Business Matters: Top 10 Best Practices
Maple Grove resident Bill English has some advice for business owners. English hosts the Best Practices Conference on Wednesday in downtown Minneapolis.
English works for Minnetonka-based Platinum Group, which has helped transform hundreds of small businesses across the Upper Midwest. One example is the Geek Squad, a company English helped oversee until it was sold to Best Buy.
An entrepreneur and licensed psychologist, English offered these top ten best practices for business owners.
Tip #1 – Hire Character. Train Skill.
“I can take a person who has great character and teach them what to do. But if they have bad character, no matter how talented they are, they will not be a good employee for you,” says English.
Tip #2 – Have Trusted Advisors Speak Truths
In other words, you don’t want to be surrounded by ‘yes’ people.
“A number of small business owners, many of them, don’t even have trusted advisors. They barely trust their accountant or their lawyer,” says English. “And they don’t really surround themselves with a team of trusted advisors who can help them grow, if they’ll just listen to, maybe, some negative feedback from time to time and the truths either about themselves or what’s going on in their business.”
Tip #3 – Embrace the Negative
“You got to run toward the fire. Run toward the bullets,” says English. “As soon as you see there is a conflict brewing, you run into it and you try to solve it as fast as you can.”
Tip #4 Know Your Cash Break-even Point
“Figure out where you cash break even is, get under it, and stay there,” says English. “You can go out of business being profitable on an accrual basis, but it’s really tough to go out of business if you’re always building cash.”
Tip #5 Crazy Smart People Can Make Lousy Business Partners
“They can sometimes be a great addition to your business, but not as partners,” says English. “You want to be very careful about who you partner with in business at the ownership level and at the governance level. Really talented people oftentimes don’t have the people skills necessary to do the governance and ownership part of the business.”
Tip #6 There’s a Difference Between Tenaciously Committed…and Foolishly Stubborn
“You’ll hear all kinds of success stories about business owners who just stay the course, stay the course, and they’re just stubborn enough and eventually they succeeded,” says English. “And you kind of hold them up and all applaud, and ‘boy, what great people they are.’ They pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and they were successful, right? But the reality is for every success story you probably have a 100 failures.”
Tip #7 Don’t Rationalize Mistakes
Mistakes are okay, says English. Learn from them. Just don’t rationalize them.
“I also use a phrase ‘don’t pet a burning dog.’ If the dog is on fire, you don’t go over and try to make it feel better by petting it,” says English. “No, you put out the fire and try to help the dog heal and become whole again. And so when your business is not doing well and you’re making mistakes as an owner, you do yourself a huge disservice, by not admitting it.”
Tip #8 Hire Smart People to Tell You What to Do
We borrow a phrase from Steve Jobs for tip No. 8.
“I don’t know that Steve Jobs was all that humble of a guy, but that kind of humility is important when you’re an owner,” says English. “Because in order to scale a business into the hundreds and maybe even thousands of employees, you have to surround yourself with people who are crazy talented at what they do. And you have to let them, go do what they do and let them do it well.”
Tip #9 Success in Business is Never Enough
Princess Leia from the 1977 “Star Wars” movie may have said it best: “If money is all you love, then that’s what you’ll receive.”
“The profits come, the profits go,” says English. “You’ll find you that once you have a bunch of money, you’re still an empty person, if you don’t have something bigger and greater than yourself to which your life is tethered.”
Tip #10 Take Time to Unplug
“No one will lay on their death bed, saying I wished I had spent more time at the office,” says English. “No one ever does that. They always wish I spent more time with my family, or my church, or my community, or something like that, something intangible. Because things we really want in live are things money cannot buy.”
Register for Best Practices Conference
The Best Practices Conference features a variety of speakers who offer insights to help transform your business. It takes place Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Fredrikson & Byron law office, 200 South 6th St., in Minneapolis. You must pre-register to attend.