So You Want to Start A Business?

This is a reprinting of an article previously published in the April 2011 newsletter to clients.

In my last newsletter I made reference to an article I had read recently on the success of the Amish in running a business. This time around I have decided to go one step further and expand a little on their business philosophy and possible reasons for success.

While I am not Amish, nor have I ever even met an Amish person, I believe from my reading, they adhere to a number of principles with which I strongly agree. There is a reason for their success. It goes far beyond being lucky, working hard and/or being cheap!! As in many other aspects in life, their success is based upon their ability to live out a lot of simple ideals.

Approximately 50% of new businesses in America fail within five years, but 95% of Amish businesses endure beyond five years. Most of their businesses are based upon a strong work ethic in an area they know well with modesty, politeness, and service being the cornerstones of their business. In a world where looking out for number one is seen as the way to go, these business leaders succeed by putting the good of the community first.

In his book, Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive, Erik Wesner summarized eight reasons why he believed most Amish businesses thrived:

  1. Form the business and network around shared values: They don’t begin a business thinking about the financial pay-off. It’s more about helping others, mentoring employees, and forming lasting relationships. They place values before rewards.
  2. Replace fear with faith: If fear is a driver, they believe, you will look out for yourself and what you can get today. If faith is the driver, you’re part of a larger belief system where there is security and strength, especially during times of difficulty.
  3. Instill family values: When a family is in need they get together and help out. Everyone in the community is treated as if they were an immediate member of the family.
  4. If you help people reach their goals, profits will happen.
  5. Commit to high quality workmanship: If you produce quality work, it demonstrates the principles upon which your life is lived.
  6. Help out with the unpleasant tasks: The Amish are masters of leadership by example. It helps others learn faster when you help during times of difficulty.
  7. Focus on satisfying the customer: They realize there is no substitute for excellent customer service. They also know there is no better way to build a business than word of mouth.
  8. Replicate success through storytelling: The practice of storytelling is usually reserved for bedtime. They take it one step further to help reinforce principles that work and have success breed more success.

As I have thought about this, I also recall my experience as I moved through the coaching ranks in my earlier years. Each time, as I considered an opportunity to coach a team at a higher level than I had previously coached, I recall how I needed to remind myself to apply the principles and values I had been taught and had learned. While the technical and tactical aspects could sometimes be overwhelming in coaching, as they are in business, the important principles and values never change.

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