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Lessons in How to Run a Business

October 8th, 2008 by shawn · 22 Comments


Lessons in How to Run a Business

Over the course of having a few jobs, and paying close attention to each of my bosses or managers, I’ve observed a few methods of running a business. Some of the things were great, and some were horrendous. Some of the things I saw resulted in the business continuing to make money, while I’ve also seen a couple of businesses shut down due (in part) to bad management methods. So here are a few.

“If you give something a certain level of importance, that is the level of importance it will have to the rest of the organization.”

Does that make sense? It should. If the boss says something matters (or doesn’t matter too much), it stands to reason that the employees will have the same priority – or lower. You see, most of the time followers do not rise to a higher level than their leader. So what is a leader (i.e. manager or boss) to do? Quite simply, he is to learn to prioritize tasks and let his wishes be known throughout the organization.

“Give your employees the right tools for the job.”

A very good manager told me this. In his experience, people become frustrated and will quit when they are given a job yet not provided good tools to do the job. The tool could be a real tool like a wrench or a hammer, or it could be a good projector, or it could be the proper kind of computer, or it could be a telephone headpiece, or it could be a software program. Whatever the job is, the tool(s) given to the employee should work well and help them get the job done better. If not, the employee will become unhappy and leave.

“Prepare your employees for their next job.”

More organizations are on the lookout for keeping employees “stuck” right where they are than anything else. In fact I’ve been in many organizations where I (and others) were jealously guarded. Then I worked for a company in which the boss told me (paraphrase) “I’m going to lose 100% of these employees, including you, eventually. Every one moves on to something else. So while they’re here, one of my jobs is to improve them as people and as employees.” This was a guy who genuinely cared about the lives of his people, and it showed. He was always available to give good advice when asked, and I’ve seen that he’s kept in touch with employees over the years even after they’ve gone to other companies in different states. It makes sense to me: it’s better to have your employees leave as friends who respect you than just “past employees”.

“Let your employees exercise their strengths within the company.”

This is the habit of managers who know how to assemble a great team: they put together a group of people who can do certain things, and then they allow them to do those things. Not only that, they encourage the team members to push their own limits, to exercise creativity, and to experiment. Does a boss wind up with a lot of mistakes on his hands, when he allows this sort of behavior? Sometimes. But he also ends up with a lot of innovation, a lot of energy within the company, and lot of happy employees!

“Focus on doing what you know how to do.” 

This might seem like the opposite of innovation, but what it’s a lesson taken from the book Good to Great and it’s actually a good thing to keep in mind. While innovation often means venturing into unknown territory, the majority of the time a company (and an employee) should focus on what they really are good at doing. They (and the company) will experience more success in that regard than in the occasional discoveries and innovations that come their way. So – trying new things is wonderful, but the bread-and-butter is in the doing one thing really well.

There are many things we can learn from our colleagues, and I’m always observing new lessons. The ones I’ve shared here are just a few that I’ve learned. What have you learned, in your own observations?

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    22 Comments

    Comment by book
    2008-10-08 08:18:46

    To run a business what is needed is dedication. Then all the other things will be ok.

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    Comment by sanketp
    2008-10-14 20:34:39

    a lot of dedication is must if you wanna be serious to run a business.. there’s no easy way or short cut


    cash4gold

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    Comment by Andrew Green
    2008-10-19 17:48:24

    well is it good to create weekly plans or daily ??
    Which u prefer…??

    rest of the tips are amazing

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    Comment by Joan Carol
    2008-12-03 03:59:47

    I’ve got two lists, long term and short term.

    Long term are 1-2 yrs out and mainly focus on exit strategy.

    Short term range from this week up to 3 months out. Things that I should be doing right now that have tangible benefits and deadlines.

     
     
    Comment by gatwick parking
    2008-10-20 15:50:04

    Some sound advice here. Communications, or rather – poor communications – has often been at the root of many problems I’ve observed in my 40 odd years at work. Effective, open and honest communications encourages people to share their ideas.

