32 Business Lessons to Keep

I’ve given some thought to the business lessons I’ve learned over the past 32 years in my roles as entrepreneur, business owner, speaker, trainer, author and perpetual student of leadership and human nature. I’ve synopsized them into 32 (or so) quick thoughts and lessons learned. Much more could be said about each one. Maybe I’ll do just that in the days ahead. But for now, take about 32 seconds to read the following. Maybe you’ll find a keeper for yourself!

32 Lessons to Keep from 32 Years in Business

It was thirty-two years ago this month, April 8, 1988 to be exact, that I signed my personal “Declaration of Professional Independence.” That morning, at 8:05am, I presented my boss — a corporate Vice President — my official “letter of resignation.” 

Taking the letter offered her, she opened and read it while I looked on. Eventually, wearing a confused expression, she asked, “What’s this all about?”

Personally, I thought the letter spoke for itself, but I played along.

“It’s my letter of resignation. I’m giving you my two weeks notice.”

“What are going to do?” she asked, her tone tinged with more animosity than curiosity.

“I’m starting my own company. I’m going to speak to and train managers and supervisors on how to be better leaders.”

She paused momentarily, then stared directly at me as she said, “Well, you don’t know enough about that. You’ll never make a living at it.”

Business Lessons for Building a Career and a Life

My former boss was wrong on several counts that morning. Mainly, in that I’ve “made a living at it” everyday for the past 32 years. And for that I’m so grateful.

Ironically, her attitude and actions exemplified a primary reason that I committed my professional future to this singular effort.  Lots of managers need lots of help becoming better leaders. But she was right about one thing. I didn’t know enough about helping leaders become better. I still don’t. Every day I continue to learn more in order to share more.

As I reflect back, here are 32 (or so) of the best business lessons I’ve learned. And while most of us would like a do-over of 2020, I hope you find something in this list that motivates you to persist no matter what. Good luck!

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32 Business Lessons to Keep

  1. Relationships matter!

  2. Old friends and clients are the best friends and clients.

  3. A “screw up” should be what you did, not who you are.

  4. Tired, old ideas make you old and tired.

  5. Fresh, new ideas make you revitalized and relevant.

  6. Embrace the need to constantly adapt, improvise and overcome.

  7. Getting knocked down is an opportunity for a rebound.

  8. The best comeback strategy is to get up and get after it.

  9. New problems signal new opportunities others are ignoring.

  10. Complaints are symptoms that problems exist.

  11. Complaints are an opportunity to perfect your professionalism.

  12. It’s not about you, it’s always about others.

  13. Don’t count on a single business opportunity to “make” you.

  14. And a single business failure need not define you.

  15. To discover what you can do, stop worrying about what you can’t do.

  16. Invest in loyalty.

  17. Have a plan, then work the plan.

  18. Don’t invest in anything you don’t understand.

  19. Don’t try to sell anything you don’t believe in.

  20. Seek to learn from people who know more than you.

  21. Never value money over people.

  22. Everyone has their own story — listen to it!

  23. The best leaders are working to step back and let others.

  24. None of us is as smart as all of us.

  25. It’s better to be well-respected than well-known.

  26. When you listen well the answer usually reveals itself.

  27. Don’t forget where you came from! (Thank you, Mom!)

  28. Everyone is worthy of your courtesy.

  29. Influence is more valuable than a title.

  30. You can never be too honest or too ethical.

  31. There’s always room for one more real leader.

  32. Talk shouldn’t be cheap!

…And 10 More Business Lessons to Hold On To

  1. Finished is better than perfect.

  2. Collaboration fosters creativity.

  3. Your people want to know what you care about.
  4. Your greatest opportunities lie ahead of you, not behind you.

  5. Nobody sells you and what you have to offer better than you.

  6. Personal and professional mentors are worth their weight in gold.

  7. People want to help you if you’ll only let them.

  8. Hard work is underrated.

  9. Securing the best talent is not a cost, it’s an investment.

  10. Talk with people.

Find a favorite from my list or have one of your own? I’d love to hear it and I bet others would too!

Here’s to another year!

When we’re through this COVID-19 crisis and it’s time to encourage and equip your team for the “new normal,” let me know how I can help.

#businesslessons #coolhandluke #relationshipsmatter #businessanniversary #whatIvelearned #lessonsfrombusiness #lifelessons

*Image Citation: Carroll, G., (Producer), Rosenberg, S., (Director). (1967). Cool Hand Luke [Motion Picture]. United States: Jalem Productions



Phillip Van Hooser
Author: Phillip Van Hooser
Phillip Van Hooser, CSP, CPAE is committed to helping organizations transform their business outcomes by building engaged employee relationships. He is an award-winning keynote speaker and author on leadership, service and communication. His popular book, “Willie's Way: 6 Secrets for Wooing, Wowing and Winning Customers and Their Loyalty” recently hit #1 in Customer Relations on the Kindle store. Connect with Phil on LinkedIn and Facebook.

1 Comment

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    Patti Greer

    Phil, Thanks so much for the inspiring words of wisdom! Glad you proved your former manager wrong! Stay safe and keep those words of inspiration coming. Patti

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