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11.02.18

David Wiener’s 40 Rules for Business, Management and the Rest of Life

David Wiener

I
HAVE a “no jerk” rule. I will not work on a matter or participate in a transaction if certain people are involved on either side of the table. I apply this philosophy widely across business and managerial settings. I actually have a hard time separating my business philosophy from my management philosophy. Managing my practice and managing my clients are similar. All I can add in deal situations is to “tell the truth in the most favorable light possible,” have reasonable expectations financially and operationally, and try to make sure that every transaction is ultimately successful for both buyer and seller.

As I have matured and learned more about both business and life, I have become less economically fearful and defensive. This has made compliance with my no-jerk rule quite a bit easier. Fools, I’ve come to realize, thrive on our defensiveness, fears, and insecurities. Those qualities are to idiots what peanut butter on turkey is to rats. Know yourself and respect your own needs, and the jerks will not be able to enter your premises. Got it? Good. Now make it happen.

I am approaching my fiftieth year in business. Whew! Thinking back on the lessons I learned when I was wet behind the ears, it strikes me that the technologies, financial methodologies, and expectation levels when I cashed my first paycheck were profoundly different than today. Meanwhile, the underlying interpersonal dynamics—the methods of creating and managing relationships—are fundamentally unchanged.

The goal in business is to bring in more money than you spend over the long run. To do that, you need to obtain the cooperation, support, and goodwill of many people. I’m generally not sentimental; I don’t think making money was necessarily easier in the old days or that people were intrinsically nicer, more honest, or more loyal—it’s probably easier to turn a buck today than it was in earlier times.

Preparation is easier today. You can learn more about the people you want to do business with by spending an hour on the internet than you could in a week making phone calls or buttonholing people.

Few people become successful entirely on their own. Most successful businesspeople are highly successful managers. The following are some of the core beliefs that have guided me in assembling, motivating, and keeping my team intact:
  • Accessibility trumps weakness.

  • Be the hardest worker.

  • Arrive early and stay late.

  • Give spot bonuses and gifts.

  • Don’t ask anyone to do anything you would not do yourself.

  • Don’t flaunt your financial success, but be sure your staff is aware of it.

  • Hire the smartest people you can and pay them more than what is reasonably expected.

  • Value loyalty and fidelity.

  • Expect your staff to work at their career, not at their job.

  • Be sure clients treat staff with respect and vice versa.

  • Say “please” and “thank you” all the time.

  • Responsiveness overcomes many negatives.

  • Give opinions honestly, frankly, and immediately.

  • Express your thoughts and opinions with clarity and conciseness. If you cannot explain your reasoning, it won’t hold water with clients or staff.

  • Develop a sense of humor. Make it suitable for yourself based on your personality.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.

  • Acknowledge others’ life events with cards, letters, phone calls, emails, donations, flowers, or gifts.

  • Ask for referrals and recommendations and thank any who give them to you.

  • Be prepared. Know the facts better than anyone else.

  • Drop names only if they give you credibility and a reference.

  • Read every document. Never assume an unread document is OK.

  • Don’t depend on the work of others. Know what you need to know yourself.

  • Assess every client’s or deal partner’s upside and downside tolerance for risk.

  • Look after the client’s needs. Don’t lump those needs together with your own.

  • Be objective as to the client’s welfare. Don’t generate unnecessary fees, ever.

  • Be efficient. Do what you need to do quickly, simply, and directly.

  • Know that in “creativity,” past methods are instructive rather than determinative or prescriptive.

  • Draw from your experiences to compose the deliverables.

  • Many deliverables should be oral, presented in person, or supplemented in writing.

  • Speak plain English. Use technical jargon sparingly or as reference points.

  • Don’t let a client feign ignorance or stupidity forever. Faked stupidity is worse than the real thing.

  • Reciprocate the client’s respect. Don’t exceed it without getting the equivalent in return. Remember the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the good comes from 20 percent of the client base, 80 percent of the bad comes from a different 20 percent of the client base, and the other 60 percent of the client base is just OK. Recent studies suggest 90/10 might be more accurate.

  • Rate your clients on three scales: quality of work, quality of relationship, and quality of prospects.

  • Treat people with the level of respect they deserve as people, not the level you perceive their social status or occupational standing entitles them to.

  • Mistakes are easier to deal with than cover-ups. Ask Richard M. Nixon.

  • Ending a client or other relationship for good reasons is better than continuing it for bad reasons. It’s better for both of you.

  • Ask questions until you understand or you can make others understand—do not be embarrassed by your lack of experience or understanding.

  • Charge what you are worth in the marketplace to good clients—not the bad 20 percent.

  • Appreciate your clients. Referrals from successful clients are your top marketing tools.

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Leading Forum
This post is by David C. Wiener, the founder and a member of David Wiener and Company LLC, an affiliate of EisnerAmper LLP. With more than forty-five years of public accounting experience, David’s practice focuses on advertising agencies and other marketing communications companies. He serves these firms with a range of accounting and consulting expertise that includes merger and acquisition advisory services, finance and business consulting, tax and estate planning, business negotiations, executive compensation, litigation settlements, and other management advisory services.

Brighton Beach
His uncanny ability to size up in an instant a situation on all levels―not only financial and economic, but all aspects related to it―his disarming sense of humor, and his no-nonsense approach make him the perfect deal maker. His book, From Brighton Beach to Madison Avenue: The Real Business of Advertising lifts the curtain on the stage of advertising agencies from the 1970s to the present and shares life lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:18 AM
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