THINGS THEY DIDN'T TEACH YOU IN BUSINESS SCHOOL
Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.
—Jim Rohn, American Entrepreneur
In business, as in most other walks of life, a good, well-rounded education is a tremendous asset for acquiring success. While there's little question that many business schools provide a very good education, they don't—and can't—deliver a well-rounded one.
Business schools are long, deep, and wide on theory, philosophy, economics, and other "big picture" subjects. This provides a solid foundation for a career in business. But it's not possible for them to give you the experience you will need to deal with the many challenges and opportunities that you'll encounter every day of your business life.
Day-to-day business is firmly rooted in the real world—a world in which one low-profile breakfast can be more productive than a dozen power lunches; a world in which it's often easier to sell something than to give it away; a world in which not being needed can be a very good thing.
Business, especially entrepreneurship, is a brass tacks world that requires having small, but all-important insights, gained only by real-world experience. Here are just a few.
The first rule of entrepreneurial success is to take responsibility. Nothing transforms you into a trusted business leader faster than faithfully observing this rule. When you accept complete responsibility for what happens in both your business and your personal life, you transform yourself from participant to director. Once you fully understand and apply this rule, you have already succeeded.
Avoid meetings with more than two or three people.
Meetings are generally a waste of time. The more people in attendance and the longer the meeting lasts, the greater the waste of time. Research shows that many times a meeting's primary purpose is to establish the pecking order within the group. If you must have a meeting, control it. Limit the number of attendees to those absolutely necessary. Have a well-defined agenda and stick to it. Ban cell phones. Start on time. Don't repeat yourself for latecomers. Then get back to work.
There are exceptions to limiting the number of meeting attendees. For example, a brainstorming meeting shouldn't be limited to just two or three people. Be sure to keep brainstorming meetings informal to encourage the free flow of ideas—and limit attendance to fewer than 10 people. The purpose of these meetings is to solve a problem. Once the problem is presented to the group, ideas, even silly ideas, are solicited from attendees and written on a blackboard or some such thing. The ideas are then discussed, and the better ones are adopted. These are by far the most successful and productive kinds of meetings I have attended.
Price can create value.
A friend called me one Saturday afternoon. "I need to ask you a big favor," he began. He explained that he had a family emergency that would take him out of town for several weeks. He asked if I could take a litter of six puppies and give them away to good homes while he was away.
I do love dogs, but I started thinking about the level of care puppies need, and I was about to say no when I heard myself saying, "Sure, why not?" An hour later my friend was at my door with a large bag of Puppy Chow and six very cute and very excited puppies.
Monday morning I placed an ad on a classified advertising site which read: "Cute Australian Shepherd mix puppies. Free." That week I got only four calls and placed just one puppy. Cute as they were, the prospect of continuing to care for five very needful puppies was not pleasant. Then I got an idea.
The following Monday, I posted the same ad with one change. The puppies were no longer free. The price was now $75. To my surprise, the remaining puppies were sold to five happy families within two days.
The lesson of this little story is that price can establish value in the mind of the buyer.
"Steal" good ideas.
When you see a really good marketing concept or packaging innovation, adapt it to your own use. This does not mean that you should plagiarize copy or design. Use concepts only. I used to go to the post office on Saturday mornings and load up on dozens of unopened direct mail pieces that I would "steal" from the waste bins. I would then take them home and analyze them. I got a treasure trove of brilliant ideas from America's leading direct mail experts. You won't find this real-world instruction in any book.
The immutable law of business gift giving.
Women like chocolates and flowers; men like food, gadgets, and toys. Quality trumps quantity. A small box of exquisite chocolate truffles is remembered long after a two-pound box of so-so candy. That's all you need to know.
Don't work more than eight hours a day.
The old entrepreneurial cliché, "I worked fourteen-hour days, six days a week, for five years to build this business," is bunk. If you deduct long lunches, lengthy phone calls, marathon meetings, and bull sessions, this person probably only worked six or seven hours a day. Making the commitment to work an intense eight hours focuses you on priority items, and you'll have more time for friends and family.
When you absolutely must work a few extra hours, do it before office hours. There will be far fewer distractions.
Don't manage for the sake of management.
Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done. —Peter Drucker
Some business owners feel compelled to bring their authority to bear on virtually every project. If your input is necessary, then by all means, give it. If not, get out of the way of your effective and creative people. Your "management" may be slowing them down, and they'll secretly resent it. Overmanagement is a surefire way to lose good people.
Plain English wins the day.
Big words don't equal a bigger brain. Intelligent people who are confident in their message and passionate about what they do don't need obscure language to communicate. —John McFerran, Founder and President of People First HR Services
Studies show that business communications filled with jargon and "corporate speak" come across as rude, misleading, or obnoxious. Employees and colleagues view simple plain English as honest and friendly. It opens doors and closes deals. Despite this, the business world is awash in pretentious language, jargon, and euphemisms.
"Corporate speak" is the invention of small-minded people who want to avoid responsibility, sound erudite, and sugarcoat the truth. Apparently, it's easier for these clowns to conduct an "exit interview" than to simply fire someone. It's more palatable for them to deal with "personnel displaced inventory" than employee theft, or for equipment to have "deferred maintenance" rather than to simply be run down. My personal favorite is the use of the term "human capital" to describe personnel.
Here are a couple of other examples: "Our platform is a synergistic best-of- breed solution for managing departmental and interpersonal relationships in order to identify and optimally utilize resources." And the head of a major international corporation described the company's ongoing job chopping as, "synergy-related headcount restructuring."
Because it's so commonly used, it's easy to unconsciously let sti(Continues…)