think like an owner

“If you think you can do better, why don’t you just do it yourself?” That’s what my superior told me years ago. So I did.

When I offered strategic technology consultancy services as a subcontractor, my superior once told me: “Why are you always so critical of the people and the businesses we assign you to?” What I think he should have added, for drama purposes, is: “You’re acting like you own the damn place!” Either way, my reply was: “That’s because I imagine I own the place.”

Only years later, I learned that this is one of Warren Buffett’s go-to pieces of advice: “think like an owner.”

If you want to help a business, really imagine what it’s like being the owner. Create an empathic understanding of what the owner might go through daily and take that as a starting point for optimization possibilities.

i need you to want me to win

We’re products of our environment, and we take after people we spend time with. Knowing this, depending on what we’d like to achieve, we could change our environments. We could even hang out with different people. Birds of a feather flock together after all.

One of the best pieces of entrepreneurial advice I ever got is this; smart people will save your business. Uncomplicated, straightforward, and most entrepreneurs will realize this by default. However, when you’re in the trenches, it’s easy to forget to reach out to friends and mentors or even networking altogether.

In “Don’t Push Me50 Cent raps; I need you to care for me, and I need you to want me to win. I need to know where I’m heading ’cause I know where I’ve been”.

Actively look for those people who are cheering you on relentlessly. Not the ones who, after the facts, say, I was with them from day one, and I always knew they’d make it. No. People who actively lift you up.

People who don’t wholeheartedly want you to win have arguably little to contribute to your life.

dish starter

I hate doing the dishes with a passion. Yet and still, I often deliberately leave some dishes for the following day.

In Make Your Bed, the author William H. McRaven, a retired four-star US Navy SEAL admiral, argues that Navy SEAL’s are encouraged to make their bed the very first thing in the morning. Even though it’s not a challenging task, checking off a tiny task helps lift the inertia. It gets us going and provides us with the sweet joy of accomplishment.

Now, one can’t make their bed when their partners are still in it. That’s why I kick start my morning with dishes. Stupid dishes.

Boost productivity by breaking up a large project into many small tasks. Get started with a minor task, even when it seems relatively meaningless.

After all, inertia is a beast, and as Albert Einstein said, nothing happens until something moves.

fake it till you break it

Insincere behavior can’t be hidden. Sooner or later, it will surface. Some people suffering from imposter syndrome aren’t suffering from imposter syndrome. They’re imposters. Not an attempt at delegitimizing imposter syndrome because it’s a real and debilitating limitation for some people.

Fake it till you make it sounds cool. Perhaps one of the reasons it’s an overly popular cliché. Again, ingenuine behavior bubbles are easy to burst. That’s why pretending to be someone who already made it is terrible advice.

Faking (power) poses and non-verbal communication is something else. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, PhD explains in her “Your body language may shape who you are” TED talk; there are ways for us to trick our minds into boosting our confidence. This idea is often summarized as fake it till you make it, but the risk of misinterpretation is substantial.

I prefer people around me behaving sincerely. However, at the very beginning of launching a new product or service, there is some room for faking.

Aiming for a billion users certainly shows ambition but won’t happen overnight. That’s why there is absolutely no use in replicating Facebook’s infrastructure to serve one billion customers. Still, the image of your company should exude that very same ambition even though it can only, temporarily, serve ten customers.

Fake it till you break it.

There is no need to over-engineer the infrastructure and (production) processes from the start. Keep your company as lean as possible up until the point it is about to break. However, a clear vision and some preparations should be in place to jump to the next level at the very moment it’s required.

minimal overdelivery

Under promise, over-deliver. If you don’t know by now, hopefully, the rock you were living under was at least a fancy one.

The problem with this piece of advice is this. Some people are natural over deliverers. Some people have an innate desire to please other people. For those people, too much of a good thing is never enough.

Sometimes the extent to which people-pleasers over-deliver knows no limits. Handing out gifts (without charging) to their clients as Oprah Winfrey did with her audience.

