Here's a trivia question: Who's the only U.S. president to receive a patent? No, not Thomas Jefferson. Abraham Lincoln!
This month, we observe President's Day -- combining Lincoln's birthday (February 12) with George Washington's (February 22). Good old honest Abe had a lot in common with entrepreneurs today:
-- He was self-made. He worked his way up from poverty, with less than one year of formal education.
-- He was a retailer. He owned a small store, which quickly went out of business.
-- He was an inventor. He received patent number 6469 in 1849 for a device to lift riverboats over sand bars. It was never produced.
-- He ran a law practice. He had to deal with his partner, clients, competitors, billings.
-- He failed over and over again. In his first race for elected office, he came in eighth (out of 13) and failed repeatedly to get elected to the Senate.
So, those of us in business can look to Lincoln for guidance:
Attitude: "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing."
"You can not fail, if you resolutely determine that you will not."
"People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
Sales: "When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say."
"We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot."
Time Management: "Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today. Never let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever piece of business you have in hand, before stopping, do all the labor pertaining to it which can then be done."
"You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today."
Fees and Billing: "An exorbitant fee should never be claimed. As a general rule never take your whole fee in advance, nor any more than a small retainer. When fully paid beforehand, you are more than a common mortal if you can feel the same interest in the case...Settle the amount of fee and take a note in advance...and you are sure to do your work faithfully and well."
Planning: "I will prepare and some day my chance will come."
"If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe."
Disputes: "Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser - in fees, expenses, and waste of time."
Integrity: "I have no desire to have God on my side. Rather, I want to do all that I can to be on His side."
"If in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer."
"I desire to so conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end...I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me."
Perspective: "It is said that an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true, and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: 'And this, too, shall pass away."
Excellence: "Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship."
"Every man is proud of what he does well; and no man is proud of what he does not do well. With the former, his heart is in his work; and he will do twice as much of it with less fatigue.
"Whatever you are, be a good one."
And don't forget to keep a sense of humor: "If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee."
"It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues."
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2003
Rhonda Abrams writes the nation's most widely-read small business column and is the author of The Successful Business Plan and The Successful Business Organizer . Register to receive Rhonda's free business tips newsletter at www.RhondaOnline.com.