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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

How To Run A Business

There is one question I like to ask in workshops and seminars that always generates lots and lots of dialogue and discussion. What is that one question? Here it is: How do you run a business? CEOs, entrepreneurs, business professors, and consultants can banter around this question for days and days on end. Is there one specific answer? Not really. Are there lots and lots of opinions? Yes, there are.

While I don't believe there is a definitive answer to the question, I do believe there are some powerful principles that can be followed for business success.

Here are a few of the ones I have collected over the years from these discussions:

  • The one rule that never changes is: the rules constantly change.

  • Not everyone is cut out to be an owner, leader, or manager. It's okay to be a highly productive follower. Find out which one you are supposed to be and settle in to be the best you can be. Don't allow anyone else to convince you otherwise because your personal happiness should be above all else.

  • You are the one who is absolutely responsible for what happens in the business.

  • Make sure you are compensated appropriately for the results you are getting and the risks you are taking.

  • Work as much as possible with as little non-asset producing debt as possible.

  • Be disciplined in your thinking and your actions, especially hiring disciplined people.

  • Never let your emotions fool you, check yourself regularly for reality in your environment, not an idealistic environment.

  • Hire the best staff you can find, compensate them the best you can, then demand as much excellence from them as possible.

  • Never surrender your authority.

  • Attack problems quickly, never fool yourself into thinking problems will pass on their own or get better with time.

  • Push, push, push on opportunities that you have validated as being real.

  • Don't believe everything you are told, everyone has biases.

  • Don't expect largely unless you inspect regularly.

  • Apologize quickly and fully when you are wrong. And yes, you are sometimes wrong.

  • Stay away from litigation of any kind unless you absolutely cannot avoid it. Proving you are in the right is never worth the price paid.

  • Solve your customers' problems as best you can as consistently as possible.

  • A brand is like a relationship, you invest in it and it grows over time.

  • No matter what happens to the contrary, stay relentlessly positive.

  • Hire slow and fire fast. Protect what you've built. The longer it takes someone to pick up on their job, the more it proves you made the wrong choice. It's better to end it quickly, take the loss, learn and move forward.

  • Great leaders hire people better than themselves.

  • Your reputation and a relationship may help you get the business, but great work, results, and enhancing that relationship helps you keep it.

  • Beware of honest fools, sometimes they can cost you more than capable crooks.

  • Your business brand takes years to build and only moments to lose.

  • If the marketplace does not respond within a reasonable time frame, consider that you may have overestimated the desire for what you are offering.

  • People don't leave companies, they leave the management.

  • Ideas don't work, you have to work ideas.

  • No rule can accommodate every situation, therefore good judgment overrides any rule. The more quality people you have, the less need for rules you will have.

  • Know what you are good at and what you are not. Hire the strengths to compensate for your weaknesses. Don't hire more like you unless you need to.

  • Looking within your marketplace, your biggest competitor is always yourself. Compete rigorously with yourself, be better tomorrow than you were today. Other people who offer similar products and services will determine their own destiny. Make sure you are focused on your own destiny as intensely as possible.

  • Always keep calm in the face of adversity.

  • Keep your employee compensation plans and incentives simple and easy to understand. Make sure they are in line with what drives your people, you can never assume you know for sure without asking them.

  • In the niches are where you find the riches. Specialists always make more than generalists. Find out where your slice is and go after it relentlessly.

  • Keep your management structure small and uncomplicated. Every time you add more complexity, you add more problems for yourself.

  • Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them and great companies are improved by them.

  • Guard your reputation and your good name fiercely. Hardly anything is a greater asset to your success.

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