I have been a business owner for about a minute. In fact, that would probably be quite generous if you compared me to the business moguls out here or anywhere for that matter. But in spite of that fact, I probably know a lot about business, more than I realize and much more than you would expect, if you knew my background. It is my life as a business owner that has finally made sense of all the data and observations that I have gathered over the years. I spent 20 years of my life working for others, most unknown, some infamous.
Because my jobs were in an executive assistant capacity for the past 20 years I, like all assistants, get to see the workings of the company almost like a fly on the wall. We get to see the inner workings of the people we work for. We get to hear the opposing view from others who work for the company, both those who are close to the boss and those far removed. I don't know about other assistants, but for me it was like being a silent observer. It's like watching a horror movie where you know what's behind the door but the person opening the door has no idea. And you are in the audience screaming don't do it! But who is going to listen to you? So you just see and feel certain behaviors and actions and you file them away like you are gathering data for future analysis. Well I am now in that future and this is my analysis. Life and business are not all that different. Some people would like you to think the rules of the game are different in business, but they really are not. They like to keep the mystery about it, the smoke and mirrors going. But in my own experience, observation of others and readings about the lives of countless others, this is what I believe it takes to be successful in both life and business. It is what I constantly strive to achieve for myself. And in the style of David Letterman, we'll begin with number 10!
10. Letting your gut-instincts keep you safe. This is more than street-smarts. I believe that gut instinct is not just some strange source but 1- the spiritual essence of us and our connection with the source of life, but also 2- it is a lifetime of observation and learning from experience. I surely have experienced life and I have spent my life observing people. I have the ability to peer into the insides of people. My mother could do it. She would make these statements about people she barely knew and she'd hit the nail on the head about their very essence. I too have this ability. The thing is it's not always something you can verbalize but your gut tells you some things right off the bat. This is a very useful thing in the business world and I believe we all have this ability but not everyone taps into it. Being able to read people doesn't mean that you immediately run or become best friends, it means that you proceed with caution filing away the info you've got on hand right now. If there is something queer about a business proposition, keep this up front as you examine it. You know in your gut when something's right and when something's not right.
9. A lifetime of self-examination ? I cannot stress this enough. We are a work in progress. You will make mistakes, your attitude will change and you will grow. But if you don't take the time to examine yourself and your attitudes along the way, you run the risk of becoming stagnant and brittle. And brittle is a good candidate for crumbling dust. Examine your relationships with people, your business practices, not just your finances. In the end, it is your relationship with people that makes you successful in both life and business. If you find yourself having the same issues arise, it's time for some self-examination. What are you doing to contribute to this issue? What can you do to create a change?
8. Open mindedness to new ways of thinking. How many times have we seen people, throughout history, hold on to what they believe is the ONLY way to think, to find the world moving on without them? It was generally thought the automobile would never catch on; after all, weren't bicycles and trains more than enough? It doesn't mean you have to change your way of thinking or embrace it, just examine it, educate yourself about it and recognize that it may be here to stay.
7. Open mindedness to new technology --This relates to number 8 but in a business capacity, it is even more important. A pencil and paper may be your preferred method of working on finances, but you had better know a few things about technology or you and your pencil will be left behind. Sure you can hire others who know, but what you don't know CAN hurt you. Read! You can learn so much about anything by reading. And if you were tech savvy you would know the internet is the greatest addition to the library in regard to learning about everything!
6. Being streetwise and book-smart ? There is nothing more important than having a reasonable balance of both. Naivety can cost you and not being educated to the level you need to function well in your chosen environment can cost you as well. Don't leave your street-smarts at the door in business environments but temper it with real knowledge as well.
5. Education and constant re-education -- I am not talking about college degrees here. Though they are a great start, you must continue to educate yourself. Take part in seminars, read everything, surf the net. Even when you think you've got it, press on.
