticism and our ability to analyze our actions. It requires that we have a high degree of confidence in our abilities. However, overconfidence can lead us to commit serious mistakes like underestimating the competition; inaccurately assessing the marketplace; inadequately allocating resources; and not acknowledging our skill gaps in order to seek help. To be your own best critic you need to achieve a balance between being confident and self-critical.  

Do things in order of their importance. Don’t put problems on the shelf if you can create solutions then and there. And rest before you get tired.
WVF: Get organized. Not only keep an eye on your goals with checklists and to-do lists but look at how you work: Do you tackle the complex, challenging tasks at the top of the day? Are you spending hours on routine tasks rather than delegating them to others in order to spend time on the strategic management of your business?