January 21, 2013

Simple, Not Easy: 9 Guidelines for Conducting Business.


1. We’re here to have fun, but it’s no fun to lose.

The quotient of available fun is directly proportional to the devotion with which you pursue excellence.

Stated differently: Why play the game if you don’t intend to win?

I am not saying one must always win, but the point is that you begin with success in mind.

Holding that vision, you can create a detailed breakdown of the steps necessary to achieve the particular success you’ve chosen. Having identified the specific steps, positive action becomes possible, wherein you begin to execute on those priorities to the very best of your ability.

You will encounter long training cycles, many trials and some serious tests in the process. Though the breaks will not always fall in your favor, good preparation generates excellent luck.

I believe in the essential truth and relevant applicability of the Indian proverb that says, “When we take one step towards God, He takes seven steps toward us.” In the Bhagavad Gita According to Gandhi, he explains how,

“Shri Krishna ensures the whole world that He will always welcome those who seek Him as persons engaged in a good effort, no matter with what energy they pursue their aim. Every action bears fruit and in particular no effort for realizing God is ever wasted. A person making such an effort never falls, but always rises. If he has faith, what does it matter if he cannot strive with determination? Whatever his achievement, he will be counted as a soldier in God’s army.”

Take comfort that no righteous effort is ever wasted, then continue to cultivate ever-greater determination. Stay focused. Deep attention to detail pays off.

Excellence is a path; fun is its abundant byproduct.


2. If you’re early you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late.

And everything takes longer than you think.

If you’re a proper gentleman, you will be in the habit of making tremendous entrances, almost as if by accident, always right on time.

Which usually means at least 15 minutes early.

I will acknowledge but not elaborate on the fact that there are occasions when appropriately on time is actually quite late. Discuss this amongst yourselves.

Tangentially, let’s apply this rule to communications.

Once known, information must be communicated immediately in order to be useful. This is simple, not easy. The key phrase is, “once known.”

The purpose of communication is to allow many individual parts to function as one organism. Within the whole, each part has a role, and must make it’s unique contribution in order for the healthy organism to function efficiently.

Gathering the information to be communicated is a process. It is indeed an endless process, leading some to believe that conclusions are impossible, therefore, what can ever be “known?” And if nothing can be known, then there’s nothing you can say or do, ever!

This can lead to pathological indecision. But the other parts of your whole need actionable information, not endless ontological pontifications promoting the essential unknowability of universals and particulars.

The only cure for indecision is a deadline. As the lovely Rita Mae Brown said, “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”

The last minute surely is a beautiful time, but imagine what magic might be accomplished in those crucial moments if the organism is already humming along smoothly, just getting revved up and ready to kick it into high gear. Imagine!


3.Under-promise. Over-deliver.

Expectation determines quality of experience. Well-managed expectations win hearts.

There is nothing dishonest about agreeing to deliver results deemed merely ‘acceptable’ by all parties. There is no benefit to gain in over-promising.

Over-delivery is, however, guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. People take note when you provide an exceptional experience. To go above and beyond is unforgettable.

Notice how guidelines one and two combine to make three possible. Well-established standards of excellence clearly communicated puts people in positions to succeed. It is then up to each person to take that advantageous position and improve it further.

Until the time is ripe, ruthlessly guard the secret that your expectations far exceed everyone else’s. Only your enemies will be angered by the unexpected boons you bring.


4.Use Parables Whenever Possible.

A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp.

They rub it and a Genie comes out. The Genie says, ‘I’ll give each of you just one wish.’

‘Me first! Me first!’ says the admin clerk. ‘I want to be in the Bahamas , driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.’

Puff! She’s gone.

‘Me next! Me next!’ says the sales rep. ‘I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.’

Puff! He’s gone.

‘Okay, you’re up,’ the Genie says to the manager.

The manager says, ‘I want those two back in the office after lunch…’

Lesson: Always let your boss have the first say.


5. Answer every question with a question.


Why, you ask?

Isn’t it obvious?

Can you afford not to wield this technique?

What would your stakeholders say if you didn’t?

Have you ever negotiated before?

Are you serious?

Can you repeat the question?

Do you really believe that?

How should I know?

Are we done here?


 6. They want your business. Be prepared to give it to them.

They should hear what they want to hear as you tell them how it’s going to be.

Don’t be afraid to take Yes for an answer.

Brevity is sexy. So is speaking French. Sexy sells.

“The imagination paints,
the mind compares,
taste chooses,
talent executes.”



7. “You never say thank you.”

“That’s what the money is for!”

This is not a hard and fast rule. Please and thank you are always in style, and style goes a long way.

At the same time, directness has many strong merits to recommend it. People are people, so things are complicated, but it is nonetheless worthwhile to try and simplify, man!

As a medium for exchanging otherwise arbitrary units of value, money simplifies many situations. Think of how many cases have avoided the complication of a jury trial through the relatively simple mechanism of an “out-of-court settlement.”

I am not suggesting that straight cash-money is some panacea; there is quite a bit more to life than financial wealth. However, in certain situations, a certain sum of money soothes a wound better than any band-aid or neosporin.

The forthrightness demonstrated by Mr. Draper may come off as harsh, but in business matters, I strongly prefer his approach to any softer one which might favor nice feelings over hard facts, placation over progress and comfort over success.


8. People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.

“Very, very few people or organizations know Why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean to make a profit. That is a result, it’s always a result.

By Why I mean what’s your purpose? What’s your cause, your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?”

Listen. Observe. Be Curious. Ask Questions. Problem-solve. Make Connections.


 9. Take what you need. Give all that you can.

There is nothing needy about having needs. In order to be truly sustainable, a business must pay it’s employees a fair, living wage.

Having seen to these bare necessities, it is best to reinvest any other resources back into the community which supports your work, and/or in service of your Why. 

Be of benefit. Value people over profits. Think with your heart and the profits will follow.

Now get out there and conduct your business with elegance, integrity and enthusiasm!


This is hardly an exhaustive list, so what are your best tips for conducting business successfully? Please join the conversation!

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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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