Over the years, I’ve devised a simple set of guidelines for myself when it comes to conducting business. These guidelines are applicable across multiple industries but I find that they resonate the most among those in startups and technology simply because they’re dominated by so many newcomers to the business world. I have been that fresh-faced, eager newbie. Here are the things I wish someone had told me:
Always get it in writing
“We don’t have any capital but once we raise, we’ll pay you $10,000.” Until a promise is agreed upon and signed in a legal binding document, don’t count on it. All too often verbal agreements become twisted and undone as soon as one party has to pay the other. Get every promise in legal paperwork so expectations and compensations are met. I fell into this predicament twice. There’s nothing wrong with putting faith into the words of a fellow human, but do so after they’ve given you their John Hancock.
Actions speak louder than words
Observe. Communication is important but take everything with a grain of salt – it’s much easier to say you’ll do something than to actually get it done. Wait for your counterparts to act before accepting their accountability. Is this cynical? Maybe. But it’s really the only way to build reliable new relationships worth trusting.
Understand your economics
I’m so intrigued how people go into work every day without an understanding of their own convertible worth. For instance, let’s say you get paid $100k per year. That’s only because you’ll be making the business an additional $1mm per year. Sure, the business takes the risk and the cost associated with employing you, but that doesn’t mean you’re not worth $120k per year. Take the time to learn the business you are in, do the economics and realize your true worth.
Due diligence, follow the money
It’s taken a few years of trial and error to develop a skill of being able to recognize who is making money and who isn’t. You must be skeptical but also willing to take risk – there must be a balance of both. Picture a room filled with professional recruiters. Is the one most aggressively competing for your attention going to pay you the most money? Probably not. Because A. If they were so great, why are they so desperately trying to convince you of it? And if they do have the most money, why are they giving you a cheap offer?
I’ve crafted this list and have relied on it over a handful of circumstances. One thing to remember: This isn’t about employment or entrepreneurship; it’s about conducting good business to protect your bottom line for survival.
Copy editing by Jennifer Beightol