37 lessons about business (on my 37th birthday)

It’s my birthday today. I’m 37. So here are 37 lessons I’ve learned about business over the years:

  1. Do something you love to do. Forget the comfort of a regular paycheck and the wealth-promises of get-rich-quick opportunities. Figure out what you absolutely love to do and find a way to get paid doing it. Do it until you don’t love it anymore.
  2. You don’t need to be an expert. You need to do it well and find your groove.
  3. It’s okay to aspire to be like someone else but don’t try to be a clone. Combine that aspiration with your own uniqueness to create your own dream of success.
  4. Always learn; try new things; range outside of your area of expertise; don’t just connect the dots, find new dots.
  5. New entrepreneurs aspire to become successful (i.e. wealthy, famous, busy, whatever) and successful entrepreneurs miss those raw edge-of-the-seat hungry days of starting up.
  6. Cash flow, cash flow, cash flow, cash flow, cash flow. Get it. Keep it. Grow it.
  7. Become known as a problem solver.
  8. Become known as a person who gets things done.
  9. Smart customers want value and will negotiate with you to get it. The worst customers are the ones who grind you down to get a lower rate. There is a huge difference between the two and the sooner you understand the difference and work ONLY with the smart customers, the sooner your business will become profitable.
  10. There are a few core skills everyone should have (over and above whatever you happen to be good at). Those core skills are: Selling, financial literacy, relationship-building/networking, and managing/leadership. If you become an expert in those things, you’ll become an unstoppable train of success.
  11. Nothing is permanent. You can change your brand and business on a dime if necessary. Even on the web where everything seems permanent.
  12. Test everything. Don’t stick to something because you like it; watch the numbers and be willing to adjust your course based on what the metrics are telling you.
  13. Setbacks suck but you can overcome them. They seem huge right now but a few months or years from now, they’ll be a blip… if you remember them at all. (Read my blog post “5 business failures and what I’ve learned from them“).
  14. Leverage what you’ve done in the past but don’t dwell on the past. You’ll only get caught up in the cost. Look to the future and remain positive about it.
  15. Actively seek out problems you have and eliminate them. It’s short term pain but long term gain.
  16. Spend time with people you love. (Yes, that’s a business lesson because those people will keep you balanced when things are going really bad or really good).
  17. Give freely. I don’t really believe in karma but there is some kind of weird boomerang effect in the universe that if you give generously, it comes back to you.
  18. There is no substitute for discipline and consistency.
  19. Find people to partner with. You can’t do it all yourself. There are many different ways this can work so find the way that works for you. (See my blog post on joint ventures).
  20. Don’t put up with BS. There’s too much of it in the world. Be gracious and polite but be honest and expect honesty from others.
  21. Build systems and models and processes and routines and habits and a sales funnel. This makes your business lean and profitable and gives you an assured path to return to when you stray from it to experiment and innovate.
  22. Exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, and smile. Yes, this is a business lesson because these things reduce stress, help you to focus, keep you grounded, and make you a nice person to be around.
  23. There is no silver bullet. Just work your ass off. (One of my favorite sayings is relevant here: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work” – Thomas Edison).
  24. Stretch yourself. Try things you’ve never done before and don’t fear mistakes or worry about what other people think of you.
  25. Find a few good customers and serve them well. That seems like such a basic thing but some entrepreneurs try to make it more complicated.
  26. There’s a psychological dip that happens as you build something (like a project or a blog or even a business). Get to critical mass as quickly as you can.
  27. Focus. You get more done when you focus.
  28. Be yourself. I wish I knew this one many years ago; I would have taken myself way less seriously.
  29. Build a network of people and value them. This is something I think I do well offline but not well enough online… yet.
  30. Plan your day and stick to it. You’ll get pulled off course but your plan is there to bring you back. This is another one of those simple lessons that people try to make too complicated.
  31. Act. The one key difference between successful entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs is this simple 3-letter word. Successful entrepreneurs act. (See my blog post: “Are you an action figure?“)
  32. You can’t do everything. Gosh, that’s a lesson I need to keep reminding myself every day.
  33. Trust your instincts. Your gut is a surprisingly good gauge of what you should and should not do. I have always regretted the times I did not listen to my gut and I have always been glad about the times that I did listen.
  34. Get control of your business. Manage your business debt and get rid of poisonous or time-sucking people. (See my blog post on firing your customers).
  35. Invest in innovation. Put aside a bit of money from every dollar earned to innovate in your business.
  36. Pay attention to the signposts along the way. There are clues and indicators scattered throughout our lives that help us to adjust our course. Find out what the most trusted ones are and listen closely.
  37. Do the thing you fear the most early in the day. I’ve been hearing this one over and over lately and I’m wondering if it’s the latest lesson in my life.

Leave a Reply