4. A willingness to give back ? First, take care of yourself. Put yourself in a position to give back. I've had the privilege to hear so many people speak about their ideas for new businesses. The first thing they say is that they want to help people and that they want to give away what they've got. Andrew Morrison, from Small Business Camp (http://www.smallbusinesscamp.com) and believer that questions are more powerful than answers (see his book "21 Questions that Will Build Your Business in 90 Days") always asks the question, "Where's the money?" because if you can't support yourself, if you have to close your doors because you are bankrupt, how can you realistically help others? Sure there are exceptions to this, but most people have been able to give back and help others because they helped themselves. When you've helped yourself, GIVE BACK! I've seen many people become selfish and bitter in this regard. "I had to do it for myself! Nobody helped me!" They begin to dole out help in a miserly manner, looking for something in return including gratitude. They also give with suspicion. They suspect that those they give to will use it to steal something from them. If you watch closely, here is where they will begin their descent. If you feel like you got where you are on your own, look carefully I say, because you did NOT get to where you are without help. And much of it was given unselfishly and without restraint. Give generously and from the heart and don't look back! (CAUTION: DON'T ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE DRAINED DRY BY THOSE WHO LIKE TO PLAY UPON THIS NOTION EITHER)
3. Love and caring for yourself ? Here is a simple analogy. When you board a plane you are treated to a demonstration of what to do in case the oxygen masks drop from above. The first instruction is to put your mask on first. This is especially important because if you don't take care of your need first, you will not be able to help others and that includes your children, your spouse or anyone else. How does this relate to business? Create the situation that best helps you first. Put yourself in a position of power or at least close to the ear of power. Do a great job, first for you. Excel for you. Then assist others, speak up for others, do for others.
2. How you treat people -- I believe in this. I don't think you really have to right to abuse people. Some people think that certain groups of people are okay to abuse. I am not speaking from a standpoint of race here either. These people think that it's okay to abuse "the help" i.e. countless waiters and waitresses, assistants, maids, children. They also think it's okay to abuse what they deem "fat people" or people they believe are "ugly". They believe it's okay to treat "telemarketers" with disrespect when these are just people doing a job (I'm not talking about rude or abusive telemarketers either!). I believe that the golden rule is truth that still stands, because truth will always stand. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or your daughter or son, or spouse, etc. I urge you to read "How to Win Friends and Influence People", by Dale Carnegie, over and over again. Study the lives of the charismatic. Success was written in their everyday dealings with people. Not on a superficial level but on a deeper connecting level.
1. Commitment to the journey ? Here is what I believe is the number one key to success for an entrepreneur. Are you committed? What I am trying to say is that in all of my observations, and from my own experience, I find that the journey is always the same. It's a long road of self examination and improvement, skill examination and education. It's making judgment calls about people, things and situations. You continually correct the "course" until you are headed in the right direction. To trust your gut, to keep the faith, to make it through tough times, takes practice. The question is can you stick it out? Do you quit because the money is low? Do you quit because you can't find the right people? When do you say it's over?
Commitment to the journey. It is the key to success. Because you will always see things that make you want to run. But you have to put your faith on the table. You really have to stand against all odds. It takes courage. And when you do this, you will succeed. As Goethe put it:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy.
the chance to draw back,
always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative (and creation).
There is one elemental truth,
the ignorance of which kills countless ideas
and splendid plans---
that the moment one definitely commits oneself,
then Providence moves all.
All sorts of things occur to help one
that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issue from the decision,
Raising in one's favor all manner of incidents
and meetings and material assistance
which no one could have dreamed would come his or her way.
Whatever you can do or dream, you can begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.
- Goethe (1749-1832), German poet and dramatist
I am committed to the journey. Let's see if Goethe and I are right.
Gayle Santana is the owner of PVS Network and the PVS Network Virtual Call Center (http://www.pvsnetwork.com) and is committed to the PVS mission . "Our mission is a call to service. We are called to provide business owners with the support they need to achieve success. Whether it's making calls or assisting them with creating a more efficient operation, our success is tied to the success of others and there lies our passion."