10 Commandments of Business

10 Commandments of Business
by Daniel Lapin
Summary with a few modifications by Kirk Booher

  1. Belief – in Your Purpose along with the Dignity of Business by Operating Morally
  2. Connect – to Many Right People and serve them well
  3. Know Thyself – Discover and Build upon your Innate Talents and Shore-up Weaknesses
  4. Do Good – Golden Service (Do Not Pursue nor expect Perfection)
  5. Lead Consistently – Appropriately Adapting by Constantly Observing, Communicating Clearly and Timely
  6. Constantly Improve – the Changing Probables While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchanging Principles in Creative Ways by Proven Means
  7. Maximize Time – Study the Past, Seize the Present, and Foretell the Future.
  8. Know Your People, Process & Money – It Matters
  9. Be Generous – with Your Time, Talent and Treasure (Act Rich)
  10. Always Bring It – Never Retire and Always Glorify God

  1. The First Commandment
    Belief – in Your Purpose along with the Dignity of Business by Operating Morally

Making money is much harder if, deep down, you suspect it to be a morally reprehensible activity.

• Begin embracing these two related notions:
(1) You are in business to serve and provide.
(2) The occupation of business is moral, noble, and worthy. If your life is bifurcated into the work arena and the social arena with the two never meeting, not even in your own mind, then remedying that gap is one of the first repair jobs you should undertake. To really succeed in whatever is the business of your choice, you have to come to understand and utterly absorb into your being the fundamentally true idea that your activities in your business are virtuous and moral, provided of course that you conduct your business affairs honestly and honorably.

• Offer to write a short column or op ed piece for your local newspaper that would forthrightly declare the profession of business to be noble and moral, and explain why. When asked to deliver a short speech for any organization to which you belong, offer as a topic the morality and the nobility of business.

• Read business nonfiction regularly. Make sure that you are always in the middle of a pro business biography. Use your local library, the Internet, and other resources to locate works by and about people who loved business. There are many gems from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries such as Russell H. Conwell’s Acres of Diamonds, as well as more contemporary books. Eventually you will come to find this enjoyable, and your soul will be infused with enthusiasm for the culture of business. Create your own small home library of this kind of material. As well as digital collection and blog.

• While reading, watching television, or seeing a movie, remain on high alert for subtle (and not so subtle) swipes at the dignity and the morality of business. Identifying these gratuitous slurs helps to combat their subconscious impact on your being. Remember how you felt compelled to avenge insults when you were back in high school? You knew that you would feel compromised and unworthy if you stood by silently as the class thug made rude remarks about your mother. Speaking up, although difficult, would make you proud of yourself and make you feel closer to your mother. Here, too, your feelings about your work undergo a boost each time you defend your profession.

  1. The Second Commandment
    Connect – to Many Right People

•Befriend many people who are a rung or two above and below your financial level, then find ways to help them achieve their desires. You will have discovered the secret of Partnership Power.

• Learn to develop new relationships. This will help you succeed not only in business but also in other aspects of your life. Try to win friends, not in order to influence people for your benefit, but for the sheer joy of forming and maintaining human relationships. Paradoxically, only in that way will you stand the best chance of enhancing your life.

• Don’t just try to make connections in specific forums, such as job networking meetings. Try to meet people in other ways—at church, at synagogue, or in your health club. Work to build these relationships. Talk to these people and make reasons to communicate, whether through notes or through e-mail. Invite to lunch, coffee, and other events. Make a list of you top 5 (contact weekly), 20 (monthly) and 100 (quarterly).

• Learn how to relate to strangers with the sincere warmth and interest that turns them into friends. Everyone senses when someone’s interest is not sincere. Trying to give other people what they want only to get what you want does not work very well in the long term. Somehow people sense the ulterior motive. Perhaps it is an air of desperation that you exude. On the face of it, this book’s Second Commandment advises you to build genuine and sincere relationships with as many people as possible with no thought of reward. Beneath the surface, it informs you that, paradoxically, reward will follow in proportion to the lack of self interest you projected while forming the relationships in the first place. Appreciate the diversity of thought and culture. Take the best and leave the rest.

• Make sure all your friends and contacts know that there are ways you could help them and that you are eager to help them. Traditionally, Jews have been quick to identify their occupations. This obviously makes it much simpler for others to make contact for business purposes. It may be partially responsible for Jews acquiring the reputation of being forward and aggressive in business. Letting folks know your occupation benefits everyone and need not be obtrusive or obnoxious.

