I recently took a phone call from a man running a business in Barnsley. His business had been around for 30 years, he got most of his work through word of mouth, he did a good job and provided a quality service. Whilst nearly every business I speak to says these same things, I was inclined to believe him. He’d been around successfully for 30 years.

He’d rang me because he’d heard about “digital marketing” but wasn’t quite sure what it was. He also told me he’d been paying for online advertising from a large well-known company that makes yellow books. He wasn’t sure whether it was bringing him in any business.

At this point I knew that this man probably wasn’t going to become a regular client of our services. His website was fine, the type of industry he worked in didn’t really need to be advertising online, and I just had a gut feeling I’d had a thousand times before.

He was nice though, and I didn’t want to see him ripped off by large companies that were exploiting his lack of knowledge. I told him the best thing to do would be for me to meet him in person and take a look at his online advertising account. I told him I wouldn’t charge him for the meeting.

I had the meeting with him and we talked a lot about digital marketing. I told him about Facebook Advertising and Google Ads. I explained his website rankings, and that they were already good. I explained the whole digital marketing world to him and what I think he should look into.

I also explained that he didn’t need our services, and what he was doing already was pretty good. This shocked him.

At this point I could have told him he did need our services. He didn’t have much knowledge of the arena we work in, and I could have told him anything to convince him that he needed us.

Instead, I told him he didn’t owe me anything.

He was very thankful, shook my hand, and went on his way much more confident about his options than an hour previous.

There’s many ways to treat people in life, but I’ve always used one simple phrase to steer how I treat people: “work hard and be nice to people”.

I try to be nice by default to anybody I meet. It doesn’t cost me anything but gives me so much in return, mainly the knowledge that I know I’ve tried to do the right thing.

I aim to be nice in business as well. I treat people no differently in a business setting than to how I’d treat them if I met them down at the pub. Sometimes it means I don’t make as much money as I’d like to, but it always means I do the right thing.

And working hard? Working hard is the easy bit. Pick something you enjoy doing and work hard at it. If you love it or you’re obsessed by it you’ll work hard at it.

Work hard and be nice to people.