You are a Business: You already know all you need to know about running a business
March 4, 2023
6 min read
You already know all about business. And what you don’t carry, the experience of an expert, can help you be successful in an economy where all existing industries and business models are ripe for disruption. Zen master Shunryu Suzuki said,
“The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities.”
People experiencing “beginner’s luck” prove this all the time.
People always overestimate how complex business is. This isn’t rocket science — we’ve chosen one of the world’s most simple professions.
You are a business. I’m not referring to your job, or your company; you. Your quotidian, everyday existence is a business. Every day you run the business that is your life. From when you get up until you go to sleep. And actually while you are sleeping, because you have a bed and pillow and pajamas (or not) and a dark place and an alarm clock. It’s all planned and maintained.
You also have lots of marketing experience. You have been marketed to since you were a child. You know good advertising from bad as far as what appeals to you and grabs your attention. And you know how to treat customers because you have been on the customer end of every transaction, purchase, and product and service experience in your life.
You perform all the basic business functions in your daily life. How you dress, speak, the car you drive, and how you present yourself is marketing. Dreaming, developing goals and planning is strategy. Managing relationships with your family, friends, and lovers, that’s management and communications. Managing your phone, tablet, computer, TV, and other electronic devices, that’s IT. Getting, spending, saving and managing money is finance and accounting.
And everything else you do during the day: from making meals and getting ready for work, to preparing for bed, doing the laundry and dishes, falls into the category of operations.
Some people take this to the extreme like celebrities where personal branding and self-promotion actually are their business. Think of the Kardashians.
Jay Z’s great quote: I’m not a businessman I’m a business, man.
Well, we all are a business, man. And by thinking of all you do and already know as business categories and skills can help transfer that knowledge and experience to any commercial or professional endeavor you choose to do.
You already run a complex enterprise
It’s called your life, and it’s about getting, spending and saving; in business it’s called Revenues, Expenses and Retained Earnings. You have a job where you make your money, it gets deposited in your checking account, and you use it to pay your bills, buy groceries and clothes, go out to eat or a movie; and hopefully there is some left over at the end of the month that you can put aside for a rainy day.
You manage bank accounts, checkbooks, debit and credit cards, electronic transfer, PayPal, a mortgage or rent, car payments, insurance, healthcare, utilities… It’s complicated!
Sometimes (most of the time) you must make hard decisions about what you can and can’t purchase or afford to do. You have plenty of hard-won experience running an enterprise and have earned your Domestic MBA.
You also have your work experience to draw on to form opinions about how best to operate a business. In any job, we are thrown together with a bunch of people for a large part of each day and we have to figure out their personalities and how to navigate working with them. There are bosses, colleagues, clients and customers you like, and ones you don’t like (not all of them have heard of the No Asshole Rule). There are stupid processes that don’t make sense and annoy you with their inefficiency. But there are also things that make you feel good about the work you do and give you a sense of accomplishment and self worth. And then there are the things that make you feel less than good.
These experiences and knowledge, from both your personal and working life, form the basis and context for what you already know about business and management. This knowledge base should form the touchstone against which you can test anything you read or study about business and management to see if it rings true to your experience. Integrate your learning into what you already have experienced. At the end of the day, it’s all elaborations and nuance of common sense. The core concepts of business are basic common sense:
• Create something of Value • Make People Aware of it • Sell it for more than it costs you to make • Duh
Antidote to Intimidation
It is good to take a moment to take stock of what you already know, and have experience in, when looking at a new subject with intimidating buzzwords like business, finance, accounting, marketing, and strategy.
It reminds me of the fellow who wanted to be wise and traveled and studied only to realize when he fell ill with cancer that he was already wise. He just didn’t understand the language of his wisdom.
This realization also reminds me of the character, Mr. Jourdain, from the Molière play, The Bourgeois Gentleman. While taking lessons to become cultivated, Mr. Jourdain is delighted to realize that he has been talking prose his whole life without knowing it.
It comes as a surprising revelation to him, “My faith! For more than forty years I have been speaking prose while knowing nothing of it, and I am the most obliged person in the world to you for telling me so.”
Moliere is making fun of someone who has pretense of being an aristocrat but the situation is revealing.
Sometimes the language used obscures from us our own hard earned knowledge. Sometimes impenetrable language is intentionally used to keep people out of the know.
My intent here is to get you over the hurdle that the skills and disciplines of business are difficult to learn. You already know them.
In many ways running a business is simply a special case of the set of activities you perform regularly in your private life. Many parts of the business equation have to do with interactions you have been continuously involved in, but from the other side as a customer or someone who is advertised or marketed to.
How these activities have impacted you and how you react to them, and interact with them, will provide you with a deep understanding and context about what is effective and important to you, and what is not.
By taking stock of your personality and predispositions in this manner, you can develop a business persona and set of operating principles that are in line with your innate strengths, interests and preferences. Model this extension of your behavior on what you already know about yourself and not on some abstract idea of a business executive. Look at developing these skills and knowledge base as a way to impress your personal stamp on the world in an effective and beneficial way, not as an oblique strategy to impress others with your success.
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