Mainstream business advice, while better than mainstream relationship advice (partly because there isn’t an entire gender actively seeking to curtail it in favor of a diametric imperative), still falls prey to being repetitive and overly generic (or far too specific). In accord with the tradition of trying to give you advice you probably wouldn’t get from hitting the “I’m feeling lucky” button on a Google search, I highlight below 3 lessons I’ve learned specifically from DOING rather than KNOWING.
(1) Adhere to natural geometry
Despite the complexities associated with the modern metropolis, social stratas have, for the most part, been organized in pyramids. Advances in communicative abilities (from social networking to weapons that make regulation more cost-efficient) only expand the scale at which societies are organized, but this fundamental layout remains the same. What does this have to do with your small business?
Don’t start it with 3 “equal” partners. If you have an idea, run with it. Bring the others along but maintain a mutual understanding that you are the controlling partner. Don’t seek out partners JUST to have them. If someone’s your equal, you won’t be able to fire them without a fair amount of sand bagging. The internal conflict resulting from a lack of clear leadership, and an unequal work ethic + a demand for equal payouts will tear you a new asshole. On the other hand, don’t opt to work by yourself or you limit your potential for growth and new ideas. Start something, and then delegate authority after you have assessed a persons’ value and are sure that they will cover their own costs to a profitable degree. Find leaders who are willing to follow you, not followers who want to lead you. And never grant someone control without properly gauging their motive and work ethic.
In every project, there must be ONE person with the authority to say, “I know we’ve been working on this for a year, but it sucks balls. We’re going to have to start from scratch again.”
(2) Prefer knowledge over how to make money than how to control it
It sounds kind of cryptic, but the idea is simple. Before tasting success, everything I ever learned about finance seemed to be of use. In your first few business ventures, you’ll have to micro manage everything yourself, making minute skills like bookkeeping of paramount importance. But once you start generating profit, these skills become less and less important. At one point, I firmly remember thinking “should I review accounting principles… or just pay an accountant?” followed by, “holy shit… everything I ever learned about finance is now useless because I have money.”
Edison summarized it best, “I can hire a mathematician, but a mathematician cannot hire me.” Be a businessman FIRST, and everything else later. A person with a vision but no skills has more potential than a person with a myriad of skills but no vision. It is better to be resourceful than to have resources.
(3) Why am I doing this?
Going back to the accounting example above, unless you understand why it’s important to keep meticulous notes that clearly illustrate WHERE your money is going, you will fail to reap its benefits. More likely you’ll see it as a chore to avoid getting your asshole taxed. But in reality, it will help you understand EXACTLY where your business is inefficient and how it can be improved. Your business is like a wife, every now and then, you’ll have to trim the fat off of that shit, or watch it bloat into a plumpy corpse of debt. They say Rockafeller owes the majority of his success to having the soul of a bookkeeper which always kept him inclined to pour over his numbers.
The importance of understanding WHY you’re doing something extends to every facet of your business. Take hiring a lawyer for example, most business owners assume you should hire one just to have one; and end up (if they’re successful) hiring some overpaid junior suit from a tier 1 firm who doesn’t carry much more than a brand name. Unless you NEED that, opt for a mid-size firm with a good reputation, known to give its clients a proper amount of attention. You need to be in rhythm with your business; what does it NEED, why ARE you doing _________? Is it helping?