Rules of Business

Photo by Daniela Rey

Someone asked me if I had any rules of business I follow. I have quite a few, but I shared a handful with them.

Learn to tell a story

I have a three year old daughter. At night she pleads for a story I make up before she goes to bed. After food and shelter were taken care of, it’s wild how important stories became. When you make something, no matter what you create, success often depends on your ability to tell a good story.

Don’t wait to build an audience

Who are you going to tell that story to? Too many start their businesses backwards. They wait years for THE idea. Make it. Now, have the stress of finding people who care. Reverse it. Start finding people who care now. Build an audience while you’re still flailing around. You’ll be glad you didn’t waste the time upfront.

Play it long

Many of us fear we’ve peaked. We’ve reached the pinnacle of our creative endeavors. However, a study of musical composers showed the creative quality of their work didn’t decline over time. Quantity did. If you feel you’re past your best, nonsense. The most creative amongst us keep producing long after the rest of us have given up.

Do your worst

Beethoven’s most popular work today is not the work Beethoven thought was his best. Trey Parker, the creator of South Park, feels every episode they complete is, “the worst episode we’ve ever done.” As creators we are terrible predictors and judges of our own work. Just put it out there, even if it’s your worst.

Make business personal

One day my daughter made an extra special effort and I wanted to treat her. Instead of the very capable bakery nearby, we went out of our way to a bakery whose owners made the effort to get to know us. They say business isn’t personal, but business is all people. Don’t be afraid to share yourself with your customers and employees.

Hire designated survivors

The US government has a succession plan when leaders gather: a designated survivor in a remote location. Most businesses are too reliant on a single founder. Something goes wrong, the business can’t continue. It’s also stress. If you’re the only one keeping the most important balls in the air, it weighs on you. Hire people who can be the boss.

And remember, no one knows anything

I’ve been running my own businesses for 12 years. Been in Y Combinator twice. Met the top VC firms. Befriended insanely successful founders. And I’ve never met someone who knows what they’re doing. Instead, they know how to make decisions when the rest of us stall in debate. And when they make a wrong one, they make more decisions.

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