The Rules of Business

I feel fortunate to have been pretty successful – by my family’s measure, if nobody else’s – in my career. I’m often asked if there was a secret to it all – and the answer is “yes.” My former business partner, Greg Shields, and I had three simple rules. These apply whether you’re independent, working for a company, or thinking about your customers.

  1. Never promise what you can’t deliver.
    Set reasonable expectations. If you’re taking on something, and there’s a risk you won’t be able to do it, be honest about that. This doesn’t mean you have to “cover your ass” with a bunch of disclaimers; it just means don’t promise something unless you’re pretty damn sure you can deliver it. 
  2. Always deliver what you promise.
    Having promised to do something, follow through. Do it. Do it right, and do it on time. If you find yourself rushing to complete something half-assed at the last minute – you’ve failed.
  3. Be easier to work with than your customer doing it themselves.
    This applies if your “customer” is your boss, too. Be a service provider in every way, and give people the service you’d want if you were in their place. Be easy to work with. Do it their way, if that’s what you promised.

Seems too simple, right? Yeah, but look around you. How often do you see these three rules being met on a daily basis?
One thing I’ll hear from people a lot is, “well, my boss promised something that I can’t deliver.” Then you need to sit down and have a conversation about the Rules with your boss. Is he really over-promising – or are you under-delivering? Meaning, are you holding back, and not producing what your boss feels he’s paying for? Does he feel that way, or not? These are important things to get out in the open. Ultimately, if you can’t agree on what you can – and should be expected to – deliver, then you need to get a different job where you can be successful.

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Thank you for this post. I'm a sysadmin, and that reading was just what I needed. Very good advice.