Good Relationships, Not Just Good Deals

black-white-handshake

You don’t need to be ruthless to be successful in business. Business is mainly about buying cheap and selling at a higher price. It’s hardly ruthless and essentially boils downs to a series of transparent and honest transactions.

Yet the idea that business is a cut-throat game persists. Good business is not just about brilliant deals, it’s about mutually beneficial relationships. Basically business only works if everyone makes their cut. Its about mutually beneficial deals. If I negotiated too hard with my contractors every time I need them to do something for me, they will never want to do business with me anymore and that will mean I will always have to get new contractors. Its better to pay a decent price for a decent service.

It costs far less to hold on to a customer than it does to find a new one.

Good relationships, not good deals, are at the heart of long-term business success.
Don’t get me wrong, the ability to cut a good deal is an essential tool of business, but be aware that sometimes you can cut too hard. In those circumstances, its not just your competitor who gets injured.

Business Lessons From The Godfather

Godfather

The Godfather is chock full of great advice, and there’s lots to learn from the themes of this classic film. Check out some of the best business lessons from The Godfather, or otherwise you might be (metaphorically) sleeping with the fishes sooner than you thought.

1. Make Them An Offer They Can’t Refuse
Obviously. One of the best ways to get what you want in business is to tailor your product to your customer’s needs. And this works for managers, too. If you want to incentivize your employees, there’s often a way that you can make your request primarily beneficial to them and the company both.

2. Trust No One
Whether you’re a bona fide wise guy or not, it’s wise to watch who you trust. That’s not to say that you should be suspicious of everyone all the time, it’s that the only person whose decisions and actions that you can safely rely on are your own. Even being in business with people for years doesn’t mean that you can trust them, but you can trust them to be themselves. And whether you’re running the underground or just the office, that’s another key lesson to learn.

3. Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer
Well, maybe not your enemies. More like your competitors. It’s important to have a good idea the landscape of your market competition, both larger and smaller than you. And when there’s an industry-wide issue that could improve your field, do yourself a favor and be the one to lead the charge to unity. You’ll stand out among your competitors while also improving things for all involved when you’re the one to get a group to band together faster than you can say “five families.”

4. Patience is a Virtue
Don’t expect for things to blow up for you overnight — it takes time to build a mafia empire strong business. And this advice goes for both rookies and veterans: quality comes from patience, planning, and having a great product.

5. Always Have A Plan
When you’re running an international crime syndicate, you’ve simply got to have a plan. It’s not profitable to do things willy-nilly, with no discussion or lack of a business model. It’s probably best to avoid a business plan that involves gunning people down in the street, but appropriate foresight, planning, and action can lead to, ahem, legitimate business success.

6. Learn from Your Failures
Failure happens. Even to mafiosos. Let this fact lead you, and give yourself permission to fail. But also let yourself learn from your missteps, as it’s possible to turn any short-term failure into long-time success. If you lose some guys in a gun battle, or lose money from a dirty double cross, you know how crucial it can be to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, regroup, and move forward. Also, what kind of job did you say you had, again?

7. Loyalty Matters
One of the most important lessons to take from the Don is that loyalty is key. In this day and age, economic security is a spectre — but it’s paramount to remember never to bite the hand that feeds you. Whether you have a boss or have to deal with distributors, it’s always best to be loyal to your higher-ups and those who depend on you. It’s as simple as this: the better everyone does, the better everyone does.

8. Respect Must Be Earned
While loyalty is important, respect must be earned. Make sure that you’re commanding respect, and not just because of your great work product. If you act with dignity and put integrity first on your value list, you’ll see how easy it can be to build up mutual respect with co-workers, superiors, and those in other areas with whom you have to work. Additionally, take caution to respect: it’s easy to build up, takes time to cement, and can be gone forever in a flash.

9. Business Is Personal
Tom, don’t let anyone kid you. It’s all personal, every bit of business. Every thing man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it’s personal as hell. And there you have it. Michael Corleone said it best, and it’s the honest truth: business is made up of people. People who care, people who create, people who perform, and everything in between. The great thing about a business is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but its parts are people — and those are pretty great, too.

Faster, Better and More

Olympics

The trifecta of competition:

Faster than the other guy. Faster to the market, faster to respond, faster to get the user up to speed.

