As people progress, things are bound to change. We live in a fast technology-based world, where you don’t have to meet a client to fulfill a contract. Yet, some things are irreplaceable. My father is the quintessential example of an entrepreneur. He worked at a dead-end job, and one day he decided to take his life into his own hands. He is one of those people that never made any business cards and when people asked for his information, he’d tare a piece of paper and write his number down. Nevertheless, he always seemed to gain new clients. Over the years of watching my father conduct business, I have learned seven irreplaceable lessons on running a business.
“If there was a glass of water and I put a little speck of dirt into it, would you drink it?”
No, right! That’s just how dishonest money is. My father always gave me this scenario and said, “no matter how hard you work, if you make a single penny the wrong way, it would be as if you’ve put a speck of dirt that would taint the entire glass of water. Dishonest money never lasts and it does more harm than good.”
If you think about it, he is right. There are a thousand ways to make a quick buck, but would that bring serenity to your life? My father could have made millions, but he stuck true to his ethics and morals, and stayed away from making dishonest money. This made me think, is there more to life than money? Day in and day out we are told that, money equates to success, but to my father success meant a clean conscience and a piece of mind. Aristotle calls this eudaimonia, which loosely translates to: the good composed of all goods, an ability which suffices for living well, perfection in respect of virtue, resources sufficient for a living creature.
Tomorrow is a New Day
“Have you done everything you can to fix the issue? If yes, is there anything else you can do? If no, then don’t worry about it.”
Being an entrepreneur has its ups-and-downs. There are months that you are doing really well, and others you are near bankruptcy. My father, being a religious man, always had faith that everything will work out. He would always say this quote whenever a problem arose. The lesson being here is that if you have done everything you possibly can to fix a problem and nothing has happened, don’t stress out and go into panic mode. Tomorrow is a new day and God will bring you ease when He knows you’re ready for it.
I’m sure there are readers that may not believe in religion, and that is completely fine. But faith and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. By starting a business, you are taking a leap of faith that everything will work out and it is that faith that keeps you going.
Business is Collaboration
“Your life partner is your biggest spokesperson. They will always tell you what you’re doing right or wrong without any ulterior motives.”
One of the key lessons I’ve learned is that business is collaboration between a husband and a wife. Growing up, I would watch my parents sitting in the dining room, with papers spread out and trying to figure out what to do. I never understood it then, but now I realize that my parents, no matter how bad things got, always confided in each other for help, motivation, and business strategies. They never hid anything from each other, which made their marriage stronger and subsequently helped their business grow as well.
“If clients are asking for discounts or giving you a hard time, walk away! And when you do, they’ll come running back to you.”
As a teenager I would go and work with my father. I remember going to a meeting where the client asked for excessive discounts and my father, to my amazement, said that his firm is no longer interested in this contract. I looked at him with amazement and he said the above quote, which I’ll never forget.
When I asked him why, he said that you should never sell yourself short. You as a businessperson and as a company are bringing a valuable resource to the table. If they start worrying about money from the very beginning, that will be the main theme throughout the contract. By walking away, you make a statement that if money is their main concern then we are not the firm for them. I asked him how did he know they’ll come back. He said people always want what they can’t have and by leaving them, they know we must have something more to offer if we can walk away that easily. A week later, his company started on the contract.
Learn from others
“If you come to a fork in the road and I tell you, don’t take the road to the left there’s a huge pothole with snakes in it, take the right instead. Would you say no, I want to go see if there really is a pothole with snakes?”
The lesson here is simple. What he was conveying to me was, even though you think you know everything, you don’t. There are people that have gone through your circumstances before, rather than challenge them, learn from them. By taking the road to the left, not only do you set yourself up to face perils but you also spend time and efforts going there and coming back just to take the road to the right. Had you just taken the road to the right from the start, you would have never faced that challenge. In business, this means you’ll be losing money.
Humility and Helping Others
“No matter how big you get in life, never do three things: first, never take advantage of the poor. Second, you are much bigger than an ant, but even if you have the ability to, never step on one. Lastly, never let money be the reason you don’t extend a helping hand.”
Humility was a big part in my father’s life. He would always tell me never to take advantage of the underprivileged. It seems they’re the easiest to go after but they face challenges that we could never endure. You should be helping them instead. The ant scenario was to convey the challenges of competition. In life, business, or in the corporate world we always face those that are perceived as a rival to us. There are those that need to be stepped on for you to climb that corporate or business ladder. Don’t, he’d say. We are all destined to gain what we work hard for. If you step on someone just to succeed, you’re really not succeeding you’re merely playing to your ego. And you never know the implications that can have on the other person or their family. Lastly, he would always tell me never to make an issue out of money. It was John Maxwell that said, “Do onto others what they can’t do for you.” My father would give money to his friends in need blindly, without expecting anything in return. You can always make more money, but the bond you create with a good friend, happens only once.
“A business person that doesn’t keep an eye on their company’s accounting is like a person wondering around the desert without a compass.”
When it comes to money and profits, you should be the one making decisions. Nowadays, we have accounting departments or hire outside money managers and expect them to take care of everything. They do not have the vested interest in your money as you would. You should know, where money is going and where is it coming. At the end of the day, you as a business-owner are responsible.
Nabeel M. Saleheen is the Co-Founder and CEO of Alegix, a multinational brand of companies comprising of: IT, Telecom, Social Media, SEO, Construction, Home Warranty, and Investments. Nabeel started his first company at the age of 16. Since then, he went on to start two technology firms, a real estate investment firm and a nonprofit for under privileged college students.
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