If there’s one thing you’ll never be short of when running a business, it’s people lining up to give you advice. Unfortunately, much of it isn’t very good. Part of the problem is that unless you have a good idea of how successful someone has been in their own business ventures, it’s difficult to assess how well they’ve been served by that advice.As a general rule, you should probably be wary of advice that’s given out as an eternal truism that applies in all situations rather than something learned through hard experience. Every business is unique, and even entrepreneurs in the same industry could have quite different experiences running their respective companies. Advice that served a fledgling technology company well in 2009, for instance, might not be helpful for a tech startup in 2019. Similarly, running a business in Los Angeles isn’t the same as running one in a small town in Iowa.
There are, however, a few notable exceptions.
Some executives and entrepreneurs have such a strong track record of success that it’s difficult to ignore the advice they have to offer. More importantly, they take the time to explain why this advice has served them so well throughout their careers. They might even be able to give humbling examples of times they didn’t follow their own advice and ended up regretting it.
Warren Buffett, the legendary investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is one such figure. Every year, Buffett writes an open letter to shareholders to not only provide them with an update on Berkshire Hathaway’s extensive investments, but also to share his reasoning behind their decisions and offer his insights into how a successful business should be run. These letters have contained a variety of memorable aphorisms and bits of wisdom over the years, making them required reading even for non-shareholders.
CNBC’s Alex Crippen has gathered some of Buffett’s most important business lessons that could easily apply to any business in an article entitled “Warren Buffett’s 9 Essential Rules for Running a Business.” Some of these tips, such as maintaining a good reputation and staying focused on the core aspects of your business, might seem rather straightforward, but they reveal just how easily many business leaders can be derailed by rash actions or lose sight of their fundamental business goals.
For most of us, some of the best advice can be found in peer groups that allow other leaders to share the context of their own experiences. Plenty of people could tell you not to hire too many employees, for instance, but listening to a trusted peer explain how that decision impacted their company can show you why that advice might be worth following. Making contacts with experienced executives and entrepreneurs who have gone through the struggles of building and managing a successful company can help you to see your own challenges in a different light and find new solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
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A lifelong serial entrepreneur and community leader, Mark Stagen, Founder of XLN, started his first company at age 15 and hasn't looked back. Since then, he’s founded, and later sold, several successful companies, including Telecore and Emerald Health Services, which have generated over $1 billion in combined revenues. Mark also founded the Youth Business Alliance, a non-profit organization that works with High Schools in economically challenged areas to educate, motivate and inspire the students on business, entrepreneurship and career development.
Mark has received numerous business and community awards including: EY Entrepreneur of the Year and Inc. 500. He is actively involved in YPO and has served in many leadership roles including Chapter Chair and Regional Chair. Mark received his BA in three years from Yale University, was a member of the Yale Football Team and is an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at the USC Marshall School of Business.