Some of the most important business lessons were never taught in school. And they might alter your career. Will you suffer failure before you learn them?
You don’t have to experience the loss of a business or failure in your job to learn some of the very best lessons about running an organization. Following is my short list (a baker’s dozen) of lessons that every leader should know about successful business practices. And, just for fun, I’ll include three of my favorite business axioms as well.
1) Personal integrity – While there are courses in business ethics, they generally deal with larger corporate strategic and tactical issues. What I’m talking about here are personal ethics, which turns out to be the key thing affecting your business career. Opportunities will present themselves and people will align with you based on your integrity. Reflecting on how a decision aligns with your personal integrity should guide every decision and every action in your personal and professional life.
2) Great ideas are never found in presentations- Truly great ideas can be captured in one or two sentences. But most employees won’t spend the time to create a presentation about them. And they shouldn’t have to. Being available to listen to new ideas without burdening the person who is presenting them assures that the tap of innovation will never run dry.
3) People are absolutely key– Whether you’re starting your own business, part of a large corporation or somewhere in between, “A” caliber people are worth 10 times that of “B” caliber. All others will, at best, maintain the status quo.
4) Cash is king– Managers spend a lot of time (or should) examining budgets, cash flow statements, and the financial details of their organization. Even if you’re not directly responsible for financials you should understand how money moves through your department. The one thing every team member should be focused on is that cash flow is completely deterministic for a business. Every team member, every project and every department should be familiar with this. Regardless of size, each member of your team should be able to identify how their work financially impacts the organization.
5) If cash is king, culture is queen and holds the underpinnings of any business. Work on this diligently.
6) Your idea is not your IP. Your execution is the real IP.
7) Technology is changing exponentially – This certainly wasn’t taught when I was in school and it isn’t taught in many places now. But it’s a key tenet of businesses today and it fundamentally affects every single business that has any hope of surviving, let alone thriving.
8) Constant ideation and implementation is critical for businesses to succeed. Work this into your functional plans.
9) You can’t get there when you’re not sure where you want to be. Always be planning.
10) Have a back-up plan- Know how you’ll respond and recover when new information alters your path forward.
11) Networking is essential. Think of it as a survival skill. Go alone if you prefer to go fast. But if you want to get far, find friends who will hold your hand along.
12) Always keep the buyer in mind. How many companies would still be around if they’d done this?
13) Cleaning up a failing department/organization/project requires you to get your hands dirty. Good leaders always will.
And my three favorite axioms that drive excellence:
a) Pay it forward with people, always.
b) Break rules and encourage them.c) Never hire a satisfied sales guy, an arrogant engineer or a know-it-all manager.