Better than the other guy. Better productivity, better story, better impact.

and More. More for your money. More choices. More care. More guts.

You have more competition than you did yesterday. I expect that trend will continue.

Treat different customers differently

This is difficult if you also insist on treating every customer the same. Or treating every customer the best, which is a better way to describe a similar idea.

No, the only way you can treat different customers differently is if you understand that their values (and their value to you) vary. It’s easier than ever to discern and test these values, and you do everyone a service when you differentiate.

Where do ideas come from?

1. Ideas don’t come from watching television
2. Ideas sometimes come from listening to a lecture
3. Ideas often come while reading a book
4. Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them
5. Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom
6. Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide
7. Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do
8. Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner’s mind. A little awareness is a good thing
9. Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week
10. Ideas come from trouble
11. Ideas come from our ego, and they do their best when they’re generous and selfless
12. Ideas come from nature
13. Sometimes ideas come from fear (usually in movies) but often they come from confidence
14. Useful ideas come from being awake, alert enough to actually notice
15. Though sometimes ideas sneak in when we’re asleep and too numb to be afraid
16. Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we’re not trying
17. Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute
18. Bigger ideas leapfrog the mediocre ones
19. Ideas don’t need a passport, and often cross borders (of all kinds) with impunity
20. An idea must come from somewhere, because if it merely stays where it is and doesn’t join us here, it’s hidden. And hidden ideas have no influence, no intersection with the market. They die, alone.

I spread your idea because…

Ideas spread when people choose to spread them. Here are some reasons why:

1….I spread your idea because it makes me feel generous.
2….because I feel smart alerting others to what I discovered.
3….because I care about the outcome and want you (the creator of the idea) to succeed.
4….because I have no choice. Every time I use your product, I spread the idea (Hotmail, iPad, a tattoo).
5….because there’s a financial benefit directly to me (Amazon affiliates).
6….because it’s funny and laughing alone is no fun.
7….because I’m lonely and sharing an idea solves that problem, at least for a while.
8….because I’m angry and I want to enlist others in my outrage (or in shutting you down).
9….because both my friend and I will benefit if I share the idea (Groupon).
10….because you asked me to, and it’s hard to say no to you.
11….because I can use the idea to introduce people to one another, and making a match is both fun in the short run and community-building.
12….because your service works better if all my friends use it (email, Facebook).
13….because if everyone knew this idea, I’d be happier.
14….because your idea says something that I have trouble saying directly (AA, a blog post, a book).
15….because I care about someone and this idea will make them happier or healthier.
16….because it’s fun to make another teen snicker about prurient stuff we’re not supposed to see.
17….because the tribe needs to know about this if we’re going to avoid an external threat.
18….because the tribe needs to know about this if we’re going to maintain internal order.
19….because it’s my job.
20….I spread your idea because I’m in awe of your art and the only way I can repay you is to share that art with others.

There is no map, draw your own map

draw

Being an entrepreneur is like being an artist. For you to be creative all you need is a blank sheet and a brush. There is no map, you draw your own map. You write your own narrative.

Half the time I get people asking for a where to start, the step by step procedure on how to start a business. Once a person asks those questions, they want to comply, they want the easy route to follow. They off-course mean well because to them they don’t want to repeat mistakes that someone else may have gone through or re-invent the wheel when it could be easier to purchase or learn from the existing wheel. But if you are going to be creative, to come up with new things, the first thing to do it to start with a blank sheet and draw your own map. This is where the art of being an entrepreneur comes into play.

The step by step question refers to science of being an entrepreneur. The challenge is to fuse the two (science and art) to create something magical, something new, innovative and sustainable. Don’t limit your entrepreneurship journey to the question of science, but consider writing your own narrative. There is no map, draw your map, besides that’s what makes being an entrepreneur fun, its more fun to write your own rules than to follow them. You hold the pen in your hand, write your story…

“Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them.” —Seth Godin

If You Are Going To Fail, Fail Forward

Fail Forward

Vincent Van Gogh failed as an art dealer, flunked his entrance exam to theology school, and was fired by the church after an ill-fated attempt at missionary work. In fact, during his life, he seldom experienced anything other than failure as an artist. Although a single painting by Van Gogh would fetch in excess of millions today, in his lifetime Van Gogh sold only one painting, four months prior to his death.

