Work Environment, Learning Are Crucial to Business Success

February 1, 2019|

This multipart series is for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Whether you are starting or have been in business for a few years, these insights and personal lessons may save you a load of money and regret.

I call it Blood and Guts, because that’s what it takes to be a business owner. You deserve a medal. What most people think is liberation from a 40-hour workweek is often an 80-hour or more workweek, and the reward is not always financial. Having started multiple small businesses of my own and marketed/consulted with many others over the past 40-plus years, I have seen or personally experienced a lifetime of good and bad decisions. I hope these insights will be valuable to anyone who chooses to take the risk.

In the last installment we covered:

  • You can’t expense all purchases in one year.
  • It’s not how much you sell it for; it’s how much you pay for it.
  • Know the real value of a sale, but don’t bet on the come.
  • Guard your integrity.

Here are some additional insights:

Watch your mouth. We had a bustling ad agency full of spit and vinegar. Being on the sixth floor of an office building, I thought our young, seven-person office needed some live plants. I contracted with a “plant lady” to bring a variety of fresh green plants into the office and care for them weekly.

Marketing, like all business, has a certain corporate environment, but in an ad agency full of creative people, freedom of speech and thought is expected, even encouraged. So, there was a fair amount of “unfortunate” language — I would dare say fitful outbursts — virtually every week dealing with time crunches, missed deadlines and who was to blame.

About three months went by, and to my surprise the plant lady removed every single plant, not just the dead ones. I stopped her in the hall with a cart full of plants. She said, “My plants don’t like this environment. I can’t keep them healthy. I quit.”

There have been several documented articles dealing with this topic. I know it’s true because I saw it firsthand. We immediately put in place some new policies that put an end to the foul-mouthed environment that we originally thought was productive. If that kind of environment will do that to plants, imagine what it does to people.

Read, Read, Read. Find time to read some good business books. I have to admit that I found Good to Great to be far more than I could handle. I was a small business, not General Motors. Jim Collins is a fine author and that might be your thing, so give the flyleaf a look.

But here are some others that I strongly recommend:

The E-Myth. Michael Gerber nails it for me when he talks about a small businessperson’s approach to business. Until they find help, they tend to “Load the wagon and then pull the wagon.” Of course, he is referring to the problem of winning and managing business. After reading Gerber, I found someone else to load and I pulled until I found another person to handle that as well. It’s not as hard as it sounds.

Raving Fans. A short book by Ken Blanchard, author of the One Minute Manager, and Sheldon Bowles. If your company has customers, this is ideal for you. I have recommended this to non-profit groups, too, since they also have to keep donors.

The Deming Management Method. A bit more sophisticated, but great if you are in manufacturing. Even if you aren’t in manufacturing, this book has value in showing you how to choose and value vendors. Primarily it deals with increasing quality while reducing costs. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? When we went through this with our staff, we actually cut the number of vendors we dealt with and still got competitive pricing to pass along to our customers. Author Edwards Deming is best known for helping Japan rise from the ashes of war to become a booming economy again.

Stay flexible. As a small businessperson, you will deal daily with suppliers, customers and employees. One change from any of them can have repercussions amongst the other two. You can bet “change” is going to happen. Your job is to manage the fallout, and to do this you cannot be too rigid — unless you want an early heart attack. Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 B.C.–475 B.C.), a Greek philosopher, said, “Nothing is constant but change.”

Remember, stress is the opposite of flexibility. Stressed girders on a bridge will snap. Being flexible begins between your ears. It is a mindset. When you see flexibility as a choice in any situation, you can give yourself an out — and live to fight another day.

Watch for the next part of this series and share this with other entrepreneurial friends. Believe me, small business and entrepreneurs need all the help they can get. Got any good stories yourself? Shoot me an e-mail at

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