My father was a Holocaust survivor and came to this country without money, family or knowing the language. Yet he was successful beyond his wildest dreams and left a great legacy.
Here are some of the business rules he shared with me over the many years I worked with him. I use these lessons to help entrepreneurs and business leaders grow their businesses and achieve greater results.
1. You are responsible for your success.
This means that you take 100% responsibility for the outcome of your efforts. My father claimed that you only have to be right most of the time to be successful, as we all make mistakes or wrong decisions. While you may fail from time to time, learn from your mistakes to ensure that you don't repeat them.
Working with many companies, I hear all kind of excuses about how “we’re trying hard” but not succeeding, and often that's just an excuse. For example, one company I worked with had its accounts receivable balloon out of control. When I met the controller, excuses were all I heard. I asked him how he'd respond if it were his money that these companies were holding back on.
"Did you go down to the biggest vendors and knock on the chief financial officer’s door?" I asked. "Did you have someone relentlessly call and check?" The answers were no, but he had great excuses for why. I reminded him to never confuse efforts for results.
2. Know what you stand for and what you won't you stand for.
As a faith-based company, we had many challenges with closing down during certain holidays and not carrying various products, but we did it with pride and conviction. My father never allowed anything to stand in the way of his beliefs and faith.
Always be proud of your heritage and your beliefs. I find that companies usually want to do business with people of integrity and honor. They believe that those that stand for something will go the extra mile and take pride in their services or products.
3. Know your limits.
There are times when you may have a conflict between your company's and employees' needs and the needs of your clients. Balance can be the key to managing a business successfully. If my father felt that something was beyond his capacity or the company’s capacity, he would be forthright in accepting those limitations.
Some companies overpromise to their customers and then are forced to underdeliver. I’ve seen companies with an overly aggressive sales culture put unnecessary pressure on their employees because they didn’t have the courage to say no to the client. Be upfront about what you can and cannot do.
4. Great ambition often requires bold steps and great discipline.
Sometimes great ambition means you have to take bold steps, and that can be scary, especially when you may be jeopardizing your current business model. Many great companies have stumbled when they weren't open to taking bold steps to either change their business model or even reinvent it.
My father always took bold steps. He also was disciplined in implementing and executing his decisions.
Be disciplined in your approach to change. Remember that the best ideas without great execution are almost never as good as mediocre ideas with great execution.
The flip side of having a disciplined approach is jumping on every opportunity and not necessarily thinking it through. Before making a change, ask yourself: Is this part of our mission/vision? Is this something our clients either have asked for or need?
In my experience, many business owners become haughty, abrupt or condescending when they become successful. For my father, money was for giving back and helping those who either were not so fortunate or needed temporary help to get by. His charity was legendary. People would line up at his office door, and he would take the time to speak to them and help them in every way he could.
Part of my mission to help entrepreneurs and business leaders prosper includes helping them understand that business success is a gift and that sharing their success with others can be important. We all need someone to be there for us at one time or another. Remember to be there for others as well. Ask yourself: Am I helping others be successful? What resources am I willing to share with others who could benefit?
Remember that the only person you can change is yourself. So invest in yourself to become the best leader you can be and inspire others to do the same. This is what I learned from my father, and I believe it’s still relevant today for every leader and aspiring leader.