“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.”– Chinese Proverb
In business, the most important lessons learned are the hardest earned. Today, I will share my three most important business lessons learned over my career in going from the stock room to the board room, and why I think they are critical to help you massively accelerate the growth of your own business.
My business career started as a broke 20-year-old working as midnight shift “stock boy”, living in a single rented room, with no formal education, no resources, no family connections and no prospects for a future.
A mere 25 years later, I had finished a grueling electrical engineering degree program and a MBA in finance, had built a great career as a corporate executive (including leading 2 very profitable turnarounds), wrote a best-selling book, The 1% Solution, and founded an advisory business helping CEOs and entrepreneurs build great businesses. How did this happen and what were the fundamental truths I learned along the way?
My journey started because I was desperate, grew because I became courageous and continues because I want to fulfil my potential. I had the good fortune to realize when I was 18 years old (as one of 5 children from a family of very modest means), that if I wanted to get anywhere it was up to me to make it happen. There would never strings to be pulled to get into a top school, no position waiting for me in a family business and no inheritance someday. It was whatever I could create myself, with my own skills and talents, and in the time God gave me.
They say the two most dangerous people are those with nothing to lose and those with everything to lose. I don’t buy it! I think the two most MOTIVATED people are those with nothing to lose and those with everything to lose. The most dangerous are those in the middle that are obliviously comforted by the status quo. I had everything to lose and, therefore, was and remain highly motivated.
During this journey, I learned three fundamental truths about business that will help you during your own personal and career journey. Here they are:
Achievement is only limited by our imagination: I found this hard to comprehend when I was younger, since my belief system was largely based on the values of my environment, family and upbringing. Over time though, I started to believe since I now had evidence. I now know, beyond any doubt, that the most powerful tool at my disposal is my thinking; which can conjure up the most incredible possibilities to be turned into reality. Letting go of all negativity and self-limiting beliefs, has made this understanding the bedrock of all I do and all I believe. This applies as much to business success as it does to personal success
Our destiny lies in our own hands: Having felt the sting of being broke at a young age (I had to sleep in my car on the way to university and take out a $100 emergency loan to buy food), was one of the most difficult, but helpful experiences of my life. I had the benefit of knowing, at a young age, that no one was responsible for me other than myself, and that if I wanted something I was going to have to earn it, myself. Period. If I had been sheltered from this reality early on, I may have never learned this important lesson and never reaped its benefits. Today, I don’t expect anything from anybody other than myself. I don’t try to change other people or circumstance, I only focus on changing myself and adapting myself to changing circumstances. It’s been very liberating and helpful. Nobody owes your business anything. It is up to you to earn customer loyalty by solving an enduring pain and creating massive value.
With enough time and perseverance, anything is possible: This final truth is the most important to me in business. It took me almost 2 decades to realize that perseverance (or as I like to call it, Percyverance!) driven by courage, combined with time will ultimately overcome virtually any obstacle. As humans, we become impatient for success and want to take the short cut. The reality, as Ralph Waldo Emerson pointed out in his famous essay, “Compensation”, we are compensated based on what we contribute. Tremendous contribution to your customer’s success over long periods of time, compound to produce tremendous value, and therefore compensation. I felt so strongly about this subject, that I recently published a book called The 1% Solution, on the habits that I believe are necessary for business leaders to make a maximum contribution.
Too often we become focused on the obstacles in front of us and perceive them to be immovable objects, causing us to cower, lose hope and become fearful. The reality is just the opposite. With the right thinking, self-reliance and perseverance, these very obstacles can become the stepping stones to fulfilled potential, big goals and a brighter future.
I know these fundamental truths worked for me during my career in business and I know they will work for you too! Take the time today to commit to making these lessons core to your beliefs as a business leader and apply them rigorously to your own business, so you can accelerate growth, leave your competition behind and dominate your sector.
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy.