A formal education can be handy, but when it comes to making your way in the world of business, nothing beats on-the-job experience and the guidance of a trusted mentor.
1. Failing breeds success
Many millionaires have been bankrupt – often several times – on their path to success. Nothing helps you appreciate success more than trying new things – failing – and learning from your mistakes.
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I encourage all my staff to have new ideas – however radical – and if they really believe something will be a success I encourage them to give it a go. If it fails, it’s a risk that will benefit our business in the long run as the employee will be smarter and wiser with their next idea.
2. Business decisions need to be made quickly and spontaneously
You can spend hours analysing the psychographics of decision-making yet in the fast-paced world of online retail if you spend weeks on a decision your competitors will be one step ahead of you.
In the business world, decision-making often needs to be instinctual and there’s no better experience than on-the-job training to put you in a position where you have to trust your instincts and internal ethics to turnaround a decision quickly.
Being mentored by others and trusting your gut goes a long way in business.
3. Everyone has a motive
Employees from different parts of the business, customers and suppliers are all driven by different agendas. As a business professional, it’s up to you to assess where people are coming from, and to weigh up the different emotions around a decision to determine the best outcome for everyone.
4. Employees aren’t replaceable
I’ve heard many friends talk about how they feel they are just a number at the organisation they work for, speaking of managers who are on power trips and who treat their staff like they are expendable.
We treat our staff as the foundation of our business and invest in them continually.
Our recruitment strategy is focused on making sure future employees are the right cultural fit and will be with our company for a long time, rather than looking too deeply into their resume and academic history.
5. Customers are everything
Treat consumers with respect and continually assess your business through their eyes. Ask them for feedback as often as possible and implement change based on their input. This is a simple recipe for retail success based on listening and learning from the people who buy products from you.
After school, and a brief stint working as a door-to-door salesman (that ended quickly when I was attacked by a dog!), I started working in the warehouse of my father’s appliance business. While university is fantastic for many, on-the-job training also has its merits.
Winning Appliances truck drivers taught me about customer service and going the extra mile to give customers and experience they don’t expect. Time spent with floor managers in showrooms taught me how to provide sales information to consumers in the most helpful way.
Networking with online retailers overseas taught me about ecommerce, and people in management positions taught me how to negotiate in much more realistic language than I would probably have ever learnt at university.
I was also lucky enough to have my father as a mentor. He taught me to have the utmost respect for not only your staff but for your staff’s families, as their lives are equally important as well.