I was recently being interviewed by an online media platform regarding what I'd learned in 35 years as an entrepreneur. It made me really stop and reflect on that question and I came up with 10 key points that summarize what I've learned along the way, my most profound realizations.
Now whilst this list is by no means definitive, it comes on the back of tens of thousands of hours working in my business, working with thousands of individuals and of course, writing thirteen bestselling books on the topic of doing business better.
These ten points are what I would offer:
1. PUT ALL OF YOUR EGGS INTO THE ONE BASKET
We live in a world where we need to be known for something. We need to be the "go to person" or the "go to business" in our particular niche. This means being the best at what you do and the best way to achieve this is to master your craft. Being the "go to person" means an endless supply of referrals, better customers, more money - and a business you control, not one that controls you. People who master their craft, who aspire to be the best in their space, enjoy the rewards their entire life.
2. CHANGE IS PASSIVE - EVOLUTION IS POWERFUL
Change is the buzzword that we are sick of hearing. To me change is a defeatist term, meaning we have to change to survive. I much prefer the concept of evolution, or the need to evolve in business. To me this means reacting in a proactive way to any changes in our environment, which will in turn help to us not just survive, but more importantly thrive in the new environment.
3. TAKE ABSOLUTE RESPONSIBILITY FOR EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR BUSINESS.
Everything catches up with you eventually. Putting off the big and difficult things in your business is a major mistake. The longer you ignore them the worse they become. I've made many mistakes over the years, not sacking a client, not sacking a member of my team, ignoring my tax responsibilities, not chasing outstanding accounts and so on. They all caught up with me and ultimately they were far worse when I finally took responsibility and action. Deal with the tough stuff quickly.
4. SOMEONE HAS TO BE THE MOST EXPENSIVE - WHY NOT MAKE IT YOU?
Many, if not most small businesses undercharge. There are lots of reasons why, mostly to do with self-worth. For some business owners their entire marketing strategy is to be the cheapest. If this is your strategy you will never get ahead financially. Someone has to be the most expensive - why not make it you? The key is if you are the most expensive you have to exceed every customer expectation and this most certainly doesn't happen by accident - it takes commitment, investment, courage and tenacity. Bottom line, if you are going to be the most expensive you have to be the best.
5. FAILURE FOLLOWS FISCAL FOLLY
Very few small businesses know how much it costs them to operate each month. This is the simplest, most basic of financial questions and if you can't answer it you can never know if you are making money or losing money at any point in time. In fact you really have to wait for your tax to be done by your accountant, once per year. Not being "into" bookkeeping or understanding your figures is the equivalent of driving a car with a blindfold. It is your responsibility to know your numbers and if you don't embrace this responsibility, it will cost you dearly.
6. LAY DOWN WITH DOGS YOU GET UP WITH FLEAS (AND MANGE)
I can't emphasize enough how important your peer group is. If they are smart, motivated, energetic, supportive - stick to them like glue. If they are negative, lazy, critical and most importantly, not successful - get as far as away as possible as quickly as possible. Having a powerful peer group doesn't happen by accident, it takes time, work and commitment.
7. HARDEN UP
No one ever said that running a small business was going to be easy. Of course it is tough, of course it has its challenges but a corporate career is no easier. The grass always seems greener, every other business appears easier than ours, every other business owner seems more capable, makes more money and so on, but in reality it isn't the case. I think we just need to harden up and get on with it.
8. LISTEN TO MY INTUITION MORE
I think that as business owners we actually develop really good intuition that can serve us wonderfully well in many situations. The problem is we tend to override our intuition with logic and it rarely works out well, at least from my experience. I think we need to learn to listen to our intuition in every business situation - the more we use it the more it will protect us.
9. TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT
This is a big one for me - it's absolutely imperative to treat everyone with respect. This means your customers, your staff, your suppliers, your advisors, your competitors, your community - everyone. I don't think this really needs to be explained.
10. LEARN FROM THOSE WHO HAVE GO BEFORE YOU
Last but not lease it would be to spend as much time as possible to learn from those who have gone before me. There are so many incredible people who are incredibly successful, often under our nose, who would gladly share their wisdom if we asked.
If I were to add one more, I would include "be careful of who you take advice from". We live in a world where there are lots of people willing to give advice, but I suggest that you do your homework, ask hard questions and make sure the people you are getting advice from have actually achieved what it is they say they have.