• Choose carefully those with whom you partner with and do business.. “The customer is always right” is not true if you don’t want to keep that particular customer. Don’t feel obligated to meet the wishes of a demanding client if ultimately you don’t want to be in business with that person.

• Find joy in serving others. Either you believe that another human being is worth being served by you, or you don’t. If you do, then you can risk your life to save his, or you can go down on your knees to help him try on a new pair of shoes. If you don’t think much of other human beings, then you are never going to be much good at customer service, and you will probably find other shortcomings in your life, too. The secret to learning how to love serving others is to develop the character trait of humility. It will win you many new friends and delight all your old ones.

• Be predictable and consistent, and you’ll be seen as a professional. Everyone is moody on occasion, but you shouldn’t let your emotions take control of your professionalism. Most customers and clients would prefer working with someone who does not display an entirely new personality on each occasion. Success in business means getting on with people. If you really are to succeed in business, it won’t be because people think you are smart; it will be because people like you, so be likeable, positive and a person of integrity.

  1. The Third Commandment
    Know Thyself – Discover and Build upon your Innate Talents and Shore-up Weaknesses

To change the way others see you, first you have to learn to see yourself as others see you.

• Set aside a short period each day during which your sole purpose is to become your own harshest critic. Rigorously maintain an utterly private record of each day’s successes and failures in winning the struggle. Create a confidential file in your laptop computer, your personal digital assistant, or your paper organizer that you update without fail each weekday night before retiring. Briefly record each decision you confronted during the day that demanded a courageous or noble response. Detail whether or not you rose to the challenge. In the event that you did not, candidly examine the conflicting tugs you experienced, and write a few sentences describing what would have been the superior decision. Finally, analyze whether there is any corrective action for you to take in the near future. Do this at the end of every single weekday. It only takes about five minutes maximum, but the impact of this little exercise is impossible to overestimate. You will begin feeling the difference in no more than a week.

• As difficult decisions are demanded of you during your working day, share the emotional conflict you are undergoing with your associates. Let your associates know and understand that you are not endowed with superhuman powers and that you feel the temptations of the unwise course of action. After laying out the alternatives, if you can then resolutely take the harder path, you not only strengthen yourself but you also encourage your employees and reinforce their perception of you as an effective leader.

• Seek out small battles to win in your private life. If you are committed to a diet regimen or to an exercise routine, you know only too well the compelling call of that destructive voice that earnestly reassures you that weight loss isn’t terribly important. Winning that round will make you feel invincible and will endow you with additional spiritual resources for winning the next round.

• Start drawing up an inventory of your skills. No matter how irrelevant some skills might seem, write them down. Then, alongside each skill or aptitude, write down the kinds of people who might benefit from those skills. Now brainstorm all the possible environments in which other people might encounter or seek those specific skills. Be open to the possibility that you are not currently deploying your most marketable skills to best or exclusive effect. For instance, Linda in Los Angeles was an experienced editor. She had worked on editing manuscripts for publishers, and she had edited various newspapers and journals. Helping a friend apply to graduate school one day, she discovered an opportunity. In order to win precious seats in graduate school, candidates had to submit essays that described themselves and their life goals. She began to specialize in helping graduate students write winning essays to the schools of their choice. She now employs several ex-editors in her own thriving business, Accepted.com, which serves graduate school applicants nationwide.

• Find out how you really spend your time. Keep in mind the old adage “time is money.” This is part of the secret of compound interest. Time is truly the only commodity of which you are genuinely in short supply. You must now start taking charge of your time, and you do this by finding out just how you are spending it. First, chart how you use your time for a period of a week, two weeks, or even a month; it depends on what works best for you. The key is to emerge from this exercise knowing how you spend your time. Lay out the period’s worth of days with enough space to detail how each hour went by either on a large sheet of paper placed on the wall in some private location, or on an electronic handheld digital assistant. At the end of the time period, ignore time legitimately spent on sleep, dining, exercise, and so on. Then carefully tabulate the 8 to 10 hours that you have available each day for economic productivity. Find out whether your efforts were driven by your plans and your agenda or whether you were responding haphazardly to random stimuli. Determine the difference between important things that may not be urgent and urgent things that may not be important. For example, acquiring a new skill or searching for a better job may well be important, but each is not an urgent task. Job searching is easy to constantly postpone because your existing job is paying the bills. Reading the morning paper, surfing 11 news sites on the Internet, and opening your mail are all urgent because they convey timely data. However, they are not very important to your future wealth. Discover how your time is being spent, and you may be surprised, even horrified. Now accustom yourself to seeing yourself as your own boss. As your boss, don’t you want your employee (that is you) to put in a full day’s work? Sure you do, so make sure that the hours set aside for wealth creation each day are dedicated to just that. Later on, you will see more clearly how to organize your time productively for the things that count. You will learn which activities are worth focusing on and which are expendable.

