The best business lessons often don’t come from a book. They don’t come from a class, and they aren’t delivered by a conference keynote.
For me, the best business lessons came from my mom.
For the past twenty years, my mother has run Diane’s Books, a business that proudly provides the largest selection of family books in the US, and is one of the last great independent book stores. Watching her grow her business for the last 25 years, and succeed in the incredibly precarious book business - in the age of Amazon, everywhere you look a bookstore is closing its doors - has taught me important lessons that can benefit every entrepreneur and business owner.
Lesson #1: Stay close.
They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But my mom has employed a slightly different philosophy: keep your friends close and your customers closer. The reason behind the shift? Customers will first come to you looking for something specific - be it a book, a service, or product. They know exactly what they want, and they will look to you to deliver it.
My mom has always known that once she has established a relationship with a customer (based on the successful fulfillment of their need), they will look to her for future suggestions and book selections. They trust her. They expect her and her team to know, on an on-going basis, what they will like, and to honor that preference.
It’s a responsibility that she doesn’t take lightly and has delivered for nearly three decades.
Lesson #2: Focus on your people.
Take the time to get to know your customers. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to anticipate their needs. This will ensure they not only return time and again, but that they will refer you to their friends and family.
It makes all of the difference when a person loves coming to work. Strong corporate culture and high employee moral are the hallmarks of great businesses. My mom has exemplified the truth that when you treat your people right and infuse their work with meaning each and every day, they will in turn treat your customers the exact same way. From the very beginning she has had a loyal team that love what they do and take pride in their work.
Lesson #3: Loyalty goes both ways.
The more you support, champion, and empower your team, the greater they will perform. Strong team members build strong teams - who in turn build strong businesses. Nothing exists in a vacuum. My mom has been fiercely loyal to her team and her customers from the beginning, and it continues to pay off every day.
Lesson #4: Be the best by being the best.
When you’re sole focus is quality, people will come to associate you with just that. It will become the trademark of your business and will lay the foundation of your long-term success.
When my mother first started her store, there were seven other bookstores in her town. Today, her store is the only left standing in Greenwich CT. As to the reason why? It’s simple. From the get-go, she strove to be the very best. And not only the best bookstore in her market, but the best in her core business: the business of books.
In short, she never forgot the reason why she opened Diane’s Books in the first place. Unlike many other bookstores, she never got side tracked by extraneous offerings like toys, interactive games, animal accessories, and household items. She kept it simple: focus on just one thing, and make that one thing great.
I have been incredibly lucky to have had such an incredible business role model in my life. The fact that she is my mom makes it all of the more special. We may not share a family business, but we share the same core business values. Everyday, I strive to live up to her example.
What businesses lessons have you learned outside of the classroom? Do you have a family member who exemplifies great business? I invite you to share in the comment section below!
Dave joined You Move Me as our founding Managing Director in 2012. Dave is directly responsible for all aspects of the business. Dave has a deep entrepreneur spirit, and extensive experience in building businesses from the ground up in a variety of industries including wireless, textiles and licensed products. Dave is a dual citizen of the US and Canada, and lives in Toronto with his family.