I've heard a lot of business talk about culture and principles for success and I've read their lists and know there is often nothing secret on lists for success.
This is a list of principles that I've been shaping up over the last few years but never articulated. My business runs based on these and hopefully it can help you.
When you hit the wall, start building a doorway. If you can't build a doorway, build a ladder, but never give up.
I hope you find this encouraging and I'm really open to advice or suggestions.
- Live In Your Strengths
I've learned that I am not good at some things. This doesn't mean that I shouldn't do something out of my comfort zone or try things I'm not sure I can do. It simply means that if you learn what you do better than anyone else and spend the bulk of your time and energy doing those things you will be much better off.
StrengthsFinder 2.0 was an instrumental book for me in helping me identify some of my best strengths. "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen", and "don't quit your day job" are both negative ways of saying that you are better off doing what you are good at.
- Life Is Not Like Monopoly
In Monopoly there are really just 2 rules: Rule 1 is the game is only over when 1 person has all the money and Rule 2 is that person has to be me. Really, I love the game, but can't find barely anyone who will actually play it with me more than once. I am a wheeler dealer and am always looking for a way to get everyone what they want, as long as what I want and get is better.
I know the rules and I use them to build me a competitive advantage. But we all need to be aware that life just isn't the same way. I don't have to have all the money to win in life. I don't have to have all of your money to win in life. I just need to find a way to meet my needs and then work for the things above that.
There are some resources that are limited, but for most of us that is never an issue on our way to success.
Remembering this makes me less paranoid and less greedy. I can truly find things I absolutely love to pursue and then be happy with my share of the pie.
- Always Be Kind
Life is too short to be mean. Meanness always comes back in the end and gives you no satisfaction. Even if you have to say hard things, say them with a kind heart and everyone will be better off for it.
- Never Give Up
It's too easy to give up. Life will push you to your limits. I don't know of one successful person that wouldn't have been considered a failure at one point in their life and most of those that many would point to would admit to periods of personal, emotional, relational or spiritual failure even when from the outside they looked like a success all along. When you hit the wall, start building a doorway. Good ideas are good ideas even if things aren't working out today. If you can't build a doorway, build a ladder, but never give up.
- Don't Have Sacred Cows
This means don't do the same thing just because we always have and don't keep doing something that isn't working. This is the balance to never give up. This means always be willing to change. If it isn't working, but it's a good idea, then pivot, but don't quit. Good ideas are always good ideas, even if we haven't figured out how to implement them yet. Always be willing to take your favorite thing in a different direction if the situation calls for it.
- Always Look For The Win-Win-Win
In life and in business, look for a win for everyone involved. Start with everyone else's win, if possible make their win larger than yours. (This is so unlike Monopoly, it's not funny.) As a business owner you need to find a win for your employees, clients, family, your company and yourself if at all possible. Sometimes it may look impossible, but if you don't look for a way to make it possible you will seldom find it. I'd encourage you to work hard and you will often find a way to help everyone win, because if it isn't a win for everyone involved it shouldn't really be a win for anyone.
Confidence is almost always the difference between success and failure. Confident people don't always succeed, but people without it seldom succeed.
- Make It Easy
I mean this on every level possible. This means be proactive. Don't wait for common problems to happen. Do the routine things required to avoid them. Make it easier on your clients to avoid common pitfalls. Make it easy to do business with you. Accept all forms of payment possible, let people make purchases online, via phone or in-person. Make the actual purchase decision easy, make doing the work easy and every step on the way to paying for the work done easy. Your competition will have clients jump through a hoop somewhere and that is where you can convert some of them.
- Quantify Everything You Can
Measure leads, count calls and know your conversion rates. Know how much it costs for anything you do. Know how much money that makes you. Know how much an hour of your time is worth. Count everything you can. Things that are measured grow and things that are counted don't disappear. Any strategy that takes place over numbers that are not quantified and counted is just wishful thinking. You can't see sales goals reached unless you can measure results. This more than anything helps you know what works and what doesn't.
- Learn From Every Rodeo
You have made mistakes, don't make the mistake of having to make them again. If you can identify what worked and what didn't in your sales and business processes then you can change them to build a better future. Always learn from your successes and your failures. I learned this from repeatedly repeating my mistakes. Don't repeat my mistake of repeating my mistakes.
- Say Thank You
Let your clients, vendors and referral partners know that you appreciate them. Say thank you via every mean you can afford. Buy gifts if possible, but definitely at least take the time to express your appreciation in words. People need to know that what they are doing matters, if they are going to keep doing it. This is very important with referral partners.
