Here’s some good advice from the analogue age – which is vital also for the digital age.
This is wisdom received from a successful entrepreneur in the land of finance from the days before the “entrepreneur” – and the term “entrepreneur” – were ubiquitous.
He taught me – from an early age – about the five rules for normal management. I quote these rules here, verbatim.
The Five Rules of Normal Management
1 Know your customer
His/her dreams, weaknesses, private life, problems with the boss and wife/husband. Get to know the boss. Be friends with the secretary & the junior. However crass, the junior will be senior one day and in the meantime is a source of info. Ask the client to prioritise his/her three major problems & opportunities. What are his current and likely needs that you can serve? Tailor yourself to be “user friendly”. Call him often. Send him press clips. Become his friend. Research his industry. Napoleon said: “No time spent on reconnaissance before joining battle, is ever time wasted.” Your customer is by far the best source of new ideas and also of competitor information. People only do business with those they trust. Your existing customer is always your best customer. Research praiseworthy things about your customer. Praise him. Leave a bit on the table for him.
No customer = No business.
All other rules are secondary to Rule One.
2 Plan, and manage to plan
Have a bold vision. Pithy and unanimously agreed and committed to (eg. Federal Express’s To deliver the package, the very next morning, regardless”). Break it down into goals and an action plan.
Rigorously measure progress/variance.
3 Communicate regularly
Schedule regular meetings. Keep clear minutes. By whom? By when? Circulate. Follow through.
Start each meeting with the minutes and those action steps committed at the last meeting. Don’t be shy to push your colleagues to deliver on their promises. Hopefully they’ll reciprocate. Follow through.
4 Be Professional
4.1 Foresight. A longer term vision. Segregate the important from the urgent (remember the urgent tends to replace the important). Prioritise. It can be done better. How?
4.2 Reliability. Never promise more than you know you can easily deliver. Deliver more. Do what you have said you will do; No matter what.
4.3 Integrity. Hard to earn a reputation for it, easy to lose it. Integrity separates the survivors from the flashes in the pan. A dedication both to excellence and to truth, no matter what. Give bad news first and quickly. Better to get your version of it on the table, than someone else’s.
4.4 Presentation: Bad form can destroy good content. You have to look professional, as well as being professional. A rigorous attention to overall organisation, as well as to detail. Spellcheck.
4.5 Timing: The key to getting business and appearing professional. It includes seizing every opportunity to speak to the customer – you may never know what is going on. Unpunctuality is a sign of lack of professionalism. If you feel “What’s happening on x”, trust your instinct. It’s time.
Persist. Persist. Persist. When it looks desperate: persist. When it’s going well, it can be done better. Persist.