Dumb Business Tips
Here are a few things I’ve learned about business over the past couple of years that have helped me. A lot of these are obvious but easy to forget when you’re in the fog of entrepreneurship. Take em, use em, call em your own.
Actually Learn From Your Mistakes
This is probably the hardest lesson of all. In business, in life, in everything: you will make mistakes. What separates the best people from the not-so-great people is your ability to correct those mistakes. Be vigilant about documenting your mistakes (e.g. in a notebook), specifying four things: what I messed up, how I messed it up, why I messed it up, and how I can fix it.
Every time you correct a mistake, cross it off.
Organize Your Finances First
Money is a fickle beast. It’s also the #1 thing that separates your business from existence and death. I personally loathe money, but, I realize it’s importance and utility in business. Learn basic accounting and bookkeeping. Setup your tools for managing your finances before you do anything else.
Keep money from your business separate from your personal (no matter how small your company – even as a soloist). Pay attention to the numbers and track your progress. Your business will not grow if you don’t know where it’s already been.
You’re Dumber Than You Think
It’s easy to think you know it all when you step up to the plate. But until you swing at the ball, you’re just blowing hot air (like this sentence!). Keep an open mind and always assume that you’re wrong before you assume you’re right. Be a student always and work to fill in missing knowledge.
Read books, meet with people who interest you, travel. Whatever will help you to grow as a person. Don’t limit yourself to what you know right now, lest you’ll hit a brick wall.
This applies to everything you’ll ever do in business. Ideas take time to catch on, people take time to get comfortable. Things are built on top of other things and steps cannot be skipped. Take your time and get it right the first time.
Focus on the People Not the Problem
Solving problems is great, but what you’re really looking to do is help people. Pay attention to who is buying your stuff, why they’re buying it, and how they’re using it. Give a damn about who they are, what they do, and what they want to do. The people will always, always, always matter more than you or the business.
Build, Implement, and Use Systems
Find what works for you, document it, and use it until it’s become a habit. Organize your calendar, master your todo list, and for the love of god label your email. For every process that sticks, write a detailed description and checklist of exactly how to do it so you can share it with others later.
People are forgetful. If you don’t hear from someone, it’s extremely rare that they’re mad at you or don’t like you. They probably have a sick kid, an anxious boss, or an ailing parent to tend to, just like you do. If someone goes missing, just send them a “hey, hope you’re doing well.”
Don’t Be Lazy
Picking your nose, playing video games, and burping up cheetos is super easy. Running a business is not. But it’s important to accept and develop self-discipline around just getting the work done. You’ll always feel better once you’ve done it, and every item completed is one less thing on your mind.
This isn’t a suggestion to work non-stop, but rather when it’s time to work: get your work done. Train yourself to watch for moments where you get distracted by meaningless things like news websites and learn to redirect your attention.
Give a Damn
People can smell bullshit from a million miles away. Be authentic about whatever you’re doing – even if you’re selling snake oil. Only speak about what you can actually back up with facts and listen to what other people say. Do it in your own voice and avoid being yet another weasel on the “hey look at me!” train.
Get stuff out of your head. Some stuff will be publishable, most of it will be stream of consciousness and just for you. Writing is incredibly cathartic and helps you to sort your thoughts. If you get stuck on a thought, grab a sheet of paper and write it down. It’s likely you’ll stop thinking about it soon after.
Free courage: I’m still learning how to do everything on this list. Keep practicing and remain conscious of your choices. I like how Bobby Flay says it:
Take risks and you’ll get the payoffs. Learn from your mistakes until you succeed. It’s that simple.