14 Important Business Lessons You Should Have Learned From Your Early School Years!
If you didn't learn these lessons, learn them now!
There is certainly plenty of advice out there in managing your business for increased business success, but quite a bit of it comes down to some basic business lessons that were actually learned as we went through our growing-up-years in school!
Below are some very basic ideas and important business lessons in management training for those who don't want to make it to keep it simple.
1. Do Your Homework
Anyone who wanted to make decent grades and move on to the next grade learned to do their homework, whether it was a simple overnight assignment or studying for a test. In business, you must also ”DO Your Homework”. You’ve got to know your competition, your market, your customer, what’s selling, and where to be in terms of pricing. Before you launch into a new location or a new line, you’ve got to know why it will work and what the pluses and minuses are. Know features and benefits of the products you offer. People expect your people to be more knowledgeable than those at stores like Walmart or Home Depot. ! It’s much harder to move ahead if you haven’t done your homework.
2. Be In Style-Be Current
No kid in elementary, middle or high school wants to show up to school with the wrong clothes, the wrong colors, or in a style that says mom picked my outfit. You’ve got to be current and in style and in your business also. This is an obvious statement if your selling fashion, but too many retailers forget about the look of their store. Does it look like it was opened in the 70’s? Are you stocking merchandise you like, or are you stocking what is currently in demand. Does your storefront, showroom or product presentation look the same as it did 10 years ago? Does your store look like there is always something new? If you want customers to return, you’ve got to be today’s place to go, not yesterdays news!
3. Rebels & Leaders
When I went to school, there were two types of students who were popular with the kids. There were those who always seemed to be the club presidents, the cheerleaders, the sports jocks or the student council people. These kids were always popular. Then there were the rebels. They were the ones who always commanded attention, because they were funny, in trouble, or outrageous. Everyone generally liked the class clown. . .the one who showed no respect for the establishment. In retailing especially, you’ve got to be a leader, an innovator, rebel, or a store that totally separates itself from the competition. These are the stores people want to shop. Mrs. Field opened cookie stores back when everyone told her it wouldn’t work. Apple Computer opened their own computer stores when they couldn’t get other retail stores to sell their products. When Robert Wood couldn’t get his employer Montgomery Ward to move from the catalogue business into retailing, he went to Sears Catalogue business and convinced them that retailing was the place to be. When Sam Walton couldn’t convince Ben Franklin’s 5 and 10¢ stores to open a discount store, he went and did it on his own. Be a rebel.
"I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught." Winston Churchill
4. Put Your Best Stuff Out for Open House
In elementary school when the teacher announced that there was an open house coming up, there was generally a special project or two to prepare for the big night, with the visit from mom and dad. Your best drawing was put up. The best class project was highlighted. You had things you wanted to make sure mom and dad saw. The classroom was cleaned up and everything was straightened and some of the old stuff on the walls was taken down. In retailing, while everyone wants to look good for the grand opening, retailers forget that a promotion or sale is an open house of sorts. Your bringing people in for a special reason that you’ve chosen. Is your store truly ready? Is it well stocked with current inventory that’s relevant to YOUR customer? Is the checkout area cluttered with junk that has been sitting around and behind the counter for months or worse yet, years? When is the last time the store was painted? How old are some of your signs? How old are some of your displays? When was the last time you rearranged and re-merchandised your store or showroom? There should always be something new you want mom and dad or someone to see! Again, in retailing, everyday is “open house”.
5. Hygiene Habits-Discovering B.O.
Somewhere along the line in middle school or even high school you learned that kids talked about B.O. (body odor). You didn’t want to be the kid that everyone made jokes about. If you were a guy, you might have felt compelled to start taking more showers. You started wearing deodorant. Girls were way ahead of you here. You started worrying about your hair or your nails more. The fact is you didn’t want to be looked at as the class pig. In retail, you don’t want to be the class pig either. Many of you may be the class pig and you don’t even know it, just like the guy who smelled in class but somehow never seemed to pay any attention. Develop a regular program for cleaning windows, doors, counters, corners, and dusting. Every night the store should be re-straightened from the day’s activities. Take a look at your store like your customers look at it. What do you walk by everyday that you never notice (or smell)?
"In the school I went to, they asked a kid to prove the law of gravity and he threw the teacher out of the window." Rodney Dangerfield
6. Showing Off
Growing up in school was a time of learning, trying new things, failing, being embarrassed etc. We were all searching for that one thing that we were good at. We wanted to be better then everyone else at something. In many cases we wanted to show off! Retailers need to do the same. You need to be something special to your customers. Whatever your niche, you need to do it better, or cheaper, or faster, or more uniquely than any other retailer. First determine what it is, that you can be better at, and then do it. And when you do it better than anyone else—let everyone know about it---SHOW OFF!
7. Tests and Pop Quizzes
In school, if you weren’t keeping up with the teacher in class or reading the assignments as given each night, you found yourself in trouble when it came to the inevitable pop quiz. Being ready for the big test could often be nerve racking also. Cramming worked well for some, but not for most. One way or the other, you needed to do well at these tests when it came time to face report cards. If you own a business, the business world and your customers are going to be testing you a lot. There will be big tests and there will be daily pop quizzes. You must work to be mentally and physically ready for all of them. The pop quiz might come in the form of someone calling in sick, or the computer going down, or the electricity going off. It might come in the form of an unhappy or disgruntled customer in your store. It may just be a sudden shortage of register tape that is holding up your customers at the register. The big test might come in the form of a recession, or a competitor moving in on you. The better you can prepare and study for all of them, the better your state of mind and the better you will perform in business. There are report cards in business also. They’re called a P & L statement. They’re called monthly sales. And they’re called monthly bills.
