There are plenty of people, books and seminars out there to tell you all the things you should do when launching and running a business. A great deal of it is sound advice. But as the owner of the company, you make the rules. I don’t advise blindly accepting some of the business rules others consider common wisdom. Here’s a handful of rules I think are worth breaking:
The rule: It’s all about the bottom line. The reality: It’s about doing the right thing. Many enlightened business owners say that sometimes other things are more important than money. Like giving an employee a paid maternity leave, even though she just started with the company. Or turning down certain clients because they’d require too much travel. The irony, of course, is that not being driven by the bottom line can actually drives up profits in the end, at least in my experience.
The rule: Entrepreneurs all work 24/7. The reality: You control when you do the work. Although would-be entrepreneurs are often told to expect to work around the clock, plenty of business owners actually launch their companies in order to create more balance in their lives. One of the beauties of owning your own business is that you have more control over when you work. You might spend the afternoon at soccer practice with your kids, but put in a few hours on the computer after they’re in bed at night.
The rule: You can’t start a business without a business plan. The reality: Many successful companies skipped that part. If you’re looking for venture capital, you will need a business plan. But plenty of successful entrepreneurs say they didn’t do anything of the kind. In fact, a huge number of them will say they were pretty clueless about business in general when they started. Which leads us to the next rule worth breaking.
The rule: You ought to have a thorough understanding of business. The reality: You don’t have to know everything. In fact, you can’t know everything before you start your business. Opportunities and challenges both will present themselves, for which you will feel woefully unprepared. Get over it. You can figure just about anything out. And when you can’t, find someone who can. Incidentally, an excellent lawyer, CPA and computer guy are all good to know.
The rule: It’s important than everyone like you. The reality: Being the boss and being liked are sometimes mutually exclusive. One of the best things about being the boss is that you get to call all the shots. That’s also one of the worst things about it. Owning the company means you have to make some tough calls from time to time. There will be times your popularity rating is not so high. Don’t worry about it.