“The first mistake of public business is going into it.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
In current political discussions, we hear how it would be a good idea to run our government like a business. There is a steady call for more businesspeople in elected positions.
The problem with that is, most business people are poor business people.
Business drives the economy. Particularly small business. I suggest we pause this political discussion long enough to consider the current state of our businesses. Perhaps we could fix the economy by fixing our businesses.
Perhaps our government is really the sum of the parts. And if that’s so, only good could come from getting one’s own house – and business – in order.
“If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” ~Benjamin Franklin
I have a picture of Benjamin Franklin hanging in my office. (Thanks, Marla!) Ben is on my Board of Advisors. The fact that he is dead is a minor inconvenience. Like so many successful people, Ben was thoughtful enough to write down his philosophies and business strategies. If you are able and willing to read (or listen on audio!) you can learn so much about creating a profitable business. Here is a sampling of classic business advice.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Including Poor Richard’s Almanac, by Benjamin Franklin – 1791
Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I consult Ben. You’ve heard the laundry list of achievements…printer, banker, postmaster, inventor, scientist (did you know he identified the oceanic trade currents?), university founder, founding father, diplomat, abolitionist, lady’s man and rockin’ business builder. He wrote an autobiography (originally published in French!) sharing his “self made man” approach to success, and offering a brilliant slice of colonial American life. His simple, solid advice works…a stitch in time DOES save nine. Best of all, he had fun and was funny. His irreverent perspective in a most unsettling and complicated time inspires me to just…calm…down.
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, by Dale Carnegie – 1948
I took a Dale Carnegie class about 20 years ago. A business savvy friend recommended I sign up, and I did, though I was a little put out by the time commitment. (3 hour classes? A 12 week course?) I showed up the first day and sized up the rest of the students. I found someone who looked fun and hip and sat next to her, hoping to find a fellow troublemaker. Every week, every person in the class was required to deliver a speech on the assigned topic. Sometimes my jaw hung open as people whom I had initially dismissed based on their looks or their clothes shared amazing stories of hope and courage. They expressed gratitude for the trials they had endured for what it made of them to transcend them.
Dale was aware of how business troubles and the endless pursuit of the American dream can wreak havoc on productivity, health and relationships. Dale teaches every person has a fascinating story to tell. That we all want to be heard. That the development of solid, lasting, healthy relationships is an honorable pursuit…and the best thing you can do for marketing and sales, too. And that what appears to be the worst thing so often turns into the best thing.
I can’t count how many times I have asked myself or my clients, “Well, what’s the worst that can happen? Could you live with that?” It’s Dale 101 and it’s helped me press on in the most challenging times.
The Business of Contracting, by Frank Blau
Frank Blau teaches how to make money. Ready for the Cliff Notes version: Charge more than it costs. So many people search for some vague, seemingly withheld, piece of the financial puzzle. I know I did! Maybe if I just knew one more ratio, one cost saving secret, I could make money at my current prices. It’s like trying to make stone soup. Frank is meat-and-potatoes elegant in his timeless approach to financial success. Clean up your accounting. Nail down your financial reports. Put a budget together that include all your costs of doing business, including appropriate salary for the important work that you do. Add in retirement and benefits and insurance. Be generous because stuff happens. Then, be willing to charge what you need to charge to make the numbers work. The older I get, the smarter Frank gets.
And, I am getting smarter, too. Here’s the pearl of wisdom I’d like to contribute:
Business can be easy.
So many business gurus glorify the hard work of their early days in business. They will tell you have to put in the blood, sweat and tears to earn your way to success.
No, you don’t. Consider the lives of the successful business owners you know. They aren’t working that hard and they are getting richer. Is it because of the front loaded effort? No. It’s because when you are relaxed you can make better, faster, more profitable decisions. When you are all stressed out you tighten up. You snap at people. You make poor decisions.
“Cash begets calm,” ~Bob “Sully” Sullivan
Take it easy. Like Ben…see the humor. Like Dale…diffuse the fear. Like Frank…raise your prices.
You can also read and learn and plan and take action. You can measure results and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t . You can pick a point on the horizon and set out for it, for the joy of the journey. You can be happy…right now. And your business will benefit.
So will our economy.
That, this writer affirms, is classic business advice.