40 Lessons From 40 Years In Business: How To Survive & Thrive Through Thick And Thin

If you adhere to timeless principles, build a team and culture you’re proud of, and keep learning, it’s possible to survive and thrive even in tough economic times. Here are 40 lessons from our 40 years in business to guide your journey.

Wondering how (and whether) your business can navigate turbulent waters?

Take it from a small business that’s been around for 40 years this month (Happy Birthday to us!), and that has partnered with countless other businesses of all sizes over the course of all those years:

If you adhere to timeless principles, build a team and culture you’re proud of, and keep learning, it’s possible to survive and thrive even in the face of difficult economic circumstances.

Here are 40 lessons from our 40 years in business that you can use to keep your ship going full steam ahead, whether the tide is high or low:

  1. Plans change; values remain.
  2. The definition of success is not universal.
  3. Make sure you own your definition of success
  4. Every staff member offers unique value.
  5. Every staff member is replaceable.
  6. Sales and marketing are honorable professions.
  7. If you do not believe sales and marketing are honorable professions, do something else.
  8. Most people want to help. Ask for advice.
  9. Create company values and use them to drive decisions.
  10. Making great hires makes great companies.
  11. Mentor good employees to become great.
  12. Not all great employees become great managers.
  13. If you think you’re good at everything, you’re not good at self-assessment.
  14. Team members with different behavior styles enrich your company. Remember that when differences drive you crazy!
  15. Manage yourself; lead others.
  16. Great customer service applies to both internal and external customers.
  17. If you never feel unworthy, you probably are.
  18. The tenure of your staff says more about the leader than the staff.
  19. I believe in continuous improvement.
  20. Improvement seldom happens in a straight line. Accept the lows to achieve the highs.
  21. Value curiosity; be curious every day.
  22. Strong people usually possess strong weaknesses. Recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses may help you cope with others’.
  23. Both relationships and results matter.
  24. You need your colleagues and customers more than they need you.
  25. “Yes and” achieves better results than “yes but.”
  26. Big, massive wins are amazing and infrequent. Seek smaller ongoing improvements for a shorter path to success!
  27. Do not create unnecessary conflict, nor avoid it when it occurs. Positive conflict resolution often yields unexpected positive outcomes.
  28. Judge yourself by what you do, not what you know.
  29. Explore your fears.
  30. I have blind spots. One is forgetting that I have them.
  31. Kindness and toughness are not exclusive.
  32. Ask why you do what you do. Ask why it matters. Ask yourself and ask your team.
  33. When communicating, nothing I say is as important as checking to see what the other person heard.
  34. The way to prove that an idea will fail is not to try it. The more difficult the task, the longer the trial needs to be. Failure is often the best path to success.
  35. Remember to celebrate successes large and small.
  36. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Hire others who are strong where you are weak. Focus on strengths.
  37. There is no such thing as too much genuine thanks and appreciation.
  38. Praise in public, criticize in private.
  39. When your work has meaning, you do your best work.
  40. If you run your business in good times, the way you run your business in bad times, you won’t need to worry as much about the bad times.

The last lesson is a bit of wisdom from my dad, Milton (Micky) Kline. Here’s to more good times than bad, and to growing our wisdom along with our business successes for years to come!