Before developing his theory of relativity, Albert Einstein encountered academic failure. One headmaster expelled Einstein from school and another teacher predicted that he would never amount to anything. Einstein even failed his entrance exam into college.

Prior to dazzling the world with his athletic skill, Michael Jordan was cut from his sophomore basketball team. Even though he captured six championships, during his professional career, Jordan missed over 12,000 shots, lost nearly 400 games, and failed to make more than 25 would-be game-winning baskets.

Failure didn’t stop Vincent Van Gogh from painting, Albert Einstein from theorizing, or Michael Jordan from playing basketball, but it has paralyzed countless leaders and prevented them from reaching their potential.

At some point, all great achievers are tempted to believe they are failures. But in spite of that, they persevere. In the face of adversity, shortcomings, and rejection, they hold onto self-belief and refuse to see themselves as failures. Here are seven abilities of achievers that enable them to rebound from failure and keep moving forward.

Seven Principles for Failing Forward

Reject Rejection

Achievers who persevere do not base their self-worth on their performance. On the contrary, they have a healthy self-image that’s not dictated by external events. When they fall short, rather than labeling themselves a failure, they learn from mistakes in their judgment or behavior.

Don’t Point Fingers

When people fail, they’re often tempted to blame others for their lack of success. By pointing fingers, they sink into a victim mentality and cede their fate to outsiders. When playing the blame game, people rob themselves of learning from their failures and alienate others by refusing to take responsibility for mistakes.

See Failure as Temporary

People who personalize failure see a problem as a hole they’re permanently stuck in, whereas achievers see any predicament as temporary. One mindset wallows in failure, the other looks forward to success. By putting mistakes into perspective, achievers are able to see failure as a momentary event, not a symptom of a lifelong epidemic.

Set Realistic Expectations

Unrealistic goals doom people to failure. For instance, if a person hasn’t exercised for five years, then making it to a gym twice a week may be a better goal than running in next month’s marathon. Also, some people insensibly expect to be perfect. Everyone fails, so expect setbacks and emotionally prepare to deal with them.

Focus on Strengths

Don’t invest time shoring up non-character flaws at the exclusion of investing in your strengths. People operating from a position of strength enjoy a far lower rate of failure than those laboring in areas of weakness. You’re built to give your talents to the world; be diligent about finding expressions for them in your career.

Vary Approaches to Achievement

In the Psychology of Achievement, Brian Tracy writes about four millionaires who made their fortunes by age 35. On average, these achievers were involved in 17 businesses before they finding the one that took them to the top. They kept trying and changing until they found something that worked.

Bounce Back

Rehashing missteps and blunders for too long sabotages concentration and eats away at self-confidence. When dealing with failure, achievers have short memories. They quickly forget the negative emotions of setbacks and press forward resiliently. While taking pause to learn from failures, achievers realize that the past cannot be altered.

Summary

I believe it’s nearly impossible for any person to believe he or she is a failure and move forward at the same time. For those who have been downsized, let go, or bankrupted, the temptation may be to internalize failure. My hope is that anyone who has suffered setbacks recently will be able to separate life’s unfortunate events from their self-worth. Failure, like death and taxes, will happen. Your response to failure holds the key to your future.

References:
Fail Forward by John C Maxwell

Make Things Happen

Once you know how to assemble an electronic device, every computer seems a bit less mysterious. Once you know how to give a speech, you see things in the speeches others give.

Learning how to make things turns you from a spectator into a participant, from someone at the mercy of the system to someone who is helping to run the system.

Learning how to make gives you the guts to make more, to fail more often, to get better at making.

In the spectator-fuelled economy, there were a few who made and the rest of us watched. In the modern connection economy, on the other hand, we are spending more and more time consuming what our peers make and then turning right around and making things for our friends to consume.

If you are afraid to write or edit or assemble or disassemble, you are merely a spectator. And you are trapped by the instructions of those you’ve chosen to follow. Twenty people in the field and eighty thousand in the stands. The spectators are the ones who paid to watch, but its the players on the field who are truly alive.

There are those who make things happen, there are those who watch those who make things happen and there are those who ask what happened.