11 Business Management Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

Hey, no one said it was easy. Not everyone is born to be a leader or manage a company. You learn as you go along.

You can read blogs and books, or learn directly from mentors and leaders, but sometimes you just have to learn it the hard way.

Here are 11 business management lessons I learned the hard way.

1. Keep Learning and Stay Flexible

Have you ever noticed how the smartest people in the room are often the ones who admit they still have a lot to learn? That’s because staying on top of your game is about being open to learning anything. In the ever-evolving landscape of business, flexibility and a hunger for knowledge are your best allies, and having a growth mindset is crucial for success.

The world doesn’t stand still, and neither should you. New technologies emerge, consumer preferences shift, and what worked yesterday might not cut it tomorrow. The key? Embrace change rather than resist it. Whether it’s picking up a new skill, rethinking a strategy, or simply listening to feedback, every step is an opportunity to grow.

2. Find The Fundamental Problem In Your Industry And Focus On That

3 signs with upward arrows saying Problem, Solution and Analysis.

It’s easy to get distracted. You may start with solving one problem and then as you explore your industry you find other problems that you could solve.

You start thinking about those and if you think some of them are easier to solve you might be tempted to switch tracks and work on those instead. And the cycle continues.

Ultimately, you’ll never get anywhere. You’ll keep jumping from one problem to the other, never really finishing anything or solving anything. Your focus will be split in so many ways you’ll start to think you don’t have time for anything and you might even get disillusioned and burn out.

Don’t get distracted, don’t water down your mission…Focus. Then focus some more. Take a single problem and work only on that, finding an efficient way to solve it. Only when you have worked on it enough and tried harder than everyone else can you call it a success or failure and change tracks if needed.

3. Sometimes You Need To Change Your Character To Achieve Your Goals

The reason people get distracted so often is not because they can’t find a problem to solve. It’s probably just because they don’t have the discipline, courage or confidence to stick with one thing and work on it.

These are character attributes and you need to change them because they might be out of sync with your goals.

You may have the knowledge to solve a problem but without courage you’ll never get started. You may already be solving a problem but without discipline you’ll never focus. You may have a great idea but without resourcefulness you won’t be able to find a team.

Don’t throw away your goals if they don’t suit you. Instead, figure out what character attributes are missing and work on developing those to suit your goals.

4. Keep Your Pitch “Simple, Clear, And Memorable”

 A person presenting to an audience. The audience are in focus and the presenter is out of focus.

Pitching is all about storytelling. You only read stories that interest you, so make sure that when you pitch there is something in there that interests your audience.

Keep it simple and clear. Don’t use complicated numbers and spreadsheets that people will glaze over. You want them to remember everything you said so be crisp and concise. The moment you start rambling you’ll lose them.

Don’t hold back on your passion. Walk around, wave your arms, shout if you have to, but show your passion and let it infect your audience.

Richard Bransons 5 elements of a perfect pitch is well worth a read.

5. Learn About People’s Character When You Hire Them

I once read that American Express CEO Ken Chenault asked interviewees,

“What are some of the most difficult issues you’ve confronted?”

I love that question.

Hiring isn’t just about looking at previous jobs or grades. Someone might look good on paper but that doesn’t mean he or she is right for your company.

There are a lot of ups and down in business, especially if you have a startup or fairly new venture. It’s no use hiring a top student if he can’t handle pressure and uncertainty.

Hire for someone’s character.

Hire a person because she can handle the pressure, because she is willing to admit mistakes and learn, because she is responsible and because she will give it more than her best.

6. You Need a Strong Team

In business, just like in sports, the strength of a team can make or break your success. Having star players is great, but how well do they play together?

Building a strong team means looking for people who bring the right mix of skills and attitudes to complement each other. Finding those who are not only talented in their areas but who also share your company’s vision and work well with others.

When hiring, it’s crucial to think beyond individual achievements. Ask yourself, “Will this person fit into the team’s dynamic?” Remember, a team that communicates, collaborates, and supports each other is unstoppable. This is one of the most crucial business management lessons I have learnt.

