Some weeks the business lessons come thick and fast. Despite having been in business for myself for nearly forty years, I still continue to learn every day. There’s no such thing as being “done”, knowing everything you need to know. Everything changes all the time, we have to keep flexible and with at least one eye open for opportunity.
Here are a dozen business lessons which have shown up recently for me and my colleagues and clients.
1. Look after you, because without you there is no business. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a proper holiday, or you have just come through a very stressful period at work, or you live with chronic health challenges or life is throwing you some curved balls right now, you need to take better care of yourself than normal and to prioritise your own health and well-being. In fact, we should always do this, every day. But we don’t. We seem to need these special prompts. Don’t wait for a special prompt. Do it now.
2. Make time for others too. Help those you can but don’t pretend. If you don‘t know the answer to what they want to know, don’t fake it. Connect them instead to someone who is better suited to help them.
3. Inch your own projects forward, especially where others are waiting on you. Sometimes this just involves a little chore which only you can do but once done, everyone else can get on without you. Hurrah!
4. Conversely, remember to chivvy up those on whom you are waiting – keep the pressure on. Everyone likes to see progress but sometimes projects get stuck and a little accountability, knowing someone is noticing and breathing down their necks, might clear a logjam. Be courteous as well as firm.
5. Learn something new. Get to know someone new. Newness stimulates creativity and keeps the juices flowing and the connections growing. Little synchronicities happen, and adding to the sum of your knowledge in a new direction may help in another unrelated direction too. We have no idea where anything will lead. Go forward in trust. Follow an instinctive or intuitive nudge just for the heck of it.
6. Follow up reliably, send what you’ve promised when you promised to do it, be a person of your word. How you show up in your work is part of your USP and why clients and colleagues come to rely on you and recommend you. Be consistent.
7. Knock something really vile off your To Do List or out of your inbox or in-tray; something on which you have been procrastinating for a while now. You’ll know what that is, we all have them. They are invariably easier once we focus on them sufficiently to clear them and we end up wondering why it took us so long. It liberates us from what was a major energy drain.
8. Listen when people want to talk, even if you don’t. It’s relationship-building. This doesn’t mean you have to let them interrupt your work or thought process but decide when you can make time later to suit you both. Be discriminating as this has the potential to suck up loads of time, or as much as you make yourself available.
9. Find a way to do a deal. Either both parties will be served and a middle ground found – or not, so no deal. There has to be a willingness on both sides to meet somewhere in the middle, where we both make a profit. It doesn’t mean you need to sell yourself too cheaply but a compromise or adding value or never-say-die negotiation might keep the cash flowing.
10. Communicate as clearly and cleanly as you can. Be jargon free. Don’t force people to ask you what you mean, most won’t and you may lose that opportunity. It isn’t smart and it isn’t clever – the best communication is the simplest. Remember at school you were either rewarded, or not, for putting up your hand and asking? I hope you were rewarded so that you keep on asking whenever anyone says something you don’t understand. Be brave, you’ll be doing them a favour too in teaching them how they are mis-communicating by failing to speak your language.
11. Sell what people want to buy. Make it easy on yourself. If they don’t want what you are determined the world will buy from you, find out instead what they do want. People will only buy what they want, what you create a desire for, not what we all think they need. There’s always plenty of money to pay for our desires.
12. Opportunity knocks in the strangest of ways. No need to waste time going down lots of blind alleys, but your gut and your curiosity will often guide you about what little nooks and crannies are worth investigating. Let me know what fabulous surprises await you when you take the more adventurous turn. Be careful what you wish for – sometimes it manifests faster than you could possibly imagine!
What business lessons did you learn this week?