Essential lessons about life turned out to be lessons for business.
In my speaking engagements, I often get asked how I decided to focus on culture and employee engagement as the most important drivers for my business. Did some event trigger this approach? Did I work somewhere else and then decide that this is the way I wanted to do business? The answer is neither. Beryl has been my only gig (at least for the last 27 years). I guess I just didn’t know any better.
The credit goes to my mom and dad.
My parents are terrific people who managed to keep three boys from killing each other in a very rambunctious household. And while we may have battled as youngsters, the unifying values my parents instilled in us enabled my brothers and I to all go into business together and build a successful enterprise. I’m the only one still involved in the business, but the key principles remain the same.
Since we knew little to nothing about running a business and had no real professional experience, we decided to build our company on what we did know…and that is directly related to how we were brought up. And like many parents out there, ours had a few go-to sayings that ended up well beyond the Spiegelman house and directly in the culture of our business. Here are some of my favorites and why they’ll be important to your success.
1. "Always Be Nice"
It seems so simple, but I’ll never forget my dad telling me that. When I was a child and my dad would run into an old business colleague, that person would pull me aside and tell me that my dad was one of the nicest people he had ever met. I always hoped people would say that about me one day. (And I'm still working on it.) Being nice and having kindness in your heart will get you through almost any situation.
Stop telling people what you can do for them and listen to what they're saying they need from you. You can’t learn what your customer needs (and what they will buy from you) if you’re too busy talking about what you can give them.
3. "Eat Your Vegetables"
The same way it's good for you to plow through your vegetables as a kid, you'll find enormous benefits in reading to improve your business. Even the artichokes of business books. You can never read too much.
4. "Stop Picking Your Nose"
Be aware how you conduct yourself out in the world. People are watching you and your business. And not only should you avoid them catching you doing something questionable, don't do that questionable thing in the first place.
I was the middle kid and the serious one growing up. My mom always had to remind me to smile. Now I’ve written two books about smiling in business.
6. "Never Burn Bridges"
This was another one from my dad. We all face situations in which we want to tell someone off or win a fight. It isn’t worth it. Life is too short and the world is too small. People come, people go, and then people come back. We are all in the people business and it is sometimes better to bite your tongue and know that the right thing will happen if you take the right path.
Don’t just apply these parental sayings to your business. Take it a step further and ask yourself, "If I explained to my parents how I run my business, would they be proud? Would they be happy with how I treat others and why I take certain actions? How many times would I have to tell them, ‘That’s just how business is done.’" If that isn’t a happy conversation, maybe it’s time to review how you’re running the company.
Don’t let how your company operates bring about probably the most feared parental wisdom of all, "I brought you into this world…I can take you out of it just as easily."
Note: One of the first employees at Beryl was my mom. But once we decided to move the company from California to Texas, she just wouldn’t be uprooted from Santa Monica. So we had to let her go. But just from the company; she’s got tenure as mom.