By JONATHAN FINE
Working in business since 1978, you get to see the same things repeat themselves; the grafter who you just know is going to come out on top in the long run every time, and the people who are trying to force themselves to do a job they don’t enjoy – after a while you realise these people will never be happy until they admit certain truths to themselves and change their role, which may take them five or ten more years of misery to get round to.
If it’s of interested, here are my five simple bits of business wisdom from three-and-a-half decades in the game, and you’ll see they all come back to things about people. That’s because business is really only about dealing with people.
- Hire slow fire fast. When you go into business with someone, you had better really know what makes them tick because you will be sharing an awful lot of time – and stress – with them. Jumping in feet first isn’t always avoidable if you’re like me – impatient, ambitious, optimistic – but just make sure there’s an out until you really know the kind of person you’re dealing with. Having said all that, one of my best business experiences ever was when I was in my early 30s and decided I wanted to do something in Israel. I walked into the ad agency OK in Tel Aviv, hit it off with the partner Micky Kaufman and was allowed to buy in almost immediately. Our relationship was always great and the dividends from OK put my kids through private school. When we sold it it was seventh biggest ad agency in Israel. It was a dream outcome.
- If you want to change things, punch someone in the face. I got this from a wise old soul when I was coming up in Yorkshire, which can be a rough old place. But don’t worry, it’s figurative. It means don’t just go along with things if you’re feeling uncomfortable. Even if you can’t articulate your worries, or feel guilty for how you feel given the circumstances, it’s better to open your mouth than let things drift. If you feel uncomfortable then there is a problem. Vocalising it may put someone’s nose out of joint in the short term, but they’ll calm down and you can talk it out. You’ll be happier and they’ll know how you really feel.
- Pride comes before a fall. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people get carried away on the back of success. You’re only as good as the product or service you’re selling right now because that’s all the customer cares about, and your customers are what got you to wherever you are now…
- If you’re not happy, do something else. Life is short. As I approach 60 I can say I enjoy my work as much as I have ever done, and it’s the relationships I have with my clients and colleagues that make it so enjoyable. However, I know plenty of people who aren’t as lucky as me and work feels more like a sentence. What I’d say to those people is this: hard work will kill you if you hate it. It will save your life if you enjoy it.
- Be nice to the little people on the way up, they won’t forget it. Speaks for itself.