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The Best Business Advice I Have Ever Received

September 25, 2017

Contributors

As seen on Forbes

NEW YORK, NY — APRIL 13: Barbara Corcoran is interviewed by Randi Zuckerberg for ‘SiriusXM Leading Ladies’ at SiriusXM Studios on April 13, 2017, in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Five Rules To Live By

I daydream a lot at 30,000 feet. This doesn’t bother me too much because lately it seems like I am getting paid for the things I used to get detentions for, namely doodling and wondering “what if.”

On today’s flight, I am daydreaming about business axioms. Specifically, I am thinking about what I’d tell my kids if they ever got around to asking me about business. (By the way, they’re teenagers, so I am not holding my breath.)

So here it goes. Five bits of advice I wish I’d heard—and listened to—earlier in my career.

1) Never work for a jerk.

I was lucky to have a good-boss/bad-boss experience early in my career. I worked for the good boss, Doug Harms, in college. He was a wide-eyed entrepreneur who believed in co-creating the future. He thought work should be fun and ran his company with the spirit of inclusion and dare I say “love.” Consequently, I enjoyed going to work. Relationships, talents and profits grew in the wake of Doug’s leadership.

Just after college, I had the exact opposite experience. My new boss managed with fear and underhandedness. I was struck by the negative impact his shadow had on the organization. The fish really does stink from the head down. He brought out the worst in people, including me. Within a year, I left to start my own company.

Right before I left, I bought a book entitled, “Never Work for a Jerk.” I wish I had read it before I started.

2) Pay attention to what makes you feel strong.

If you choose to notice, life gives you clues about your superhero powers. You’ll know what they are when you feel the most alive or strongest. It may be while you are working with your hands, leading other people, speaking publicly or even following exacting processes. Regardless of what the activity is, the important thing is that you pay attention to the clues: time flies by; you smile more; people compliment what you have done; you do really good work; you look forward to doing more of the same.

Have you heard the cliché “Do something you love and you will never work a day in your life”? Well, clichés frequently become clichés because they are true. By paying attention to when you feel strong, you’ll quickly zero in on your path to success.

3) It’s not what you do, it’s whom you get to do it with.

This one is pretty simple. Work is often hard. You might as well do it with people you genuinely like or even love.

Anytime I am hiring a potential teammate or choosing a work partner, I ask myself if the person gives me energy or sucks it away. With this answer in mind, the selection process becomes much easier.

(Author’s digression: My sister-in-law is a teacher. Whenever I end a sentence with a preposition—like I did in the subhead above—she playfully throws in the word “bitch” to make me aware that I have just broken a rule. So for the sake of making this one easier to remember, it’s not what you do, it’s whom you get to do it with—bitch!)

4) Pay yourself first.

Make sure you are taking care of yourself first. There is nothing worse than doing good, hard work and feeling like you weren’t compensated for your effort. This feeling leads to contempt for your job, your co-workers and sometimes yourself.

5) Compensation is a buffet.

Speaking of paying yourself first, most people make the mistake of thinking compensation is only about money. My friend and partner Maria Ferrante-Schepis thinks differently. She taught me that compensation is a buffet. Your ability to make decisions, do what you love, build your own team, make money, have free time, learn and grow…are all important parts of a compensation package. I’ve noticed the leaders I respect most understand how to visit the buffet without looking like a pig.

I’d appreciate it if some of you could share these lessons with my kids. I suspect they might listen to you.

And I would love to hear from you. What’s the best business advice you have ever received?