Experience tells me that one of the reasons why people start up their own business is to be their “own boss”, and that means they don’t want to be constrained by petty, bureaucratic, small mindedness being meted out every minute of their working lives.
The reality is that we all need rules. In the words of Al Murray (“The Pub Landlord”) “Where would we be without rules? France!”
I am not going to inflict upon you here a doctrine of rule-bound obedience leading to business success, but rather propose a Ten Commandments of Behaviour which are intended as a benchmark against which to measure yourself.
You can use them when you feel that perhaps you’ve ‘missed the mark’ or, better still, use them today, right now, and see how a change in behaviour might benefit your business. So here are the 10 Commandments of Behaviour tablets, delivered to your door;
1. Thou shalt have integrity at all times
It is not enough simply to demand integrity in others if you don’t have it yourself. In other words, don’t expect anything from others which you would not deliver.
I am not suggesting that you become naïve, but there is a wide gulf between being shrewd and being devious.
2. Thou shalt listen to explanations fully before concluding what is being said
It is often too easy to hear a few words from somebody, conclude what they are saying before they have finished speaking, and decide upon the next move on this guesstimate.
Listen to the end – you might be surprised by the wisdom, ingenuity and forethought.
3. Thou shalt communicate with all around you
You will probably never communicate well enough – just look at the results of employee surveys if you think differently. But, do not constrain your communication to just your own internal team: communicate to your suppliers, customers, funders, bank manager – and make sure that you communicate clearly, succinctly and accurately. It is an un-perfectable art, but don’t let that be an excuse for not doing it.
I was told by a director of a company that he didn’t know if his boss was a good communicator or not. I asked, why? He replied that he didn’t know because his boss never did it.
Ask yourself this: if people around you do not know what they need to know, how can they possibly support you effectively?
4. Thou shalt test ideas and solutions
No business will survive too many false-starts or failures, and self-inflicted ones are even harder to take. Before changing lock stock and barrel, test the proposition first and measure the results.
Always test before going ahead with an idea or discarding it. Only when you have confidence in the test results is it time to roll out the resulting process or target into mainstream operations.
5. Thou shalt measure results in all areas of your business
I use this phrase often: pigs do not get fat by being weighed. How very true!
The point is that they may not get fat by being weighed but how do you know what results you are getting from feeding them if you do not weigh them?
Every penny you spend in your business must be an investment. It must produce a return to the business. You must eliminate waste in your business; otherwise you are simply throwing money down the drain.
Measurement also helps you to continuously improve your business. Measure what is important first but gradually instill measurement as a way of life throughout your business.
6. Thou shalt motivate all around you
As a business owner you are importantly a business leader. As a business leader one of your prime functions is to motivate: to provide inspiration to those around you to perform to their personal and collective best in support of achieving the objectives of the business.
Set your objectives as aspirational and not just safe; you might fall short but you’ll certainly achieve greater things than you would by reaching lesser targets. As a result, all of those involved will get a better sense of satisfaction and achievement.
7. Thou shalt hold others responsible for their level of service
We all experience situations when our suppliers encounter difficulties and begin to fail us. The immediate response is to take their problem and try and resolve it yourself. Do not do this: it is your supplier’s problem and not yours.
I accept that you will feel responsible for letting your customers down, but communicate with them and obtain commitments from the suppliers to resolve the problem quickly.
When you take responsibility for somebody else’s problem, you’re immediately running two businesses; something nobody will thank you for.
8. Thou shalt not blame
I have sat in too many meetings where an issue is under discussion and nobody is taking responsibility for solving that issue. Instead, fingers are pointed around the table as to whose fault it is. This does nothing to solve the issue.
The focus should be on resolving the problem first, and then investigating what happened, and how can the same, or a similar problem, be avoided in the future. If it is the fault of an individual, then take the appropriate action with that individual (Public hangings are no longer allowed).
9. Thou shalt prioritise actions and do only once
If you don’t already know it, then find out the critical path of your business. What is the process flow, what is sequential, and what is concurrent?
Make your business both efficient and effective and to do this you will not double handle or do anything more times than is necessary. Also do the important things first, or if urgent but not important, then do it now, but don’t give it a lot of time.
Similarly, get out of the way the tasks that you do not like doing. If you clear them out of the way it does not give them the chance to come back and bite you in the lower back, and you can reward yourself for having got them out of the way.
10. Thou shalt take action
Inertia is not good in a business. Ambition requires action, and extraordinary action will result in extraordinary results. Go do it.
Here endeth today’s lesson. I trust that your performance will improve, and with it the results achieved by your business.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Garry Smith, a business coach at Advantage Business Partnerships and the co-author of Creating Business Advantage: Setting Up and Running A Successful Business. ABP delivers performance improvement, top line to bottom line, through business coaching, mentoring and hands-on consultancy. ABP doesn’t just give advice, they’ll do the work with you.
More on starting and running your own business
ByteStart is packed with help and tips on all aspects of starting and running a small business. Check out some of our most popular guides;
- 5 things you must do when you go self employed
- 10 advantages running your business as a limited company has over being a sole trader
- How to set up a limited company
- How to choose the best online accounting software for your business
- 15 Questions to ask when hiring an accountant for your new business
Leading a business
- Developing your startup’s greatest asset – YOU
- The Founder’s dilemma – Managing the transformation from start-up to growth business
- Building your resilience to help you cope with the ups and downs of starting and running your own business
- 6 common leadership traps to avoid in your new business
- Why the best leaders do less
Going for growth
- The 3 issues you’ll need to overcome if you want your start-up to reach £1m turnover
- How finding a great mentor could help you to grow, and your business to flourish
- Barriers to growth – how to identify them and how to overcome them
- How to avoid self-destruction and achieve your business goals
- The 4 Rs of getting more business from your existing customer base
Funding your business
- How to maximise your chances of securing a small business loan
- A Guide to ‘Alternative Finance’ – the new funding options for startups and small businesses
- Finding finance for your new business – funding advice for start-ups
- How peer-to-peer lending offers businesses a new funding option
- What to do when the bank says “NO”!
Money & Tax matters
- 10 ways small business owners can pay less tax
- Sole trader tax – a guide for start-ups and the newly self employed
- Dividend tax changes from April 2016 – A summary of the financial effects for small business owners
- ByteStart’s Guide to the main business taxes
- Corporation Tax – How to reduce your bill
Promoting your business
- Making your small business a BIG hit online – A Digital marketing guide for small business owners
- How to create business cards that make a big impression
- The “Magic 10” Tips on networking – how the experts build great networks
- A Practical guide to Content Marketing for small business owners and start-ups
- 10 Top tips for small businesses starting out with social media
- Which types of insurance must your business have?
- Becoming an employer – Your responsibilities when you hire staff
- Health & Safety compliance for small businesses – where do you start?
- A Guide to the National Living Wage for small business owners
- Why it’s vital you have clear ‘Terms & Conditions’ for your business