Rules in Business: Some are Made to be Broken

Rules in Business: Some are Made to be Broken

“Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.” — Thomas A. Edison

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”  —

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Albert Einstein

History is made by those who break the rules.” — the 2000 movie “Men of Honor”

When you are trying to get ahead in business, it’s a good idea to follow some rules. Rules of honesty and integrity are an important for you and your brand to be taken seriously. You need to build a relationship with everyone from your boss, to your co-workers to your clients.

Sometimes, though, it is not only okay to break the rules, it is advisable to do so. “The greatest managers in the world seem to have little in common,” Marcus Buckingham and Curt W. Coffman write in their book First, Break All the Rules. “They differ in sex, age, and race. They employ vastly different styles and focus on different goals. Yet despite their differences, great managers share one common trait: They do not hesitate to break virtually every rule held sacred by conventional wisdom. “

Here then are examples of five business rules we think that you should go ahead and break.

Five rules in business

1. Work your way up.  America’s corporate culture has changed. It used to be that you worked your way up in the same company. Movies and books are full of the stories of the little guy who worked his way up from a part-time job in the mailroom to become the big-time company executive. Today, though, you don’t have to stay put to get ahead.

Second and third careers are normal, and workers are successfully able to transfer their skills at one job to those in a different company or even to an entirely new career.

2. Old school marketing doesn’t work anymore. Sure, social media marketing works and you’ve got to do it, but don’t disregard tried and true methods of the past. For example, Craig Jenkins-Sutton, the founder of Topiarius, a garden design business based in Chicago, had a lifelong love of gardening but no formal training when he got started. He learned how to grow his business through trial and error, referrals and the old-fashioned mode of placing door hanger ads on potential customers’ front doors. He found the door hangars worked better than any other promotion he had tried, and as a result, his business doubled in 2010.

Use your creativity to get out get out there and meet your customers. Free samples, contests and promotions still get people interested. Look for ways to combine the old with the new. Update the old-school method of offering coupons, for instance, by posting digital coupons on your website or social media page.

3. Stick with what you know.  Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, is a great example of a successful business person who learns as he goes along. After finding huge success with his groundbreaking financial site, Musk moved in a completely different direction. SpaceX develops vehicles for space transport and Tesla Motors makes electric cars. Neither are industries Musk knew much about, yet both reflect his desire to break new ground

4. Avoid working with friends and family. Maybe you’ve heard that going into business together is a sure-fire way to end a friendship. Well many of our country’s most successful companies were founded by childhood friends. Here are a few examples, both old and new:

  • Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler started the Mattel toy company as a picture-frame maker in 1945. Handler began making dollhouse furniture from leftover scraps on the side, and soon the company found it would be more profitable to shift its focus to toys. Mattel’s greatest success was with a doll designed by Handler’s wife, Ruth. You might have heard of it. Barbie.
  • It was in their seventh grade gym class that Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield met and began the partnership that later became Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company.
  • Microsoft was founded in 1975 by high school buddies Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
  • When Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs met through a mutual friend in 1970, they “just clicked,” according to Wozniak’s autobiography, “iWoz.” They founded Apple Computer six years later.
  • Stanford University Ph.D. students Sergey Brin and Larry Page invented a search engine they first called “Back Rub” before changing its name to Google.
  • When Taki Skouras, Jaime Brown and Joseph Brown opened a weight loss kiosk, it failed miserably. The friends and their faith in each other did not waver, though, and their second kiosk business, which offered cell phone accessories, did better. Today, their company, Cellairis, has locations throughout North America, South America and Europe.

5.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Today’s best innovators keep changing and evolving. Apple could have kept making a pretty good go of it as a computer company. Not content to stay put, however, the company has continued to innovate and re-invent itself and is now an international consumer electronics company.

Carhartt had an established reputation for its durable, flame resistant work clothing. Desiring to expand from its reliable, but unfashionable image, however, Carhartt redeveloped itself by redesigning its clothing to include more tailored fits.  It worked.

Successful businesses are also looking at the possibility of re-inventing themselves. Burberry has done it. So have Xerox and IBM. Eastman Kodak waited too long and missed the chance.

Okay, now that you’re ready to break a few rules, here is one rule you should never break. You have to give your business venture your all to get ahead. Whenever you read interviews with successful entrepreneurs or great managers, you find that hard work is the common denominator — along with a liberal dose of being in the right place at the right time.

The One Unbreakable Rule

Gates and Trump both speak openly and often about one constant in their careers:  hard work.  The entrepreneurs interviewed for this article also spoke about the principle of hard work.  They didn’t clock out at 5 p.m., shift unreasonable burdens on to their staff or substitute a can-do attitude for actually doing the labor necessary to achieve and maintain monetary rewards.

You can’t phone-in success.  But, if you work hard at something you’re passion about, success will call you.

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