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    Comment by Tax Jobs
    2008-10-22 08:43:28

    Thanks for the tips. The one that i can identify with is the second one. Providing employees with adequate resources to perform the job is imperative to running a successful business.

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    Comment by Almost Rich
    2008-10-22 11:41:02

    Great post. I prefer to create daily plans first thing in the moring when at the office. It a very good way to keep focused when you work.

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    Comment by Fashionista
    2008-10-23 21:08:05

    Nice tips. I am also running a business and your site is a big help. thanks :)

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    2008-10-24 11:27:00

    Thanks really for such a wonderful suggestions and how to manage and leverage the employees. This article really reminds me the one i had at the employee guide but what you mentioed in “Focus on doing what you know how to do” is somehting new i am observing.
    thanks again…

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    Comment by Jeffrey Garcia
    2008-10-24 17:02:50

    Communications, or rather – poor communications – has often been at the root of many problems I’ve observed in my 40 odd years at work. Effective, open and honest communications encourages people to share their ideas.

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    2008-10-24 21:39:04

    Man, great post! I’m at the point where I need to start hiring employees…thanks for the tips

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    Comment by Azrael
    2008-10-25 12:01:58

    NIce tips. Plenty of whitecollar socalled managers should read this.
    But in my opinion, most important is to pick right employees capable of doing stuff mentioned above with their initiative.

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    Comment by Nancy Sutherland
    2008-11-01 18:08:02

    These rules also apply in Direct Sales when leading your team or unit. John Maxwell’s book called Developing the Leader Within You verifies some of the principles that are used in this post. Great article- I really enjoyed reading thes!

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    Comment by Naren
    2008-11-02 13:46:31

    Quite an informative post! i must appreciate you for this well written content

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    Comment by Donovan Kelley
    2008-11-04 16:30:43

    I liked your perspective and thoughts on this matter. I hope with a great shift in the economy, that people can learn from an expereinced person such as yourself, to reshape their business mind to create a more prosperous business.

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    Comment by Joan Carol
    2008-12-03 03:58:07

    Good article. I would add on that it is critical not to get caught up in “analysis-paralysis”. Sometimes you gotta pull the trigger and go out and make something happen, even if it doesn’t work.

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    Comment by voip reviews
    2008-12-04 19:40:08

    This web site is not only good for business men but also it is a wonderful platform for business students. I have learned many things. Thanks.

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    Comment by Judy Weitz
    2008-12-12 02:45:29

    As a small and successful business owner, I do not think it is a bad thing to expect some of your best employees to stay with the company as it grows. It may be their goal to have you run it one day.

    Should your boss simply be an employee of a much larger organization, it is more likely he will believe all employees are just passing through the night … and he may be more open to losing all of “his” employees…. in any case, both employers are treating the employee well.

    But I believe it is expected that a successful business owner hope that those working for and integral to the company be long term … if their goal was to prepare them for other jobs, they would be working against their best interests and very possibly against the best interests of their employees should the employee benefit from its continued success. in fact, studies show long term employment = job security …. and education increases likelihood of long-term employment (over 20 years) — http://www.nber.org/digest/sep06/w11878.html

    Judy

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    Comment by Car Guy
    2009-02-03 13:34:02

    Good perspective on this,I hope with the change in the economy, that people can learn from an experienced person such as yourself, to reshape their business mind to create a more prosperous business.

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    Comment by Messehostess Lala
    2009-02-06 17:12:24

    I think you must be totally convinced of your business idea. You must dedicate more or less your whole life to this BIG thing. Nothing more… but that’s hard enough!

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    2011-09-19 10:43:17

    You must complete and utter belief in what you’re doing then eventually you’ll get what you want, whether it’s money or the job you love.

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    2011-09-19 10:44:54

    Good read, keep it up and we’ll all get there :)

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