What Would You Say?
Suppose a local high school asks you to come and talk to the 16-year-olds about your business. Suppose one of the students says, “Business sounds interesting, what can you tell me about it that is important and that I won’t find in a business book?”
I doubt we could agree on a five point list, and if you ask me again next week, this one might be different. Here are some candidate thoughts:
- If you find yourself spending a lot of time analyzing a situation, deep down you probably don’t want to do it at all. Most successful businesses are action oriented. Do enough analysis to discover and avoid the obvious pitfalls, but trying something is motivating and the experience from the early candidate decisions will get you to the next level way before analysis will.
- Creativity is contagious. Share your ideas. The more of them you share, the more of them you and your group will have. Pay little attention to the fact that any particular idea is your own. Ideas are about 49 cents a dozen. It is the implementation that matters. Group idea sharing brings you closer to implementing.
- Groups work better than people. The army arranges their special forces teams to be mutually supporting and to have overlapping skills. Seal Team 6 is a dramatically more effective force than a dozen randomly selected but highly skilled soldiers. Be reluctant to break up a functional team.
- Pay attention to the customer number count more than the sales total. Customer numbers matter because only an existing customer can give your business a strong recommendation. Growing takes longer than you think it should. For a new business, it might take two years to get enough customers to be viable. For success, maybe five years. The only customers you get at first are early adapters and there are not so many of them. Be patient. Learn the difference between marketing and sales. Sales generates money, but not new customers. Marketing generates customers.
- There is a difference between making money and getting money. Money is a way to keep score. It should not be the goal. If you do things for the money, you will tend to cut corners and over-promise. Both of those make it harder to get and keep new customers. Design you business so the people that make product value decisions are the ones trying to please customers. Marketing and engineering usually. Not finance. An accountant can discover that if there are 12 of a certain part in a car and if the company makes 6,000,000 cars a year, a 10 cent price reduction by going a little cheaper, will “make” the company $7.2 million per year. In truth, it will “get” the company $7.2 million. At an unknown cost. GM learned this the hard way. Cheap frequently turns out expensive. Making money means adding value not deleting value.
I think there are many more ideas like this. How about “It is never perfect” or “It always turns out differently from what you expect.”
Feel free to add more.
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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org