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What I Learned from My Business Mentors

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Luckily for me I had four fantastic mentors when I was coming up through the ranks. Here are 50 bits of business wisdom they passed on to me.

1. It’s common for small errors to cripple a business.
2. It’s rare for a big idea to catapult a business.
3. Always be searching for the big idea anyway.
4. Suppliers are as important as customers.
5. Pay bills on time.
6. Give people your full attention.
7. Have benchmarks and really study them.
8. The most effective business people are well rounded.
9. Ask for the order.
10. Always be willing to walk away from a negotiation.
11. When you’re good at something, exploit it to the max. Leave competitors in the dust.
12. Anything can be negotiated.
13. If someone wants to talk, listen.
14. Share your thought process. Talk about ideas while you’re forming them.
15. Don’t hire people with ” skill sets”.  Hire people who can think.
16. Pay close attention to details.
17. Talk to customers and prospects as an equal.
18. As an owner, never allow yourself to lose touch with customers.
19. Great sales people find opportunity anywhere.
20. Great sales people know when to walk away.
21. Great sales people are not easy to manage.
22. Ineffective sales people are usually their own worst enemy.
23. Don’t rush decisions, especially about financial matters.
24. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut.
25. When people understand your vision, they will do everything in their power to achieve it.
26. When people do not understand your vision, they will achieve nothing.
27. Be quick to credit others for success and quick to accept responsibility for failure.
28. Seek credit worthy customers at all times.
29. Keep up with technology regardless of your age or position.
30. Read.
31. Show the spouses of key performers how much you appreciate their support.
32. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
33. Be conservative in financial management and aggressive in sales and marketing.
34. Talk to key performers regularly.
35. Never gossip. Don’t share company information unless you have a good reason.
36. Never lose touch with your key suppliers.
37. The biggest danger in a purchasing department is complacency.
38. The next biggest danger in a purchasing department is carelessness.
39. Any customer problem can be solved.
40. Be willing to be unpleasant or unreasonable if that’s what it takes to solve a customer’s problem.
41. Don’t be afraid to go over the head of your regular customer or supplier contact if that’s what it takes to solve a problem.
42. The most important time to encourage a sales person is after he or she has lost a big order.
43. A good boss always appreciates what you do, but always challenges you to do more.
44. Sales people cannot achieve spectacular results without being well organized and self-disciplined.
45. Never lose sight of the fact that customers and vendors have their own priorities.
46. Sometimes the best meeting agenda is no agenda. Sometimes people just need to blow off steam.
47. The two most important things a sales rep can do is return phone calls promptly and show up on time. Everything else is just gravy.
48. Write down or write off losses as quickly as you can. They just get more expensive with age.
49. The quality, cleanliness, and atmosphere of your facility is a direct reflection of how you conduct business.
50. Always be courteous in your business dealings. You never know how life will unfold.

This post is part of Robert Hruzek’s latest What I Learned From … group project.

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23 Responses to What I Learned from My Business Mentors

  1. Thanks for joining the fray, Brad! Great list. My favorites:

    3 (and when you find it, start looking for the next one)
    14 (always a toughie for me)
    24 (I’ve road-tested this one many times)
    27 (they’ll remember you for this one!)
    32 (mistakes can be your friends)

    You can also apply every one of these principles to life in general, too – but then you knew that, didn’t you? :-)

  2. Hi Bob, you’re right. Good business principles are good life principles, at least when it comes to dealing with people and conducting yourself.

  3. This is a great list Brad, and as Robert says so much of it is applicable to other arenas too. But I like the way you’ve been developing so much rich material in recent weeks on the qualities of great sales teams… methinks you’ll soon have enough for a book :-)

    Joanna

  4. Thanks, Joanna. You are a dab hand at prognostication …

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  6. this is an amazing list, and applicable to I think just about being anything in life, one of my mentors says to read 10 books on business a year – he says he likes to stack them all on his nightstand in january and work his way through them accordingly – funny that image really struck me – choose 10 titles, purchase, stack and read.

  7. Hi Mother Earth, interesting idea on the 10 books. One of my areas of interest is online marketing. It would be hard to pick out books that far in advance! If you’re looking for something to read, check out the Favorite Business Books on this blog.

  8. awesome list brad, thank you – like you online marketing is also an interest of mine – currently my “stack” includes the 6th harry potter,the latest’s seth ( although his permission marketing concepts rank tops for me, and michael pollan’s latest. What I’m really in the mood for – is a trashy romance – truth be told, my reading is bit too heady at the moment. I find at the christmas time you can access enough titles to last at least a year or access folks like you who like to put lists together for others

  9. “Meatball Sundae” is next up for me. That’s about as light as my reading gets, if you can call that light. I read and write cartoons to decompress.

  10. it takes a certain “character” to illustrate and provide humor

    that’s cool

    and what a great way to decompress

  11. Brad,

    Love this post! It’s very comprehensive and certainly reflects your considerable business experience and acumen! Sounds like you’ve had some wonderful mentors, who have passed on virtually all the important “tricks of the trade” to their eager, willing, and very teachable student. There are certainly many gems of wisdom among them; and as you say in your above comment, they’re applicable to both business and life–which makes them twice as handy!

    Jeanne

  12. Hi Brad

    Impressive list ergo impressive mentors and I’m sure they appreciated you – you’re a good listener it seems – which brings me to #43 – you can easily replace the word boss with mentor there ;-)

    As for a excellent new book (so new it isn’t even officially for sale!) on online marketing check out Ed Rivis’ new book “The Ultimate Web Marketing Strategy”.
    I’ve read his E-book (a gift from Ed) in one go!

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  13. Jeanne, your comment makes me think that for all the advice and books on how to be a mentor, there should be more out there on how to be a student! Karin, thanks for the tip on Ed’s book. Looks like a winner.

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  16. #31 is a nice touch. I like that. Great list!

  17. Pete, thanks for noticing #31. It’s an easy one for corporations to miss, yet so important.

  18. Hi Jacob, thanks for the Stumble! Glad you found this post so helpful. Hardest part is probably following all the advice.

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  20. I actually make it a habit of NOT paying bills on time. Protect your cashflow. Keep hold of cash for as long as possible. Only pay when your creditors are screaming and threatening legal action.

  21. You have created a great list. The point that impress me a lot is Don’t hire people with ” skill sets”. Hire people who can think. Its’ a very good and unique approach and i think this point is very much effective for the development of the business.

  22. I have some coming from the other side,
    1 Never listen to the marketing team over your development team .
    2 Make sure that your development team has skill sets.
    3 Make sure that you never listen to managers, they are pen pushers nothing more.
    4 That products are more important than sails, always.
    5 Boring projects are boring.
    6 Never expect the development teem on time.
    7 If its running late, its running late get over it.
    8 Your development teem is not a animal, primate based research don’t apply, don’t give them bonuses just pay them.
    9 Beer and cake are always appreciated.
    10 Don’t appoint a leader the strongest will show them self in time.
    11 Coding is hard , really hard, you try it.
    12 Cubicals are shit have one big office stick them all in that.
    13 It IS compiling , if you don’t like it buy better equipment.
    14 Never use buz words we no what they mean you just sound stupid.
    15 Just because its in a book don’t mean its real, just look at the bible for proof.
    16 …….
    17 Lists are always cool.
    any way hope you enjoy my little list feel free to rebut any you think I have wrong.

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