Ten Years Of Client Lessons (Part 3 of 3)
What we create in our business is never stand alone. It comes from many working together. Whether they’re clients, partners, staff, mentors, advisors, we do not operate alone.
This article focuses on what I’ve learned over the past 10+ years, watching the behaviours, values and ethics of the best business owners I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.
Whether their businesses survived the recession or not, reflecting back on the qualities of the businessmen and women and what made the best entrepreneurs stand out in my opinion were as follows:
1 Honesty and Integrity – knowing what is important from day one and sticking to their principals even when times were tough. Usually the tears I witnessed through recessionary times were from having to let people go they had employed for many years (while at the same time these business owners weren’t paying themselves). When times were good, these same people didn’t fly in the face of their values in order to make a quick buck at anyone else’s expense.
2 Valuing relationships more than profit – have you seen someone who acts from a ‘win/win’ point of view as Steven Covey talks about in ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’? Where people truly believe in Win/Win negotiations or No Deal? I’ve been lucky enough to see this in action with various clients and advisors over the years. It’s something I think we all recognise and try emulate. The best business owners always know when a deal for both parties isn’t a good deal, it’s better to walk away. [And they’re never afraid to walk away from a deal. They have ‘abundance’ mentality in spades!] Always focusing on long term relationships winning over short term gain on a particular transaction.
3 Resilience – when you see this one characteristic in an entrepreneur, you will often see a very successful business in the long term. Recognising what is coming in their industry, having been through rough times, staying focused on the financials as well as the people (customers / suppliers and staff). People who bounce back quickly from difficulties or can see the lesson to learn, focusing on the learning from all ‘blunders’ and striving to make change and learn from any mistakes, are the people who generally don’t talk even about their problems. And if you do hear something going on with them, they don’t blame anyone for their difficulties. Usually they talk about what they are doing to correct what has happened. Watching the difficulties business owners face and their reaction to it can often predict where that business is going (and how fast or slowly). Listening to the words they speak when in crisis is a big indication of whether or not this is a business you want to work with.
Steve Jobs said ‘I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.’
As an accountant, I’m focused in terms of the financial aspect of each successful business owner, how they talk about the financial piece, whether they have a handle on it or not, what they are doing about it (or not, as the case may be).
The best business owners you’ll notice will always have a handle on their finances. If they don’t know enough, they’ll learn asap. They won’t delegate this function to others without fully understanding it themselves as they realise the importance of the financial side of their business. They know their margins and charge rates and understand the profitability attached to their goods and services.
Recognising sales is the lifeblood of the business and skilling up continuously in this area is key also to these business owners. When the opportunity to learn more presents itself, the best jump on that opportunity and skill up quickly and ensure their staff do the same.
Knowing EXACTLY what the financial aspect of the business is providing for the family is usually at the forefront of the minds of the best business owners. Knowing why they spend time away from loved ones (i.e. they don’t moan or complain, they get on with the job in hand). Many entrepreneurs struggle with finding the balance between work and home.
Knowing your WHY can often help on those days.
Personally, it’s taken me years to find balance between work, family, friends and looking after my health through food, sleep and exercise.
After hurting my back when pushing too hard in a squat rack and later suffering from burnout in my 30s, I’d say I’ve learned many lessons the hard way but I often hear myself say ‘Is there any other way to learn?’. Perhaps for some…
The Chinese symbol for Crisis is also the symbol for Opportunity. Is that how you feel when presented with a crisis? If not, perhaps there’s some learning for the next crisis we face (as a business owner, we know they are inevitable, we can only change our response to them).
So take on board what life sends your way, learn from it what you can and keep striving to be better (in terms of your own values) each year.
Feel free to share below the qualities you want to emulate in the business owners you admire.
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Have a great week
[27 May 2019]