There Ain’t No School For This Job

I like this time of year.

Summer slows, Labor Day ends, the heat lets up a bit in Texas, and as everyone comes back from vacation, we all take a good hard look at our goals and we get to work on everything we still want to accomplish this year. We think about growth. I think about principles.

Here, we think more than anything about how we can help our clients run even more successful businesses. How we can unleash their potential, if you’ll pardon the use of my own catchphrase.

Our clients are experts in their industries, brilliant at what they do every day, but many are new to running a business. Few have formal training. Do you really need to go to business school to succeed? Of course not. Hell, you might not even need college – Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and many other entrepreneurs dropped out in college or even high school. But there’s still reality – managing your books, hiring, god forbid, firing people; forms, cashflow, clients, customers. On top of that, you have to keep yourself sane. There’s a reason entrepreneurs report higher rates of depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder and ADHD – this ain’t no cakewalk. 

Yet, no education can truly prepare you for the reality of running a business. Even my finance degree from Texas Tech – the Harvard of West Texas, thank you very much – didn’t cover things like holding your team accountable or how to hire and fire. Everyone screws up – me included – in your first few years. All you can do is stay humble and try to learn from your mistakes and the lessons of your fellow business owners.   

Here are a few of my hard-earned lessons.

Find your mentor.

I got lucky: I got to learn from the best. Before I was at Far West Capital, I worked for Don Stricklin, now our Chairman, at another bank, and we built the factoring business from 0 to 50 million. Don’s a special guy, and one of those people you learn from without him ever telling you anything.

I was 24 years old then, and Don gave me a blank sheet of paper and a front-row seat on the management team and said “get after it.” He was 36 then, and I always thought of him as this 50-year-old guy. I was 36 when I started Far West Capital.

You might have one, or several, but trust me, you’re going to need a Don – somebody who’s done it before, who knows where you’ve been and where you’re going. If you’re really lucky, they might even partner with you.

Your mind and your time are your most important resources. Treat them that way.

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you know that we believe the power of mindfulness. I meditate every morning. It wasn’t easy to make it a habit, but now that I have, my mind is stronger and I’m a better strategic decision maker.

Now, you don’t have to meditate to run a better business, but applying the principles of mindfulness will help. Don’t just rush through your day. Take the time to reflect. Note what’s working, what’s not. Then codify it. Make it a deliberate and purposeful part of your daily operations.

Are you thinking “I don’t have time?” Sure, that’s probably true. You don’t have time for much. But consider this: Every minute you spend thinking through your decisions will likely be a minute you save later, when you have to justify it, explain it, train it, communicate it.

Build processes for your goals.

For us here at Far West Capital, that means not just setting goals, but creating a system so that we’re all accountable to them, every day. We’ve also made practices for:

  • Transparency  – Our account managers are proactive about managing relationships. We’re constantly communicating with our clients to make sure we’re helping them stay on the right track. We document all the info we gather and share it across the team. That way, anyone on our team can pick up the ball and help where and as needed.
  • Know the “why.” What matters to your team, both inside and outside of work? What about your clients? Your customers? We ask a lot of questions and dig into the details. We learn about our team and our clients’ goals, professional and personal. We learn what success means to them… and that “why” matters. 
  • How you do one thing is how you do all things. We have a weekly process for reporting on our goals. We never waver. It’s that daily work that matters; if we don’t do the work, it doesn’t matter how good our systems are. And regular client checkups are just as essential. I’ve found that, as long as we perform regular check-ins, and do it with genuine care, relationship issues are rare.

Nothing Wrong With A Little Book Learnin’

I’m a big reader, but there’s so many ways to learn these days. Some of these new online courses can help you learn new skills or just think about things in a different way. Don’t know where to start? Try a MOOC — or “massive open online course.”

These are actual courses by top-rated and -respected universities, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the Wharton School of Business, and a lot of them are free. Of course, you don’t need to go Ivy League. Platforms like Coursera or edX let you choose classes from institutions across the country. If you think marketing, accounting, or even negotiation skills would help you run your business better, set aside that time and chalk it up as investment in your business.   

What’s your hard-earned business lesson? Share here in the comments or on our  Facebook page.


Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call.

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