Under promise, over-deliver is forever a solid business principle. However, if overdelivering is in your DNA, ask a third party to run a check. They should establish whether you’re overdelivering or straight-up selling yourself short.

trench delegation

A piece of advice that’s both right and wrong; to run a successful business, you must learn how to delegate.

Good advice because; there are only twenty-four hours in a day, and together we can achieve much more than alone.

Bad advice because; ceo’s can’t delegate getting in the trenches (in the beginning). Outsource too early, and you’ll have no idea how a certain process works. Delegate accounting entirely, and you won’t know how money actually flows in- and outside your company.

Start delegating after these two conditions are met, in this particular order. First, establish a firm understanding of the task at hand. Second, you’re able to attach KPI’s to the job(s) to be done.

maintenance is no fix

With a blown-up engine, changing the oil isn’t going to reassemble it magically. Similarly, depression won’t go away by meditation.

Prevention is better than cure, obviously. The danger lies in prevention advice being passed around, disguised as cure advice. They’re unequivocally not the same.

Maintenance is, of course, an excellent strategy. Meditation or prayer, among other initiatives, can help keep you grounded, focused, and grateful. Think of it as the oil recommended by your car manufacturer (not the cheap knockoff either). Proper and regular servicing will make you run smoothly for as long as you can.

learn to say no or yes

The education we receive is based on egalitarian principles. People who never speak up or lack self-confidence benefit from an entirely different approach than people who are very outspoken and perhaps even too sure of themselves. Yet, regardless of individual character traits, we all receive the same training.

With every day that passes, we gain a better understanding of the complexity and uniqueness of DNA. Oddly, we still don’t take individual soft-skills into account.

Learn to say no — a phrase that gets thrown around frequently, disguised as business advice. While some people may genuinely benefit from learning to say no (sooner), others might benefit from saying yes more often.

Advice is (almost) never copy-paste. Consider what works for you and your business and mold it according to your needs.

thanks for nothing

I have never seen Bambi. I do know this, though. A rabbit named Thumper says, at one point in the movie: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Forgiving Thumper’s lack of double negatives knowledge, after all, a talking rabbit is spectacular enough as it is.

Would the claim hold ground in a business context? Not likely. What if Thumper was a consultant advising businesses? When a company pays another company, the latter shouldn’t be told what they want to hear. Consultants and advisors should tell their clients the truth, however inconvenient it may be.

If Thumper’s claim isn’t transferable to a business context as such, what parts should be altered, if any? How about: “if you can’t say something actionable, don’t say anything at all.” Surely, business-to-business clients want to be inspired too once in a while. Maybe they want to hear about new developments in their own – or an adjacent domain. Advice, unasked for, is doomed to be dismissed. Upon establishing that the client is actively seeking advice, tell the client what to do and how to do it.

In a recent conversation with a professional service I’m using, they presented me with options. Unfortunately for them, options I knew existed. Without telling me pro’s and con’s, risks and pitfalls, you have literally wasted my time. Thanks for nothing.

André 3000, part of the iconic hip-hop duo Outkast, once laid out super solid business advice. Read this in your best Atlanta, Georgia accent, shorty.

“This old lady told me, if I ain’t got nothin’ good, say nathan.
That’s why I don’t talk much.
I swear it don’t cost much, to pay attention to me.
I tell like it is, then I tell it how it could be.”

If you can’t say something actionable, wait until you can formulate a plan and approach before presenting your findings.

unwanted advice

Advice, unasked for, is doomed to be dismissed. Your heart in the right place combined with the best, most cordial intentions is no match for advice predestined to be ignored.

What if you see a loved one about to make a mistake? A mistake that you’ve made in the past, or one you were able to avoid. If someone you care about is going through a situation you went through and struggled with, is it not your moral duty to let them in on ways you coped with the circumstances?

Barraging that person with advice isn’t likely to create much of an impression. Determine the willingness of that particular person to receive advice first. Find out if there are any aspects in particular that they would like help with. Without knowing how susceptible your counterpart is, you’re pretty much preaching to the choir.