Some business ideas seem to have a life of their own, particularly since they sound so reasonable. Theyre so much a part of the culture of selling and so obvious that they go unchallenged, requiring neither proof nor explanation. But once unmasked, theyre actually untrue.
And thats not all. Some truisms arent only false; they can also be downright dangerous. Here are seven popular business truisms that deserve a closer look by benefit brokers and advisers:
1. It takes money to make money. This one is so obvious that it has earned a permanent place in the pantheon of business lore. Yet, it has taken a life of its own for a less than obvious reason. Strangely enough, it may survive because it offers unparalleled comfort.
In other words, a salesperson can tell their self, If I believe that it takes money to make money and I dont have money, then Im off the hook home-free. We put limits on ourselves when we permit an idea such as this to guide us and give ourselves an excuse to not work hard to get farther in business.
2. I know, but its a tax-deductible expense. The worst money mistake I ever made was agreeing to make a presentation at a conference that was scheduled halfway across the country. The convener held out the occasion as an opportunity to meet and present to possible clients. He described it as a free pass to the hen house. This was his justification for not paying a speakers fee or covering travel expenses.
I can still hear myself justifying spending the money since at least the expenses were tax deductible. One way or another, everyone in business is lured into footing the bill for things that may not be worthwhile. Just because something may be tax deductible doesnt make it a smart move.
3. The harder you work, the luckier you get. How could anyone question this idea? It not only seems so obvious, but its ingrained in our culture. All thats needed is to hear it enough times and we become believers.
Not too long ago, insurance agents were lured into the business by friends, acquaintances, relatives, etc. with a compelling enticement: Work hard in the business for 20 years and then the business will work hard for you for the next 20 years. It sounds like a good deal if you pay your dues, there will be a positive payoff.
Of course, the reality is quite different. Theres no guarantee to get lucky just by working hard or showing up. Today, such effort may not guarantee getting or keeping a job, having your business survive, or living comfortably in retirement.
Or, to put it another way, entitlement is a myth.
4. Look at it from 30,000 feet. Seeing the big picture is certainly helpful when it comes to keeping things in perspective. At the same time, it can ignore the reality of coming face-to-face with problems. Looking at wildfires or a flood from the window of airplane is quite different from what someone sees who races from a home engulfed in flames, waits to be rescued from the rising waters of a raging river or is a first responder to a threatening situation.
Some people in business can take too much pride in being big-picture people and do a disservice to those who dont fly quite so high. Because they fight the frontline battles, put out endless fires, correct the mistakes, satisfy customers, make things happen or all of the above, they may the best resource for solving and identifying problems.
5. You have to believe in yourself. Its a given that it takes a certain amount of self-confidence to do well in business. But quite often self-confidence races out of control, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
There are those who know all the answers, believe they do everything right, think they make brilliant decisions and possess the formula for success, fabricate facts and focus attention on themselves rather than the company or their customers.
This can be a dangerous game today, particularly when its so easy to be tripped up by increased transparency.
6. If youre not part of the solution, youre part of the problem. Wow! Thats not only tough talk, but its also nonsense. We all face enough challenges without adding ideas that only make our task even more difficult and demanding and this is one of them. For some people, there are only two teams, two views, two answers, two ways of doing things, and two attitudes one is right and the other is wrong. Thats it.
With a duality mindset, we create the enormous problem of cutting ourselves off from the many shades of grey and reducing complicated problems to simple solutions.
7. You can BS others but you can't BS yourself. And, finally, heres the granddaddy of them all. If only it were true but it isnt! While self-deception is complicated, most of us are masters at the everyday garden variety: Convincing ourselves and then others something we want to be true is, in fact, true. And its a useful tool for shaping the way others see us.
Heres just one example of how we BS ourselves in business resumes and business bios (see LinkedIn). Facts are fudged, twisted, exaggerated and ignored, claims are made that stretch credibility beyond the breaking point and achievements are piled as high as an elephants eye (and every week, the pile grows higher). Many are little more than exercises in creative writing.
All of which suggests that its far easier to BS ourselves than it is others. And there may be nothing worse than self-deception.
Seven business truisms that arent just untrue, theyre dangerous because they limit success, undermine credibility, create distrust and inhibit achievement.
John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales consultant and business writer. He publishes a free monthly eBulletin, No Nonsense Marketing & Sales. Contact him at email@example.com, 617-774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.
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