What Would You Do Differently Next Time?

“Wherever there are beginners and experts, old and young, there is some kind of learning going on, and some sort of teaching. We are all pupils and we are all teachers.” – Gilbert Highet (The Art of Teaching, 1950)

If you apply yourself and follow ETR’s guidelines, you will end up with your own business. As a business owner, you will benefit in three great ways:

* You will never be bored.

* You will always be surrounded by interesting people.

* You will be able to make a lot of money.

That’s a lot. . So don’t be surprised — whatever you think right now — if you start another business after you sell the one you are building now. As JSN once said to me, “Some habits are hard to break.”

I retired at 39. But within two years, I had gotten back into business. Since that time, I have started and spun off at least a dozen more.

I’d like to think that I learned something from every business venture. I’d like to think even more that I applied that learning to each new business I entered into. In a recent edition of Inc. magazine, staff writer Ilan Mochari interviewed businessmen who had opened numerous businesses and asked them what, if anything, they would do differently today. As a group, they were most critical about judgments they had made in hiring and firing top executives. These included:

* hiring the wrong person

* failing to hire the right one

* waiting too long to fire someone

* not paying close enough attention to an executive’s performance

Next to that, they regretted that they had spent too little time:

1. schmoozing up other CEOs

2. contemplating their companies’ long-term picture

3. (and, of course) being with their families

Let Me Digress For An Important Moment

That is surely one of the great post-success delusions — the idea that you could have done what you did and yet have spent more time with your family. Hey, smarten up! There were guys back then who spent more time with their families. They were the guys you passed on your way to the top. As someone once said, “You can have anything you want in life. You just can’t have everything.”

What you can do, I’m happy to have discovered, is pay a lot more attention to your family when you are actually with them. John F. Kennedy was said to be able to do this. The moment he walked into his residence, he could apparently put aside everything that had been worrying him just a moment before and be “present” with his wife and children. He could have been dealing with the Bay of Pigs invasion one minute and romping with his 4-year-old the next. (Hmmm. That sounds kind of dysfunctional, doesn’t it?)

In any case, I can tell you that it is possible to leave your work in the office. It isn’t easy, but it’s possible. If you want to build a business or a personal fortune, you are going to have to devote a lot of time to it — much of it away from your family. But if you focus the time you do have with them, there will be fewer regrets later on.

Back To The Original Point

According to “serial business builders,” the two most important mistakes most entrepreneurs make are (1) not spending the time and energy to recruit the very best employees and (2) getting rid of the wrong people.

Think about the people who report to you. How would you rate them? Good? Very good? Excellent? Are they better than you at what they do? Can you think of anyone who could do the job better?

You can effectively manage only six or seven people (see Message #266). So when you think about it, your primary job is very doable. You have to find, train, monitor, and inspire no more than six or seven people.

Take a look at how you spend your time. How much of it is by yourself, working at your desk? If the answer is “most,” you are probably not doing your primary job very well. If you spend 10 hours a day at work, at least half of that should be spent:

* looking for better people

* paying attention to what your key people are doing

* educating them

* rewarding and punishing them

* firing them, if necessary