They may not have had Twitter or employed the services of a small-business consultant, but our forefathers – and mothers – knew a thing or two about running a business. In fact, some of the best business practices are based on some age-old common sense.
Here are a few oldies, but goodies, that have stood the test of time.
Make hay while the sun shines. You don't have to be a farmer to figure out that this little tidbit applies to just about any business. Those that survive are the ones that figure out that not every year is going to be a great one. Entrepreneurs who store a few nuts for winter and spend their downtime improving internal operations and planning for the next big boom are the ones who'll come out ahead in the long run.
Slow and steady wins the race. That proverbial tortoise was no dummy. Being first to market may be good some of the time, but often the advantage goes to the company that hangs back, learns from the speedy hare's mistakes and then seizes the right moment to improve upon the original. Being first isn't nearly as important as being best. Just ask MySpace.
A penny saved is a penny earned. Benjamin Franklin knew a lot about business, as he proved with this pithy little gem. Sometimes you're so busy running around trying to find ways to make money, you forget to stop and consider how you could be more profitable by cutting your expenses . Often, the longer you've been in business, the less efficient you become. It's a good idea to stop and take inventory once in a while and see where your money could be better spent.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Are you constantly in hot pursuit of new customers and bigger clients? Any business consultant will tell you that it's much easier and less expensive to make your existing customers happy than to go out looking for new ones. Why aren't you doing it?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You've been there a thousand times, haven't you? You saw or heard something at your business that you knew was going to turn into a huge problem, but you were too busy to stop and deal with it and, sure enough, eventually it blew up in your face. As tempting as it is to stay focused on the task at hand and avoid having to put out little fires all day, it's important to remember that sparks turn into infernos. Five minutes now could save you eight hours later.
All that glitters is not gold. Sometimes there are customers who, no matter how much money they want to spend, just aren't worth the trouble. If you've been in business long enough, you probably can spot them pretty easily. Trust your gut. No matter how fat their checkbook is, some customers will just never be happy. Don't sap all your energy trying to do the impossible.
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. They don't call it the Golden Rule for nothing. This is the gold standard of entrepreneurial behavior. It applies to how you treat your employees, your customers and your business partners. A little consideration goes a long way toward keeping everyone happy and productive. And that is the wisest thing any business owner could do.