Business Rules

I have just finished reading The Knack: How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up by Norm Brodsky. I have read Norm Brodsky for years in Inc. Magazine and have loved his earthy, down to business common sense. The book is more of the same and it was a good read and a valuable reference for all you budding (and even experienced) entrepreneurs out there.

A sample lesson from the book and a real life example of how sometimes companies get messed up:

Norm’s Lesson

We tend to make bad rules not when we’re attacking problems but when we are avoiding them.  We fall into the trap of looking for shortcuts and easy answers.  So, one bad customer drives off without paying his bill, and we put restrictions on all of our good customers. Or one employee uses bad judgement in issuing credit, and we tie the hands of all of those who are perfectly sound.

Real Life Example

My nephew is a high school senior and a sports fanatic.  He loves basketball, football and especially baseball.  He has given up on his dreams of playing in the Majors but still loves the sports world so much, that he plans to major in Sports Management in college starting next year.  I helped him get an interview for an intern position with the local minor league baseball team in his town.  During the interview, he was told that the job was doing anything that needed to be done for the team, might be painting the outfield wall or taking tickets or cleaning the bathrooms.  My nephew was still pumped.  The interviewer said “You know that this is an unpaid internship”.  My nephew said that was ok, he wanted to see what life was like in the baseball industry.  At the end, the interviewer said “We are so happy to get someone like you in this position.  But there is this one thing.  In order for us to take you on for this unpaid internship position, you need to get a letter from your school that they will give you credit for taking this internship.”.  What could this be all about?  Well, several years ago, a college student took this position and then sued the team because he did not get credit for his internship.  So, to make sure that this didn’t happen again, the team requires that the college provides proof that they will issue school credit for the internship.  You couldn’t sign away your rights, you couldn’t promise, you couldn’t double-dog swear.

Now, my nephew hasn’t even started at the University yet. But he duly went through the process of trying to figure out who to talk to and find out whether he could get credit.  After the process, he determined that the answer was no.  He called the team and tried to figure out a way to make it work, but they were unwilling to change the rule that they had put in place.

I don’t run a minor league ball club and surely don’t understand all of the ins and outs of running a team, but I do know that the one thing that they need is what my marketing friend Michelle calls “butts in seats”.  The way to get those seats filled is to get people who are in your community and who like your product to tell their friends.  What do you think will happen when my nephew is asked about his opinion of the local team?

This was a no-brainer.  Here you had a kid who was willing to do scut work for no pay, was a recognized baseball aficionado in his circle, wants to continue on in this industry and you could make him a huge fan and recommender, but that kid from several years ago clouded the owner’s mind.

As an entrepreneur, you must keep on the lookout for these rules and squash them as soon as you find them.

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