Jay Goltz writes a blog on small business and entrepreneurship for the New York Times. His March 10, 2014 posting was titled “10 Words Entrepreneurs Should Use With Caution.”
In that piece, Goltz shared 10 words that he believes have become jargon in the world of entrepreneurship. They are:
- Corporate Culture
- Business Model
As it turns out, I happen to like – and frequently use – a few of these words in my work with clients. But, I get what Goltz is saying in his blog: using a word or phrase without clearly understanding its meaning turns a great word – such as accountable – into a business buzzword like “out of the box.”
I also found myself thinking about the words that were missing from Goltz’s list. These are the words that I have discovered in the 20+ years that I have been in business for myself. They are the words I saw in my father as he ran his own small auto and truck repair shop. They are the words that are evident in the lives of legendary entrepreneurs such as Henry Ford, J.C. Penney, Mary Kay Ash, Sam Walton, and Thomas Watson. They are the 10 words entrepreneurs should use every day:
• Work: I always thought of myself as a hard worker, and then I started my own business. Only then did I understand all of the nights when my mother would take supper to my father at his shop so that he could complete the repair that was promised for the next morning. Yes, I can control my calendar to a greater degree, but even today, a 40-hour week is a luxury. Successful entrepreneurs and small business owners work hard.
• Customers: It doesn’t matter that your product or service is cool or good if no one buys anything. Every great business knows that customers are not a nuisance. They are the people who write your paycheck. Understand them. Love them. Serve them. And never ever ever take them for granted.
• Quality: Joe Calloway cited this study in his excellent book, Be the Best at What Matters Most. The American Customer Satisfaction Index reported in August 2012 that customer satisfaction with major auto manufacturers was at its highest level in 20 years. The reason given for the increase was that automakers are paying more attention to the quality of the vehicles they produce.
Calloway’s analysis is spot on: In this age of businesses searching like mad for ways to win customers, the car companies decided to make better cars. “Quality never goes out of style” isn’t a cliché. It is the truth.
• Distinction: Most businesses have competitors that offer a similar product with similar quality features, and price. To win, you must embrace this concept: Fundamentals are the minimum, distinctive is the difference.
Scott McKain, author of the book Create Distinction, says it well: “In today’s world, customers have a difficult time telling the difference between you and your competition. And if they cannot tell the difference between you and your competitor, then both of you are in trouble.”
• Consistency: You can’t deliver quality once and win. You can’t be distinctive today and then never worry about it again. Your customer won’t continue to do business with you on the hope that you occasionally get it right. Consistency in performance transforms occasional brilliance into reliable performance.
• Responsibility: A manager at one of my clients once told me, “Randy, the biggest problem we have around here is that no one will take responsibility for anything. But, don’t quote me on that.”
Larry Winget put it this way in his New York Times best seller, It’s Called Work for a Reason, “Business gets better right after the people in the business get better.” This simple formula applies to every area of your business, and you, as the leader, must take responsibility for implementing it.
• Leadership: Why do you want to be an entrepreneur? Is it because you want to take control of your life, seize new opportunities, solve problems, or make the world a better place? If your answer to any of these is “yes,” then according to Mark Sanborn, you desire to lead.
Sanborn’s books The Fred Factor and You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader are built on the belief that anyone can make a positive difference at any time. You will never be truly successful as an entrepreneur, boss, parent, or person until you embrace the responsibility of leadership every day.
• Integrity: Doing what’s right and acting honestly has been hijacked in today’s business environment. Ethics is now the responsibility of lawyers who define it in terms of compliance. Rules creating “transparency” are necessary because business people operate from a position that values winning at all costs – even if the cost is your reputation for being trustworthy. There are occasional examples when bending the rules leads to short-term success, but, time eventually wounds all heals.
• Perseverance: The philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings.” There will always be problems to solve; temptations to resist; and barriers to overcome. It isn’t the greatness of the idea that makes you successful. It is the perseverance to continue the pursuit long after the exhilaration of a new idea has faded.
• Results: The heroes in every field of endeavor are known by their results. Results Rule! isn’t just the title of one of my books. It is the cumulative outcome when entrepreneurs – and leaders in every profession – make these 10 words part of their thinking, language, performance, and behavior every day.