The house in this picture is located at 367 Addison Ave. in Palo Alto, California. I visited the house earlier this year as a guest of Hewlett Packard, whom I spoke for in California. Hewlett Packard, the company that you know, started in the garage at the end of the driveway. In fact, the plaque at the front of the house lets you know that this house was the birthplace of Silicon Valley.
I enjoyed standing alone in the garage, looking at the tools and the boxes of parts and thinking about Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett working away on their audio oscillator, wondering if they had any idea of their future success. I’m sure of one thing — they’d agree with this list.
Here it is …
- Work hard and accept that there are no short cuts. The shortest short cut is not looking for one. You learn to work smart, you learn to compartmentalize, and you learn the value of process and communication.
- If you were sorry to see ‘focus’ so high up on the list, that isn’t a good sign. Absolutely everything – your hopes and dreams and your retirement – is riding on your ability to focus exclusively on the task at hand and turn everything else off.
I know, so far this list isn’t a lot of fun. I mean, what’s next? Patience?
- Patience, pain and sacrifice. Is this a fantastic Monday morning or what? Doing it right takes hard work, focus and patience. Along the way you will have to delay gratification and make a lot of sacrifices. You will work late, early, and on weekends. Even on holidays, you might have to check in.
Don’t despair. It isn’t a life sentence. The hard work, focus, patience, pain and sacrifice pay off. For less than 10% of us.
But let’s be positive! You’re here, right, reading along? Trust me, you’re one of only a few, my friend, and I’ve been at this for years! You found this little secret stash of goodness on the web and you can follow along and be guided to the Promised Land. Some assembly required.
- Respect the finances of your business. The money isn’t yours. It belongs to the company and the government. You’ll get paid later. For now, just sit tight and weather the slings and arrows of pensioned employees complaining about all the “rich business owners who take days off whenever they want and never pay taxes.”
Get an accountant and do what you are told. Live modestly, delay gratification, and save your money. Don’t use your business as a bank.
- Know thyself. This is a pretty big one; it also marks a turn away from the more foundational truths of business 101 (truths 1 through 4.)
Who are you, and what does your inspiring vision of your future look like? What makes you happy? How do you want to live your life? What do you want to do for others? These are important questions you should revisit throughout your career.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? Make sure you do what you are good at with 80% of your available time. Delegate everything else to professionals. You need a bookkeeper; you need an accountant and a financial advisor. You need to listen to the people you hire. Remember, you just work at your company; being an owner doesn’t get you out of also being an employee who follows the rules.
- The business you are in is not the business you are actually in. You don’t sell stuff; you create and stage meaningful customer experiences. That’s the business you are in, even dentists and lawyers. In other words, even if you have valuable professional advice that people need, you have to have an incredible customer experience. Everything you can buy has become commoditized; someone is always willing to sell it or do it for less. If you try to be really good at what you do but not at staging experiences, you’re going to be in a world of trouble. Which brings me to point seven.
- Never join the race to the bottom. Everything you want to buy, you can find available online or from a shop or service. You can spend as little or as much as possible, depending on what is important to you.
For the business owner, there is a great temptation to compete on price, to slide down to the discount end of the scale, lower the price and cut out features and benefits. You do so at your peril. There is always someone who is willing to sell it for less than you are. You can’t win the race to the bottom, but you most certainly can win the race to the top.
The race to the top is all about truth number eight:
- Always give a little more. The race to the top is about mattering more to your clients by being more relevant to them. We will all pay a little more for personalized, meaningful experience. If you have more to give, and it will help, then let them have it. People love a good surprise.
- Measure your results. Without measurement, you have nothing. At best, you have a vague sense of how things are going but you are never certain. Live with some certainty for a change; maybe you’ll like it!
- Invest in professional development. You have to pay to get better. You have to pay to take courses, to hire consultants and to improve. It’s a fact; personal income rarely exceeds personal development. This is part of truth number five, knowing thyself.
Your business is the engine of your life. It affords a life for you and your family, now and into the future. It deserves some reinvestment.
Thanks again, and have a great week.
PS. Yes, I realize the list was ten.