In my 15 years of experience, I've realized that the most important aspects of how you run your business is not found in a carefully planned outline. That outline is your basic foundation--sell your product and make a profit. Many people have been successful with this formula, but if you're already running your own business right now, I'm not going to lay out the do's and don'ts at this point.
I'd rather talk about THREE aspects of running a people-oriented business that are just as important and will essentially strengthen your name, your brand, and even your product. Not only that, but you'll just feel way better about yourself and your business practices. No matter what industry you work in, your values will impact those around you.
INTEGRITYYou can run a business without it, but don't come knocking on my door for a business relationship. I want no part of you or what you have to offer because obviously you don't have what I want. Most of us associate "integrity" as a character trait, but more importantly, it is a trait that requires some action. You should be practicing what you preach. Integrity is a reflection of what you believe; it is demonstrated through your behavior. None of us can read minds so obviously I can't guess your intentions, but if there is a pattern of falling short on your promises, or you're just not all you talked yourself up to be, then you've misrepresented yourself. <-- That's the kind way of saying you're full of shit, and don't think that people won't figure it out. Bottom line, be the kind of person you would like to do business with. Don't just cheer on good ethics, be the one working his or her ass off to make a respectable name for yourself.
COURTESYYou may not realize it, but courtesy has become one of the most lacking traits within business relationships. I've realized this the most after I started publishing books a few years ago. The disrespect and self-serving habits of individuals can be overwhelming, and at times, unbelievable. I am not speaking of everyone in this manner, because there are certainly some people out there that are not selfish and cutthroat, but the ones that feel it is necessary to act that way are the ones you wish karma would work her magic on. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. However, to be courteous is to compromise, and to compromise is to put yourself in someone else's shoes and decide from there. We get so self-absorbed in our own desire for success, so caught up in watching our own backs, that we continually fail to extend this opportunity to ourselves. We fail to extend common courtesies to those we work with, to show that respect we would like in return. Some may feel being courteous is just an opportunity to get screwed by someone else, and I certainly don't turn a blind eye to that. Been there, done that, it's not fun and I don't like to be in that position...but I'd rather be the one giving than the one taking. I've found that far better things happen in your life when you take on that approach. Give the benefit of the doubt once in a while, but be careful of being burned the same way or by the same person more than once. Never hang yourself out there to dry, but just be mindful of others in your industry. Bottom line, don't do something that you wouldn't want done to you. Be careful of the toes you step on because you'll eventually have to account for them in the long run.
Do I really need to say it? Apparently so. Being dishonest means flat out lying, intentionally deceiving, telling only partial truths, or telling a person what they want to hear when you have no intention of following through. A lot of people are great at justifying their dishonest moments. They want to believe it was a reasonable choice. But be sure to ask yourself the tough questions if you really want to have an honest business. If you can apply the first two principles that I've already mentioned--integrity and courtesy--then you should have no problem being honest. I'm not talking about the gray area, like when we tell our kids there's a fairy that collects teeth, or when we are launching a new idea and choose to keep it to ourselves for the time being. I'm talking about deliberately deceiving someone for your own gain; purposely doing business in a manner that you would not approve of had it been done to you instead. Bottom line, don't do dirty business. Refrain from backing yourself into a corner that you can't get out of, because eventually your lies will catch up to you.
I'd just like to say that I'm not being preachy and I'm not standing on my soap box. I do pride myself in the way I do business, and yes I gravitate toward those that share my same values, but no matter how my decisions turn out for me, I can always be happy that it all came from a good place. I may have to make some business choices that are not all sunshine and rainbows, but in the end, I know I tried my best to be fair and respectful. Decisions to cut my ties with someone or choose not to work with them don't come lightly. Apply good standards, observe, learn, and have compassion... but do what you feel is best for you and your business. I write for myself, and in that writing--whether it be my books, music, or just a blog like this--I leave advice for myself. I like to look back at the things I've learned because most often there is a lesson I can apply to what is currently going on in my life. These are age-old principles that will never die, and as long as I own my own business or work with others, I will always look to these qualities as the true foundation of who I am and what I stand for.