10 Lessons Learned From Being in Business : I had, to my total delight, the opportunity to read a blog post written Kirsty Stewart of Enhance Your Chances. It was based on ‘things I have learnt from being a resume writer’. It was hilarious and yet serious at the same time. Her reflection on her own experiences inspired me to write this particular article on the 10 things I have learnt from being in business.
1. 20% of business owners with less than 20 employees have no idea what is going on in their business, 80% of business owners with over 80 employees have no idea what is going on in their business, all others are relative.
When you employ staff it is important to have checks and measures in place to know what is going on in your organisation. This includes the selection of only the best candidates (either internal or external) for engagement at a management or executive level. It also calls for the implementation of systems that will track matters such as employee absenteeism, reports of bullying, harassment and any other unprofessional conduct. Another important consideration is whether is is worth engaging the services of a consultant from time to time to conduct formal in-confidence employee surveys to identify their sentiment on your business, their role, their future intent of career progression and professional development interests.
2. When you are doing something well others will naturally copy you no matter what you do. Your competitive advantage is to do it best by developing it from your experience.
Leader = having followers. If you are a leader in your industry, market or niche then you should expect others to copy your business model, products and service offerings, branding and promotion choices. The question for you to address is how you are going to remain the leader and set the standard for your business’ offerings and customer service. Make a plan of attack to remain the best of business.
3. If your business is your life then you will loose perspective of where it fits in your industry and what your market want from you.
Often seen in small to medium enterprises, it is common to see a business being held back by it’s own founder. Although this is rarely intentional it is a side effect of treating your business as if it were a child for whom you refuse to provide the additional freedoms it needs as it grows up. As a business grows and matures it is important to consider how to renew the business to keep it fresh and interesting to clients and consumers. Occasionally, this may mean branding refresh, in some cases some addition, diversification or termination of some current business offerings, and in some cases changes to the business’ approach to internal operations including human resources practices.
4. Employees will, more often than not, live up to your expectations. You need to think seriously about the expectations that you set.
The most important thing a business leader can do is to be the thermostat, not the thermometer, for corporate expectation. By this I mean that management should set the standard they expect from their staff and that perhaps business owners should seriously consider who of their senior staff are known for cutting corners or making ethically challenging decisions. At the end of the day it is important to consider whether it is fair to expect more from your staff than you expect from yourself.
5. Not for profit organisations exist for charitable purposes. Businesses exist to make money. Your business is not a charity. Your business can give great things to a charity though. Do not confuse the two!
I have been called on this statement before on the basis of the quote, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’. I am not saying that this is not true either. If you are wanting to make a difference to a cause that you, or your staff, are passionate about then it is a strong recommendation that you do it through the appropriate community or charitable group. A business, under the definition of most countries, exists to make a profit and as long as this is the case a business will always be in conflict as long as it touts a charitable purpose as opposed to a specialised niche.
6. In small cities everything is about who you know and even the village idiot can run a successful business. The key to doing so, should you be that idiot, is to surround yourself with smart people.
You don’t have to be an expert to be successful in business. If you have the ability to network effectively then you are in a prime position to be very successful in business. The key to this is to make use of experts in the areas where your own skill set falls short. Most CEO’s have no idea how to do some of the technical tasks that their staff perform.
7. Don’t underestimate the role your children play in your business.
Children, on the most part, have a natural passion and zeal for life. If you are in a small business and have a degree or flexibility then include your children in business activities and allow them to learn about what you do and develop a passion for it for themselves. People know that when the children are passionate that something has rubbed off which can make them fantastic sales people (even if they distract you at times).
8. When life throws you lemons make lemonade.
If you take your experiences and build them into your business, from there, success will naturally follow. Some times situations are thrown at business owners that they would never have predicted. The important part when dealing with these things is to work out how to make it a corporate positive. Often I have been disappointed by contracted PR companies that I have been, without choice, partnered with for a project only to find that they see their job as being reactive rather than proactive to an issue.
9. Quiet times are not for holidays they are for business development (working on your business).
Quiet times allow you to focus on the core aspects of your business and resolve any current or foreseeable issues. Use this time to review policies, procedures, marketing and advertising strategy as well as any human resourcing and technology integration issues. Then, plan your holidays during the busiest time so that you can afford any additional staffing even if they take three times as long as you do!
10. Indecision is the key to flexibility.
Just because something is or is not mentioned in your five year business plan does not mean that it should not be included or excluded from business activities. When you prepare a business plan you need to accept that it is a living document and subject to change based on the number of uncontrollable factors put in place by customers, suppliers, competitors and other environmental factors including government policy and economic conditions, It may be hand to also do a plan on a page of your short term plan of three to six months that you will look at daily. This way you can scribble on it as ideas change and use it as a plasticine model of where you want your business to be and mould it as you go. Your business will reward you for staying focused, yet flexible.
Kristy A. Bennett is a business owner, consultant and entrepreneur who is involved with both Green & Nutty Pty Ltd and Looking Deeper Pty Ltd. She is the founder of the Looking Deeper Trust’s Management Mentoring Program as well as the establishment of konkrd.com, a business support system dedicated to supporting business owners as they seek to bolster their bottom line.