Here's the kind of question I get all the time. It comes from a young man named Tony Wagner: "I am just starting out and would like to know, Where would I get the best business knowledge? What books? What seminars? What schools? I want to be the best I can be."
Tony, I really don't believe that books, seminars, or even school can be your most useful tool. That's not to say that education isn't important. I'm a big believer in education. While you're going to school, you should get as much as you can. But that's not really what's going to help you the most. If you're just starting out and looking for general business advice, there's no better way than to start in the trenches.
When I was looking to get into a service business and knew nothing at all, I first thought maybe I'd go into the car wash business, so I applied for a job at a local car wash. I started off as a vacuumer, which was one of the best jobs because when the taxi cabs pulled in and you vacuumed out the back seat, you usually found a lot of change. I eventually managed three locations. The most important thing I learned was that I didn't want to go into the car wash business. I didn't like that the car wash was open 24/7 or that it was a cash business. I wanted lots of people working for me, and I didn't want to have to worry about watching the cash every day. Even so, what I learned about business was invaluable. I learned how important customer service is. I learned that the best business is repeat business. I learned how to buy supplies properly.
Then I tried a delivery business that I worked at for three years. When I left, I started my own delivery business. Here's the thing: When people come to me and say they don't have any knowledge, I ask them what they've been doing. They always have more knowledge than they think.
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NORM BRODSKY | Columnist
Street Smarts columnist and senior contributing editor Norm Brodsky is a veteran entrepreneur who has founded and expanded six businesses.