Ten Rules for Running Your Own Business

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These ten rules represent a brief summary of all that I have learned running my own business.

These rules will help you to make good decisions and stick with them as you build your business.


1. Humility

Every morning say this affirmation to yourself: “I am a complete idiot. I am a complete idiot. I am a complete idiot.” The learning process can only take place by first accepting that you do not know.

2. Study Like You Have Never Studied Before

There is an enormous amount of literature in the field of business. Read it. Read lots of it. 90% of it is complete tripe. Read it anyway. Sifting through the bad is the price you pay for the 10% that makes the effort worthwhile.

3. Listen Twice as Much as You Talk.

Everyone you run into will have some piece of the puzzle you are trying to solve. Some will have big pieces, some will have small pieces. You need all the pieces to finish the puzzle.

4. There Is A Reason Major Corporations Have A Board of Directors

GE and IBM are run by very smart people. Those people maintain the Board of Directors as a council of trusted advisors. Maintain your own council of trusted advisors. On important decisions, never ever listen to just one advisor. Listen to as many trusted advisors as will speak with you. Pick your trusted advisors carefully, and then evaluate everything they say carefully. No one is right so often that their input should not be carefully analyzed.

5. If Your Advisors Are Agreeing With You; Get New Advisors

Yes men don’t add value; Get rid of them. Advisors don’t have to argue with you constantly — but they should add content that you have not considered to 90% of the discussions you engage in. If not, get new trusted advisors.

6. All Good Business Deals Are Win-Win.

If you approach a business deal thinking “How can I get over on this guy?” you will never ever succeed in business. You may make one or two deals, but you will never succeed in the long term. Business success is built upon successful relationships. Successful relationships are built upon trust and openness. If you make it your task to ensure that you succeed, you will fail. If you make it your task to ensure that your clients and partners succeed, they will make it their take to ensure that you succeed. If your clients and partners do not reciprocate — get new clients and partners. Do not hesitate; These are not the people you want to surround yourself with.

Before getting involved in a deal, define each entity involved in the deal. Define what they put into the deal and what they get out of the deal. If you can not define, for every entity involved, how they are getting out more than they are putting in – keep working the deal until you can. If any single entity in the deal is putting in more than they are getting out — they may choose to withdraw from the deal at any time. Where is your deal now?

7. Honesty Hurts

The kind of honesty that really hurts is when you have to seriously injure someone’s ego — someone you care about. This is the burden of being in-charge, telling people you love that they are full of shit. Learn to deal with the pain.

8. Greed Is A Success Killer

Before entering into a business deal, always remember the saying “You can’t cheat an honest man.” If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The way people get you involved in bad deals is by promising you the earth and the sky. Avoid those people like the plague.

9. Good Deals Are Simple

Examine every deal before you enter into it. Do you understand the deal? If not, run like hell. Complex deals are less stable than simple deals. Do not wager your future on a house of cards.

10. Be Prepared To Work Hard

The people who think “I will be in charge and I will make everyone else work and I will slack off” will never ever succeed. Study after study shows that executives put in more hours than any other category of employee. If you manage five people, you are the steward for the careers of five people. If you manage fifty people, you are the steward for the careers of fifty people. You are responsible for very important things – slacking is unacceptable. When you hear the term “manager” or “boss”, mentally convert that into “servant” before digesting it. That will give you a much truer picture of reality.

— Will Spencer


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