Steve Jobs once highlighted the importance of a collaborative hiring process.

We want to create a cohesive unit that works towards a common goal. That’s the foundation of any successful business.

Steve Jobs

7. Watch The Money

A closeup of a person using a calculator and going through finances.

Ah, the money. Sometimes we lose track of our expenses until one day we realize we have burnt it all. If there’s one thing you learn from this post it should be this – know your cashflow!

Make sure you know exactly what your costs are, how much investment you have and where your revenues are coming from. This way you’ll have a good idea about how long it is before you run out of money and you won’t be caught off-guard.

8. Be Transparent

To get the best out of your team, you need to be transparent. Ensure that there are no information silos in your organization and that everyone has access to all the information they need. Communication and collaboration are the foundations of a productive team, and transparency helps you build on that foundation.

Transparency engages your team and helps them be more productive.

Make sure everyone is aware of their roles and the goals of the company as a whole. Allow important documents to be shared across different levels and divisions and give people a chance to voice their opinions.

You’re not doing this alone. You have your whole team with you, so be open with them.

9. Ignite your own motivation

No one is going to do it for you. Reading success stories, getting advice from mentors, and learning from someone else’s experience will help you and give you some inspiration.

At the end of the day, you can read as many books as you want and talk to as many people as you want but you need to put in the hard work yourself.

10. Do What You Do To Change The Game

A yellow paper aeroplane breaks away from a group of white paper aeroplanes.

The goal is not to become a billionaire, or get famous. I know it’s nice to think about a massive exit and buying a mansion in Maui, but don’t let that be the reason why you start a business. That will only take you down a path of disappointment.

If you are going to do something, do it right and do it for the right reasons. You are starting a business to solve a particular problem. When you see something that’s not working in the world, fix it.

11. You Need a Good Mentor

It’s always great to have a guiding hand. We aren’t born with the knowledge needed to run a successful business. Having someone around who can show us the way will improve our chances of success. Even the most successful people get stuck sometimes, and in these moments, advice makes all the difference.

Mentors provide guidance that is based on real world experience – that stuff is invaluable.

Pick someone you admire. Build a relationship with your mentor and learn as much as you can from him or her.

So those are the lessons I learned! I have made a few mistakes along the way, but as long as I don’t repeat them and keep learning, I’ll be fine.

Conclusion

Wrapping up, these 11 business management lessons have been my compass through the rollercoaster ride of leading and managing. Each lesson, learned the hard way, has shaped my approach and deepened my understanding of what it truly takes to navigate the complex world of business. Every mistake is a lesson in disguise, and every success, a stepping stone to your next challenge. Here’s to our continued growth and the endless pursuit of excellence in the dynamic dance of business management. Keep learning, keep adapting, and keep moving forward.

FAQ

How do you learn management?

Learning management involves a blend of practical experience, formal education, and self-study. Engage in leadership roles, pursue courses or degrees in business management, and read extensively about management theories and case studies. Additionally, seeking mentorship and feedback from experienced managers can accelerate your learning process.

What can business management teach us?

Business management teaches us critical skills like strategic planning, decision-making, and leadership. It also imparts valuable lessons on teamwork, financial literacy, and adaptability in changing environments. Through managing a business, we learn the importance of innovation, effective communication, and setting clear goals for success.

What business management lessons have recent global events taught us?

Recent global events have highlighted the importance of business agility, supply chain resilience, and digital transformation. Businesses that can adapt quickly to changing circumstances, have strong supply chains, and embrace digital technologies are better positioned to thrive in challenging times. Empathetic leadership, prioritizing employee well-being has also been underscored.

Are there any business management lessons specific to managing remote teams?

Managing remote teams has taught specific business management lessons: the importance of clear communication, trust, and flexibility. It’s crucial to set clear expectations, use digital tools effectively for collaboration, and maintain regular check-ins. Encouraging a healthy work-life balance and fostering a strong team culture remotely are also key to successful remote team management.

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