Business Principles… Including One from Michael Jackson

Business Principles A few years ago I wrote down a list of business principles to achieve outstanding performance. I did it to give the people who work with me an idea of the basic ideas that I live by when I do business. I re-read the list earlier this week and I was amazed by two things: 1. I still have the same basic principles that I identified almost 10 years ago. I did not delete any or make any major changes when I reviewed them. I only added a couple  new ones. 2. Most of the principles identified how I interact with people, not the “numbers” of doing business. Here are the thoughts that I had about these realizations:

  • Business principles should NOT change a lot over time. I was glad to see that mine had not. Guiding principles are part of our life experience DNA.
  • Business tactics change constantly, and businesses need to adapt. For example, an advertising tactic is using the internet to advertise in addition to, or instead of, print advertising. A basic principle of advertising should not change. For example, advertising results should be measurable to determine effectiveness.
  • I am convinced that people are THE key to a successful organization, so my thoughts about business principles turn often to the people side of things. (Read my post on Outstanding Teams.)
  • My day to day business activities are operational, so I ?need to write a list of principles about “the numbers”, business practices, operations, goals, etc.

Take a look at my list and tell me what you think. I really want to know any that you disagree with. Let me know why you disagree… I love a good discussion. I am going to write my new list of business principles that revolve around metrics, operational principles, finance, reporting, etc., and I’d love to hear about your business principles in those areas.

Business Principles of David Safeer

(#43 is borrowed from Michael Jackson)

  1. A leader should provide direction, maximize group synergies, and create a team that is working towards a common goal.
  2. A leader will develop a work environment where employee’s hearts are in their work, and not just their backs.
  3. You should like your work and love your family.  Families come first, even at work.
  4. You need your work to take care of your family, so while families come first, work is a close second.
  5. The benefit and welfare of the company is the bottom line.  Why?  Because a company is a collection of people and those people and their families depend on the company for their livelihood.  If the company is not healthy, how can it sustain the people that are employed by it long term?
  6. Pay people well when they do a good job.  Pay them VERY well when they do an outstanding job.  An “A” performer really can’t be paid enough.  A “B” performer is paid what they are worth.  A “C” performer needs to become a “B” or leave, and anything below that needs to be dealt with immediately.
  7. Have a flexible budget when hiring critical people so you can hire the best candidate.
  8. Do everything that you reasonably can to keep outstanding employees from wanting to leave your group and/or company.
  9. Hire people that know more about their area of expertise than you do.
  10. We will either really enjoy working  together or we won’t be working together for very long.
  11. If an employee wants to move to another position, help them.
  12. Give employees the benefit of the doubt unless there is a material negative impact on the business.  The gain in loyalty and the resulting productivity will probably far outweigh the temporary cost.  If you don’t give them the benefit of the doubt, the negative feelings and lower morale will result in decreased productivity.
  13. There are many more ways to reward employees than cash.  Use as many as you can that are appropriate, and that you can afford.
  14. Sometimes use rewards that also reward spouses/significant others, if you can.  It gets the spouse of your employee pushing your employee earn the reward!
  15. Cost follows revenue.
  16. Plan conservatively and then have a stretch goal.  Always assume that revenues will be less than expected and spend to that level.  However, never lose faith that the business will be able to hit the stretch goal or better.  When you do hit your goals, and beyond, the cost savings you created can be used to reward employees and partners for a job well done.
  17. The more people understand about the business the better.  Revenue, costs, profits/loss, and plans should all be shared.
  18. Smaller organization move faster and are more flexible.  Don’t hire more people than you absolutely need to.  If there is too much work, look at part-time or shared employees.
  19. Diversity means hiring the best person to do the job regardless of, and without taking into account, their race, religion, gender, sexual preference, or other traits that should not affect their job performance.
  20. Be flexible with when and where hours are worked.  What is important is that the job gets done, not when it is done.  Let people work around personal needs unless it consistently or dramatically affects performance.
  21. If you put together a computer, a phone, and internet access, you have a virtual office.  In truth, any one of these can be a virtual office for a limited amount of time.
  22. Lead, follow, or leave.
  23. Diverse, intelligent, strong, well-articulated opinions are a far greater contribution to an organization than simply following or agreeing with the boss.
  24. While a decision is being made, argue your opinion passionately and defend it.  Once a decision is made, put your personal feelings aside and support the decision.
  25. People need to be able to think for themselves, working independently within prescribed boundaries. They also need to be able to move and work outside the boundaries with a minimum of bureaucracy.
  26. If you don’t want someone’s opinion, don’t ask.
  27. If you don’t want to know how someone is, don’t ask.
  28. Annual reviews can be used for formalizing development plans.  Challenges, praise, and issues that arise should be dealt with on an ongoing basis and should not wait for formal reviews.
  29. Managers: Be a human being first and a boss second.
  30. Technical skills will make you a good technician. People skills will make you a truly valued member of an organization.
  31. The only dumb questions are the ones that are not asked.
  32. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know how to do something and to ask for help.
  33. Learn from your successes.
  34. Learn more from your failures.
  35. Everyone in the organization should learn continuously.
  36. A mentor, boss, or teacher only presents information.  It is completely up to the individual to learn and internalize new ideas and concepts.
  37. Foreign languages can only truly be learned by immersion.  Expensive language classes outside of immersion are almost always a waste of money.
  38. People lie and cheat.  Trust but verify.
  39. People do not change unless they really want to.
  40. There are two types of administrative assistants- incompetent ones that are not worth what you pay them no matter how little, and outstanding ones that can’t be paid enough.
  41. Jargon can kill an expert’s ability to talk to other people in the organization.
  42. Work/life balance is difficult but critical to overall success.
  43. “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”  Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson.

See more business ideas for achieving outstanding performance at:


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