The business outlook in the United States is uncertain. Government spending and exports are falling, which is slowing economic growth. Closing the federal government budget deficit is necessary, but government cutbacks will slow sales for many companies. U.S. manufacturers’ exports will also be challenged as the economies of Canada, Japan, and Germany (our 3rd, 4th and 7th largest export markets) contract. The good news is that U.S. consumer and business investment spending continue to grow.
According to the Chief Executive Group, LLC, 46% of CEOs surveyed said their businesses missed performance expectations in 2012, while 30% exceeded expectations. The reasons given for missing goals were poor economic and political conditions. Reasons given for good performance were, “hard work and great customer care; strong demand,” and a bit of luck.
All business owners eventually face difficult external conditions if they remain in business long enough. But they can improve their odds for good performance by following timeless business advice from a book I found in a used book store on Ash Wednesday, Safe Methods of Business, published in 1911. The following principles are a great reminder of what’s most important for business success over the long haul:
- Remember that time is gold.
- True intelligence is always modest.
- Never covet what is not your own.
- Don’t cultivate a sense of over-smartness.
- A man of honor respects his word as he does his note.
- Shun lawsuits, and never take money risks that you can avoid.
- Endeavor to be perfect in the calling in which you are engaged.
- Keep your eyes on small expenses. Small leaks sink a great ship.
- Keep your health good by adopting regular and steady habits.
- Never forget a favor, for ingratitude is the basest trait of a man’s mean character.
- Remember that the rich are generally plain, while rogues dress well and talk smoothly.
- Remember that steady, earnest effort alone leads to wealth and high position.
- Never be afraid to say no. Every successful man must have the backbone to assert his rights.
- Avoid the tricks of the trade; be honest, and never misrepresent an article that you desire to sell.
- The only safe rule is, never allow a single year to pass by without laying up something for the future.
- Remember that trickery, cheating and indolence are never found as attributes of a thrifty and progressive man.
- Do not be ashamed of hard work. Work for the best salary or wages you can get, but work for anything rather than to be idle.
- Be not ashamed to work, for it is one of the conditions of our existence. There is no criminal who does not owe his crime to some idle hour.
- To industry and economy add self-reliance. Do not take too much advice, think for yourself. Independence will add vigor and inspiration to your labors.
I especially like the last piece of advice, “Do not take too much advice.” I occasionally hear business owners complain that their customers don’t do what they tell them to do, which just doesn’t sit well with me. It’s important for business owners to make their own final decisions. And the emphasis on hard, honest work made me glad I didn’t open the “Earn a 7-figure income working 20 hours per week!” e-mail newsletter I got yesterday. I’m going to continue to work hard, make my own business decisions, and expect that growing sales and profits will be the result.