5 Business Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

Author: Jeff Hannah – Consultant/Connexus Group
Read more about Jeff here…

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in business – many have cost me dearly. I’ve learned much from those poor choices, which I want to share with you. These are the five most important lessons that I’ve learned the hard way, as I look back over my 25+ year career – as an employee, and as an employer. I hope that these lessons can help you avoid the same mistakes:

1) Hard work isn’t enough! When I started climbing the corporate ladder, I thought that working really hard would naturally get me promoted to the next rung. That didn’t happen! I did an admirable job – and was rewarded by keeping the same position for 12 years! It was disheartening to see others promoted, even when they had less experience than me. The difference was that they played the corporate networking game, which I thought was a waste of time. I was wrong. They were more visible because they engaged regularly in social networking and developed a good rapport with company leadership.

  • TO DO: Regularly spend time managing your career, not just on managing the work at hand. Maintain a healthy level of visibility inside your organization and within your industry.
Regularly spend time managing your career, not just on managing the work at hand. -Jeff Hannah Share on X

2) Don’t get lost in the weeds! Being detail-oriented, it’s easy for me to get bogged down in minutia, which drains tons of time and gets you nowhere. We all must get into a serious degree of detail from time to time. But, if you are a leader, you cannot afford to get lost in the details. You must maintain focus on the macro. As my  executive coach Michael Bryant told me, “the higher your position in an organization, the further down the road you need to be looking.”

  • TO DO: Maintain a balanced perspective between the details and the big picture. Don’t get lost in the weeds!
Maintain a balanced perspective between details and the big picture. Don't get lost in the weeds! -Jeff Hannah Share on X

3) Hire the right people. I have made both great and poor hiring choices during my career. In start-up mode, it is tempting to hire the least expensive and most available people you can find. But they may not be what you need! Your people will make or break your organization; they represent your brand.

  • TO DO: Spend as much time as you need to find the right people. Hire for good character and cultural fit; train for the necessary skills.

4) Make cuts when you should. I have kept people on staff when I needed to cut them for financial reasons, but delayed that action for several months, killing my cash reserves. The longer you delay, the greater the repercussion.

  • TO DO: When you know it needs to happen, then do it quickly. If the issue is performance-related, move even faster; doing otherwise can hurt your brand and morale.

5) Some work is not a good fit. I have engaged with certain clients, even when I really didn’t think they were a good fit. I justified my decision – in one way or another. These situations always turned out much worse than I anticipated.

  • TO DO: Determine if the client or project is right for you – in alignment with your moral beliefs, corporate culture, and ethical standards. If not, respectfully pass. These may look appetizing but will be caustic in the end.
Determine if the client or project is right for you - in alignment with your moral beliefs, corporate culture, and ethical standards. If not, respectfully pass. -Jeff Hannah Share on X

I would like to hear about some of the lessons you’ve learned the hard way. Please share them here in the comments section.

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