Article: Thomas J. Leonhard

The Small Business Library

December 22, 1999

The Top 10 Resources to Make Your Business (and YOU!) More Successful!

Every business owner needs a great set of tools. Professionals typically spend years in graduate school, and anyone who's ever managed an office or run a shop knows the skills needed to supervise people, manage inventory, deal with customers, balance budgets and make payroll each month. Often we get caught up in the daily rush and forget to step back and look at the big picture. While every coach needs a great headset and every restaurant needs a great cup of coffee, there are bigger tools "behind the tools" that every business person should have at their finger tips. My suggestions include:

  1. A copy of Napolean Hill's book "Think and Grow Rich"
    Yes, it's 60 years old, it's sexist (in his world only men go to work), and his narrow definition of "success" is almost laughable, but it's still the best single book on setting and achieving goals I've ever read. It's still in print despite its flaws because it really is that good.
    Get it!  Read it!

  2. A Coach!
    Whether you hire a professional coach, or work with a mentor or have a mastermind group of friends, every business person needs perspective, ideas, discipline and someone outside the daily rush who can say "Let's re-think this." Every great athlete has a coach. Business leaders need them, too.

  3. A Personal Journal.
    Use any notebook that suits you, but keep notes! Write down your goals, jot down your brilliant ideas before the phone rings and you lose them forever! Note your successes, document your failures, and learn from all of it.

  4. A Large Wastebasket.
    Most ideas that come into your office won't fly, and many of the ones that were innovative, original and brilliant last year are now antiques. Either mount them in a frame on the wall, or throw them out. A large wastebasket is a wonderful aid to staying focused.

  5. An Open Door.
    Whether it's an open cubicle where staff and customers and vendors can drop by, or having lunch in the employee cafeteria, make sure your best people and their best ideas reach you! Reward creativity and do it in person!

  6. A Closed Door.
    Leadership requires perspective, and that requires time to think, to review, to pre-view, and to restore balance. I believe it was Jonas Salk who for many years spent an hour a day in a dark, silent room with only a chair, table, pen and pencil, "waiting for ideas." Whether you call it a mental health day or something else, get time away, alone, to re-think and re-focus.

  7. A hobby you are not very good at!
    Leadership and success can quickly lead to arrogance. Get out of the office, join a club or group and learn a new skill, be an amateur, a beginner and a novice. "Play" at something, laugh at your mistakes, stay loose, and have fun. Fall off your surfboard (or your kids' skateboard), be scared to death on the side of a mountain, let the neighbor kid teach you chess or make and fly your own kite. Never stop learning and having "beginners mind."

  8. A Library Card.
    When Lee Iacoca was leading Chrysler back from bankruptcy, I was amazed to learn that he routinely read 2 books on business every week! I would also say: read widely outside your field! Innovation and a competitive edge rarely come from doing the "same old thing" a little bit better. Fortunes and extraordinary success come from children's books, history, technology, novels and poetry.

  9. A personal "Fort Knox" full of reserves.
    To really succeed, you have to take risks. And you can't take intelligent, creative risks when you're scared. It's as simple as that. To be successful, have some money set aside so you can always "start over." Have a LIFE that is so full, so varied and so wonderful, that the risks and challenges at work are always kept in perspective. After all, it is just business!

  10. Have a great accountant, and just in case, have a great attorney!
    Since you can't be an expert at everything, hire people who can do the parts you can't do, or don't want to do. You focus on doing your best stuff. Delegate everything else to people who will do it better, faster, cheaper and with more enthusiasm than you could.
    Successful people have extraordinary teams behind them! You can bank on it!

Artilce by Thomas J. Leonhard