8. Protect What’s Yours
You always had to be careful what you took to school. Mom was always worried about what wouldn’t come back home. You lose a sweater. You lose a key. You lost your lunch. Some days you were allowed to take something special to school and there was always the threat hanging over you of what would happen if you lost it. In middle school and high school, you had school lockers and often you might have to worry about who shared your locker. Today kids are losing I-Pods and cell phones at school along with just about anything else. Sometimes it’s lost. Sometimes it’s stolen. Somewhere along the line you learn that your schoolmates can’t always be trusted. In small business and in retail especially, you have to worry about theft. You will never stop it from happening. All you can do is minimize it and try to prevent it. But, you must give it your attention and you must give it a lot of forethought. The questions are: Who will steal from me next? How am I making it easy to be stolen from? How do I make it tempting? Where am I most vulnerable? What must I protect come hell or high water? Unfortunately, you can’t go running back to mom or dad when you lose something at your business.
9. Extracurricular Activities
The kids who seemed to do better at school generally seemed to be involved in some type of club or outside activity. I believe this is born out in education statistics. Business owners who get themselves involved in local organizations also generally do better. There is the benefit of networking. There is the benefit of learning from others experiences and mistakes. And there is the benefit of serving your community and building a reputation as someone who isn’t just taking, but giving also.
10. Try New Things
During our school years, we generally weren’t afraid of much except perhaps our peers. Yes there was peer pressure. Maybe there was a teacher or two, or possibly a principal that made us a little nervous. But overall the world was ours to take. My parents encouraged me to try new clubs and activities. Try new sports. Meet new people. Make new friends. Meet new girls. When I was a kid, it was always, “don’t be afraid to taste something new”. Over our school years we also tried new hobbies, new ways of dressing, and certainly new music. Business and retailing are the same way. You must be open to new approaches, fresh ways of looking at problems and new concepts. Try new procedures and better ways of doing things. While you may not actually try them all, you should always be looking at them. There is almost ALWAYS a better way of doing something---FIND IT!
11. Don’t Let Your Buddies Down
Remember in school. You never wanted to let your buddies down. You never wanted to be the one to snitch. If you were promised to meet someone at the game on Friday night, you’d better be there. If you told your buddies, you’d have the car on Saturday night, you knew you had to come through. In small business, your buddies are your employees. Take care of them. Keep your promises. You are the group leader. You need to set the example. You need to set the rules. Your employees expect you to come through for them just like your friends did. There still is a lot of loyalty out there if you can command it or earn it.
12. Build Credit with Those Who Can Lend you Money
Did you ever ask your friend in school to loan you $1.00, $5.00 or even $10.00? You always knew who you could go to for that loan and who you couldn’t go to, didn’t you? Did you ever asked your mom or dad to loan you some money for a car, a date or some item you just had to have? Do you remember how important it was to you when you asked? If your parents or your friends were reasonably smart, they learned quickly, whether you were someone who paid back their debts. In business you need to learn and know where you can go when a loan is finally needed. You may have no one in mind at the beginning. But you must try to build credit with the people who can or will loan you money when it’s needed, because I assure you when it’s needed in business, it WILL be important. Borrow money once in a while even when you don’t need it and then pay it back earlier than required. Pay your bills on time with your suppliers. If or when the day comes that you need them to cut you some slack, you will be glad you have proven yourself worthy.
13. Stay Organized
Remember the kids in school who had their homework but couldn’t find it. They also needed a pen or a pencil. They always seemed to be surprised by tests. They were the ones when asked to bring something from home who always forgot it. They were the ones who forgot the combination to their locker. They didn’t have their lunch money or they forgot their permission slip. If you are still this kid, you probably shouldn’t be running a business.In small business, time is money and becoming more effective at using your resources wisely will both help cut down on costs. The less time that you and your employees spend on wasting tasks that are caused by your lack of organization, the more time you can spend on profitable activities. Invest your time where it is the most valuable and most needed. Keep your records and tax files organized and up to date, or find someone that can do it for you. Are you ordering supplies and merchandise before it’s critical? Is everything where you can find it? Are you living by a calendar? What does your desk look like?
14. You Are Not Guaranteed Squat!
In school, there weren’t a whole lot of things or people you could count on. You couldn’t count on your girlfriend or boyfriend all the time. You couldn’t count on getting the lead in the play or winning the election or making it on the team. You couldn’t count on an “A” and lastly you couldn’t count on being able to B.S. your way through a test or through school, at least not with any real reward at the end! B.S. may take you part of the way, but sooner or later you’ve got to do it on your own. In the business world, you can count on even less! There’s no principal to enforce rules, and mom and dad aren’t there to get you out of trouble. Employees will disappoint you, as will customers.
The worst thing you can do is fall for your own B.S. You may think you have good employees or a good landlord or a banker solidly behind you, but there are NO guarantees. You may think your store, your atmosphere, or your concept is fantastic. But usually the markets reaction is to “yawn.” You’ve got to stay focused and stop believing you have all the answers, or that your idea is brilliant. There is nothing wrong about being positive or being excited, but sooner or later you’ve got to prove yourself without the B.S!
"The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next." Abraham Lincoln
I'm sure there are many more lessons I've left out. What lessons did you learn in school that are not represented here?
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