About eleven years ago I wrote some tips for a business publication to share some of my thoughts about what I had learned in my first fifteen years in business. If you do the math then you will know that the business is now over 25 years old. As I was going through some old files I found the article again.
People say that doing business today is so different. It’s true that technology has changed the way we work. There are more outlets for products and services. Customers have different and greater expectations. But, to my surprise the tips I offered long ago to those standing on the entrepreneurial ledge have not changed all that much. I thought I would share them once again so here they are.
Love what you do.
Be honest and never let a customer pay for you to experiment. Do that on your own time.
Think carefully about how you structure your business and be ready to evolve and change as the organizations matures.
Pay for the expertise you need and don’t skimp. Experts will save you money in the long run.
Plan for the worst. Don’t take a big salary and be ready to work long hours gladly- or get out now
When it comes to operations, think like a big business. Put systems, procedures and safeguards in place. (Today I would add pay attention to cyber security)
Hire the best person for the job and then let them do it.
Don’t confuse motion with profitability. You can be very busy and still be broke. That’s why you should walk away from customers or jobs that do not make sense for your bottom line. It may be difficult, but in the long run it will serve your business well.
Be gracious and let customers walk away when they want to try another supplier. If you are really good, or produce a superior product they will come back and appreciate you even more.
Invest in your business- in people, equipment, marketing tools and anything else that moves your company ahead. (Today I would add invest in yourself. Take time to go to conferences, seminars and network with your peers. All of this gives you a better perspective on the business and life) Also invest in your community. Do it because it is the right thing to do, not because it might benefit your business.
As I think about these simple tips I marvel at how so much has changed… and yet I believe that these things have remained the same through the years. And, there is one more thing that has not changed for me. On most days I have way too much fun to think of it as work. When it does feel like work, I remember that owning a small business is still a better choice for me than working for someone else.