Monday, May 25, 2009

Business Ethics As Taught by a Seven-Year-Old

I have seven-year-old twins as many of you know. While I have tried to bestow upon them the wisdom passed down by my parents to me, I know now that they are as much teachers as students. Here are some of the lessons I've learned from my kids, and how they apply to business.

Sales -- If you don't think you're going to get a "yes", find someone new to ask. Kids quickly learn which parent says "yes" to which questions. My wife lets the kids eat in the living room in front of the television. I let the kids have an impromptu lemonade stand. My wife lets them go swimming in their underwear. I've purchased kittens, hermit crabs, and about a hundred goldfish on a whim.

Great salespeople find the people capable of saying "yes". Great salespeopledon't write off an organization if one person says no, they just hunt for
someone new.


Public Relations -- We have a rule in our house. If one of the children does something that hurts the other, that child gets to choose the punishment. It can be as severe or mild as they choose. Pulling hair could get you five minutes in the corner, or six months in your bedroom.

Surprisingly, as angry as they get, there are far more lenient on each other than we are. You see, they know that someday the shoe will be on the other foot. Someday the judge will become the convict. They've created a balance of justice where we seldom have to discipline them for crimes against each other.

Too often we see businesses attack their competition in one form or another. Ultimately you garner more respect out of leniency and mercy than you ever will out of punishing them when you have the opportunity. Your audience will view you
favorably if you build up your competition, then calmly explain why you think
your company is better.


Establishing Value -- My children each have the opportunity to earn five dollars per week. They have a handful of daily and weekly chores. Recently they've been more helpful around the house as they grow and their abilities improve. My son said to me the other day when I asked him to help out, "I'm going to help you, Papa, but you realize this isn't part of my allowance."

It's great to go the extra mile for your customers. But when you do make sure
they understand the value of your time. We encourage our clients to exceed
customer expectation whenever possible. At the same time we know giving
something away for free often creates the perception of worthlessness for that
service. Be subtle, but remind your customers that everything you do has value.
This will prevent you from being taken for granted, plus improve the perception
of value in the minds of your customers.


Be Imaginative -- A few days ago my son was playing with a variety of action figures. I asked him what he was playing. He looked at me perfectly straight face and said "Army Pirates Robots Aliens and Ninjas".

I said "Well, where does the dinosaur fit?"

"That's not a dinosaur, it's a pirate." Upon closer examination, Tyrannosaurus Rex clearly had an eye patch drawn with black Sharpie.

There are rules to business. There are standards. There are operating
procedures. Don't be afraid however to be imaginative. Do things differently
than you have in the past. Do things differently than your competitors. Keep
your eyes open for new opportunities. And when all else fails, draw an eye patch
with black Sharpie.


There are business lessons everywhere. You can learn them from seven-year-olds and 77-year-olds. Pay attention to the world around you and constantly think about what it's trying to teach you.

If you'd like to share a business lesson you've learned in an unexpected place, put your comments below or send me an e-mail.
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