Why Dale Carnegie is (still) a must-read for small business owners
For a book that was first published in 1936, it is natural for many among us to question the current value of the advice Dale Carnegie put together in his best-selling self-help book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Sure, it has sold over 15 million copies and has helped people in both their personal lives and their business endeavours—but one does wonder: do Carnegie’s “old-school” words still ring true in this day and age? In this fast-paced, modern world, does the book’s advice, which was written during the Depression era, have any relevance today?
Well, to find out, I borrowed an old, dog-eared paperback copy of the 320-page book from a friend and read it from start to finish. In his introduction to the book, Carnegie suggested that readers “draw a line” beside points that seemed particularly useful to them; a suggestion that I followed, albeit for a short period—because midway through the book, I realized that there were more highlighted words than the original print! And that is, perhaps, the best indication of the timeless quality of the the advice captured in this book.
The principles that Carnegie espouses in his book are simple and pithy, but there’s no doubt that they are all gems—the value of his advice has only increased since they were first published. While the book has already been morphed into a newer version that’s more apt for the digital age, rest assured that the original with its anecdotes and examples still make for great reading today. In fact, reading the original allows readers to make their own inferences and then re-imagine these classic formulas for use in their lives and businesses.
For instance: one of the best sections in the book is “Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking,” which can today be read as a lesson in inbound marketing. While a command like “begin in a friendly way” may seem incredibly trivial, it is a subtlety that is easily lost when people are trying to grow their businesses. An honest greeting, a personalized email, a willingness to listen: customers love the ‘small’ in small business, and maintaining those one-on-one relationships can go a long way in creating a successful enterprise.
The book also seems to have been way ahead of its time. While there may have been no mention of social media in Carnegie’s era, hints on how to use the same are peppered throughout his book. “Arouse in the other person an eager want” seems like a lesson in social media 101—after all, social networks like Facebook, Pinterest, etc. are really great ways to showcase your products to the world. Carnegie also said that customers should be encouraged to talk about themselves—a statement that can be applied to online conversations as well.
There are many more such tips and tricks in Carnegie’s book, making it a must-read for anyone who wants to better both their personal and work lives—small business owners especially can learn a ton of useful information from this book. Even if you have already read the book, take the time to read the book again. As Carnegie himself said, “these principles can be made habitual only by a constant and vigorous campaign of review and application,” and given that he has already got so many other things right, it’s safe to think that he’s right on this point as well.
This article is part of the Drive Your Business Forward series. Check out allvoices.com/smallbusiness for more tips and advice on how to succeed as a small business. This series is supported by Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.