- Family Matters and Relationships That Are Worth It Last
Make sure that you treat family like they matter. Make sure you don't neglect the people that you are working hard to provide for. Your clients won't hold your hair while you are sick. Many of your clients won't care about you when a new competitor is cheaper. In your relationships build for the long-term. Care about others, but never forget how important it is to keep family and friends a priority.
- Be Confident In Your Persistence
You may not have much confidence today, but start building it now. You may not be the smartest. You may not be the strongest or fastest. You may not have everything you need to get the job done today, but persistence always pays off. If you will commit to never giving up, then you can be confident that your persistence will not be denied its reward. Confidence is almost always the difference between success and failure. Confident people don't always succeed, but people without it seldom succeed.
Failure is easier to accept when you expect it. Success is easier to achieve after you have had the lessons of many failures.
- Help Others
This should be your first motivation. You will get back many kindnesses from the exercise of your own, but that shouldn't be the reason for being kind. There was a day or will be a day that you need the help and kindness of others, live your life as you would hope to be treated on that day.
- Live By The Grandmother Principle
The Golden Rule would be to treat others as you would like to be treated. The grandmother principle indicates the same with the exception that it adds to the rule as you think they need to be treated. We should be more patient with our grandmothers, often because they need it. We should be sure that they are surrounded by honest vendors, because they can be naive in areas they don't have experience in. We should listen to them because they know what our world was like before television. Consider someone's unique needs and treat them like you would like to be treated if you had those needs.
- Small Steps Complete Long Journeys
Many journeys are not completed because they aren't started. Look to your future, but pay attention to the next step. It is all you need to make safely to complete the journey. When the road goes straight up, be patient. You only need to take one step today to complete the journey. When you are at the top of the mountain and the road continues on, stop to appreciate the view, then continue on to the valley. It can be a harder walk down to the valley than it was up, but keep taking small sure steps and you will complete your journey.
- Hear What You Listen To
I have several people in my life that have no problem asking questions, but do not listen to the answers. I knew someone in a networking group that asked me over 7 times how many children I had. You have to listen to the answer to remember it. Don't just listen with your ears, try to understand where the other person is coming from and how you can help them. There is more said in the pauses between speech than their is in the noise of speech. Care about those you talk with. If you like me struggle with this here are a couple tips that help me:
a. I've found it helpful to ask people how they spell their name.
b. Ask people, "What do you mean by that?" You will find that they will talk about it more when they truely feel like you are listening.
- Know Your Market... and Why You Are Different
You will have competition. If your idea or business is worth doing there will be competition. Know what they charge. Know what they provide for those fees. Be ready, willing and able to clearly articulate why your way of doing business is better. It is easier to compete on quality than price, but a wise business looks for the balance where they are competitive on both. Don't just know why you are different, articulate it often with your networking partners and ask them to do the same with theirs. People will believe what they say about you way more than they will believe what you say about yourself.
- Find Accountability
It is too easy, particularly as a business owner, to avoid having to answer to anyone. Great business owners set goals, communicate those goals with others and allow others to ask them how they are doing on their goals. This doesn't mean taking orders from others, but it does mean letting others help you do what you want to do so you can achieve what you want to achieve.
- Do the Right Thing
It can be difficult to do, but the right thing is always the right thing and it always produces the right results. This means when in doubt refer back to the grandmother principle even if it costs us money. You may have to get creative to do the right thing, but it's worth doing, even if the immediate results don't look like it. Doing the right thing is the long-term solution to many short-term problems.
- Plan To Fail
Look fear in the eye and laugh. Plan to fail. Okay I don't really mean plan to build crappy products or provide poor service and do poorly in business. I do mean expect failure. It's easier to accept when I know that when failure comes I will learn from and adapt to it, and that I will continue to persist and come out better for it, helps. Failure is easier to accept when you expect it. Success is easier to achieve after you have had the lessons of many failures.
Mitch Comstock is the father of four boys, husband of one wife, and an entrepreneur spending most of his life working for himself. He is a technologically gifted communicator, meaning he knows stuff and can explain it to normal people. He is a seeker, a friend, a writer and a LinkedIn trainer. In 2005 he formed Legendary Computers, a computer sales and service company in Franklin, Tennessee. He lives just south of Nashville, Tennessee and is always looking for ways to help others. You can read his thoughts on many things at mitchcomstock.com.