Last autumn I was invited by SAP to their TechEd conference (as I've been this year too, all paid in fact so keep that in mind if I go overly gushing).
With a "blogger" badge on my lapel I wandered the halls, and lo and behold nobody stopped me anywhere. Talked to executives, customers and of course my favourites, the developer community where I learned, talked, and listened.
What hit me more than anything was the confidence the company conveyed. Self-confidence in fact.
As a human I know when I'm confident, I can jump high fences, I'm ready to stick my neck out and I am not afraid to embarrass myself. Life is excellent.
Self-confidence, perhaps the most important basis for any human being - allows me to interact, open up, listen and take a chance. I also think it will be hard to be really happy and content without self-confidence.
That's the stuff we parents see as the most important job - instil self-confidence in our children so they're prepared to strike out on their own.
I think the same applies to corporations.
Without it the corporation cannot trust me, the customer / supplier / employee, and thus I cannot trust the corporation.
Without it the corporation would be hard pressed to risk innovation and deliver a long term value even if they have the technical/creative ability.
I find that the level of self-confidence is precisely what I look for, consciously or not, when I meet a corporation.
What's the ad message, the corporate body language so to say?
Am I met with an NDA before I open my mouth?
Do they slap DRMs, clickwrap and shrinkwrap license in minuscule text on every package and download?
Do the software require "Insert your original CD into the drive now" every time I need to change the IP address?
Do they send me a mail every time I touched their services to check if all is OK (actually this is a ruse to try to push more stuff my way)?
Do their support people use some rule out of a manual to deny me support three days after the warranty expired or do the chap say "sure, no problem we'll fix that!"?
That's why I lost confidence in Dell when they started calling me after I ordered, don't they trust me to choose the right parts?
That's why I repeatedly have to tell WebEx to strike me from all their mail-lists (that company must be built on CRMs).
That's why I come back to Apple after some support person helped me even if some rule dictated otherwise.
That's why I like a certain investment bank in London (you know who you are) when the IT leadership all handed out Hughcards instead of the boring corporate title-heavy ones.
And that's why I like SAP.
Folks, I think that corporate self-confidence is as important as personal self-confidence. And that an entrepreneur's most important task is very much the same as a parent's.