If there’s anything I hope we’ve learned from the debt crisis of recent weeks, it’s that we can’t expect miracles from our elected representatives — and for them to agree on anything right now would be a miracle.
Clearly, we couldn’t run our businesses like the Federal government runs itself. But, as different as government and business are, there are some valuable lessons coming out of the debt ceiling debacle that we in business can take to heart, such as:
1. Your business has to have long-term as well as short-term objectives and a plan to achieve those objectives. Monitor your progress toward those objectives and when you’re not making satisfactory progress, reevaluate the plan and objectives and make changes accordingly. And, continue to monitor and evaluate.
2. Maintain focus. Don’t waste time on tangential issues or go chasing down “red herrings”. At the same time, be open-minded with respect to change. Respect tradition but don’t become weighed down by it.
3. Be passionate about what you do, but don’t let passion get in the way of sound judgment. Avoid surrounding yourself with “yes men” who merely feed the passion — have advisors who you can trust to challenge you and offer alternatives.
4. Rely on the balanced scorecard, rather than put all your eggs in your “financial basket”. You need to make a profit, of course, but profit isn’t your sole – or the most important – reason why you’re in business. It isn’t “all about the money” — it’s about pleasing your customers.
5. Become a skilled negotiator. Don’t make arguments for argument’s sake. Learn that you don’t have to be right all the time — you can “lose” an argument and still win business.
6. The customer comes first, of course, but you must also understand the importance of keeping all stakeholders happy and engaged.
7. The most important part of communication is listening. If you’re not listening, you’re not learning and if you’re not learning, you’re not growing. You’re therefore open to ideas other than your own. You encourage ongoing dialogue between and among members of your staff, between your staff and management, staff and vendors, and between staff and the customer.
8. Know that perfection is impossible and that delaying action for the sake of perfection is wrong. As a business owner, you know there’s risk in everything you do. At some point, you go forward with the best knowledge, tools, and people that you have and you concentrate on continually improving your products and processes.
9. Don’t put your needs above everyone else’s. When too many people insist on putting themselves and their needs before everyone else, as everyone in the cast of the debt crisis seems to have, the result is a disaster for everyone.
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Thanks for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
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