I have a picture of Benjamin Franklin hanging in my office. Ben is on my board of advisers. The fact that he is dead is a minor inconvenience.
Like so many successful people, Ben was thoughtful enough to write down his philosophies and business strategies. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
If you are able and willing to read – or listen on audio – you can learn so much about creating a profitable business. Classic business advice is packed in to “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Including Poor Richard’s Almanac and Familiar Letter,” which was originally published in French in 1791 and two years later was translated into English.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I consult Ben. You’ve heard the laundry list of achievements: printer, banker, postmaster, inventor, scientist (did you know he identified the oceanic trade currents?), university founder, diplomat, founding father, abolitionist, ladies’ man and rockin’ business builder. He wrote an autobiography sharing his “self-made man” approach to success and offering a brilliant slice of colonial American life. His simple, solid advice works – a stitch in time does save nine. Best of all, he had fun and was funny. His irreverent perspective in a most unsettling and complicated time inspires me to just calm down.
Another helpful book of advice is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” published in 1948.
I took a Dale Carnegie class about 20 years ago. A business-savvy friend recommended I sign up, and I did, though I was a little put out by the time commitment. Three-hour classes? A 12-week course? I showed up the first day and sized up the rest of the students. I found someone who looked fun and hip and sat next to her, hoping to find a fellow troublemaker. Each week, every person in the class was required to deliver a speech on the assigned topic. Sometimes my jaw hung open as people whom I had initially dismissed based on their looks or their clothes shared amazing stories of hope and courage. They expressed gratitude for the trials they had endured and what it made of them to transcend them.
Dale was aware of how business troubles and the endless pursuit of the American dream can wreak havoc on productivity, health and relationships. Dale taught that every person has a fascinating story to tell – and that we all want to be heard. He also taught that the development of solid, lasting and healthy relationships is an honorable pursuit – and the best thing you can do for marketing and sales, too. Finally, he advised that what appears to be the worst thing so often turns into the best thing.
Let me add my own classic business advice: Business can be easy.
So many business gurus glorify the hard work of their early days in business. They will say you have to put in the blood, sweat and tears to earn your way to success.
No, you don’t. Consider the lives of the successful business owners you know. They aren’t working that hard, and they are getting richer. Is it because of the front-loaded effort? No. It’s because when you are relaxed, you can make better, faster and more profitable decisions. When you are all stressed out, you tighten up. You snap at people. You make poor decisions.
Take it easy. Like Ben, see the humor. Like Dale, diffuse the fear. And your business will benefit. Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant who offers systems for getting focused and organized, making money and having fun in business. Her latest book is “The Bare Bones Biz Plan.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.