The Sweet Smell of Success

lightsAh, the Holy Grail. Success. Good fortune. The “pursuit of happiness”. We live our lives with these goals in mind and we usually find lots of folk who, (for a fee, of course), will try to help us find our way.

Mission Statements, Goals, Focus Groups, the “10 best ways to manage your business”, the “7 habits of successful people”, the endless self-help books that fly off the bookshelves, (or fly to your Kindle), as we tirelessly study the “steps”, the “methods”, the “habits” in an eternal search for those hidden ways that will make our businesses grow, our profits soar, our new cars expensive, and the hotels we visit up-market and, hopefully, more luxurious than the homes we live in.menorah_1

The plethora of people who boast that they can teach us how to be successful, the books that promise to remove the fog of confusion and uncertainty from our efforts is overwhelming. Yet, the smell of success (has anyone ever smelt success?), is right in front of us every day and we do not see it because we think it is complicated, arcane, mysterious and hidden.

For our businesses to be successful, we need to understand precisely what needs we satisfy with our products or services and who the prospective customers are who need them. Then, we need to find ways to continually increase our customer base not necessarily to make more money, but to cater for the attrition that inevitably occurs through time.

For our businesses to be successful, we need to implement the necessary budgets and internal controls that prevent us from needlessly dissipating our resources. We need to plan what we will spend.

For our businesses to be successful, we need to continually monitor our financial situation by using regular financial statements recording our transactions. Keeping records sufficient only for the preparation of annual tax returns is, to put it bluntly, stupid and reckless.

For our businesses to be successful, we need to find, employ, train, motivate and value our employees.

And so, at the end of all this, do you think success is yours?

I recently joined Rotary and re-discovered the four-way test that I had been aware of and forgotten:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build better goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

While business is not designed necessarily to build friendships, doing business without keeping the four guidelines above in mind, will lead you to perform self-serving acts in an effort to take an advantage for yourself at the other’s expense, it will cause you to break your word of honor, it will result in you not doing what you say you will do, it will result in you arbitrarily changing the conditions of contracts you enter into because you have the leverage to do so, and while you may “successfully” enhance the value of your business, you will surely diminish your good name.

So, while it is the season of Goodwill to all, as a New Year beckons filled with opportunity, hope and promise remember that money in the bank is not the measure of success. Be a person of integrity, the rest is dross.

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