  1. Fourth Commandment
    Do Good – Golden Service (Do Not Pursue Nor Expect Perfection)

Neither neglect the imperfect nor expend yourself on futile pursuit of perfection, while failing to make the most of less perfect circumstances.

• Accustom yourself to questioning the conventional wisdom in all areas that seem to blame business. You will often hear people making assertions with such self assurance that you hesitate to question those frequently controversial positions. Learn how to do so politely but firmly with honest curiosity and openness. When encountering arguments on how business will run amok without additional governmental supervision, ask how the opposing viewpoint might respond. Similarly, when business is blamed for environmental problems, health problems, and any other social ills, consider the possibility that there may be real villains who are being ignored, and try to identify who they may be.

• Rid yourself of all feelings of envy toward those who have much more than you do. Replace envy with feelings of empathy and compassion for those with less. View your own condition as nonstatic. You are growing all the time, economically speaking. It may be a cliché to talk of whether your glass is half full or half empty; but one thing is for sure: The glass is a whole lot larger than it might have been. Focus on the good, the wonderful, and the miraculous. Think of how much you have to be grateful for. The quest for wealth is infinitely more daunting for those who live in a society less suited to wealth creation. Thinking, acting, and sounding positive, happy, and upbeat make you more pleasant company; and building many new friendships and relationships is crucial to your quest.

• In both your business and your personal life, try to become comfortable with the second best solution if the very best solution is unattainable. In giving others advice, remember that you must first determine if they are able to follow your advice. If they are simply incapable of following the very best advice you can come up with, then the second best advice now becomes the best advice.

  1. The Fifth Commandment
    Lead Consistently – Appropriately Adapting by Constantly Observing, Communicating Clearly and Timely

To lead is important, but it may not be what you think it is. Leadership is not a noun; it is a verb. It is not an identity; it is an action. Don’t try to become a leader, just do it. Just lead.

• Learn to follow if you want to learn to lead. Leaders depend on their followers accepting a sense of hierarchy in order to validate their leadership. You stand more chance of making it to leadership if you never miss an opportunity to point out to those around you that your actions are not simply spur of-the-moment impulses, but are the consequences of accountability to some external entity. For example, it is not uncommon to find conspicuously successful Jewish business leaders who defer many major decisions to an aged parent who was the original founder of the business.

• Have the courage to persuasively present your vision.
Your vision might be a new marketing campaign, or it may be a vision of fairness and integrity. Naturally, you must know how to confront productively, but no leader fears confrontation.

• Induct your employees into the culture of your organization.
Without this, your employees will never participate fully as members of a team, and they will fail to develop internal guidelines that will allow them to use their initiative in the absence of specific direction. Be crystal clear on exactly what you expect from those who look to you for leadership. Ensure that no employee languishes in loneliness. Provide skill training that will allow each employee to contribute to the bottom line. Finally, make sure all your employees have the ability to remain afloat when things get turbulent.

• Adapt the power of prayer to your business goals.
Early each day, find a quiet opportunity to say out loud an affirmation of faith having to do with some business challenge. It need not be lengthy, but it should be stated explicitly, and it should reflect your conviction in what you intend to achieve. Identify as precisely as possible the exact areas in which you intend improving. Then, write down your specific goals. Say your affirmation loudly enough for your own ears to hear, and do this regularly for a period of at least two weeks before you dismiss it as ineffective. If you follow these instructions diligently, you will be pleasantly surprised.

• Make sure you balance short and long term business goals.
In your own money making areas, you have short term issues and you have long term planning. Generally, people attend to the short term fiscal urgencies while sometimes neglecting the longer term planning. Whether as an executive, a parent, or a reader of this book trying to enhance your revenue producing capacity, everyone needs to set aside scheduled time on a regular basis for longer term planning. This is a function of smart time management, and it must be done.

• Make sure not only that you have a long term plan but also that those whom you lead are well aware of your long term views.
When addressing immediate urgencies, find ways to express what needs to be done right now in terms of how it advances your entire organization along the track of its longer term plans.

• Carry yourself like a leader.
Don’t fidget during meetings. Look people directly in the eye when speaking to them. Speak authoritatively, and be able to give presentations without notes. Improve the quality of your speaking voice so that you sound like a leader. Don’t let others know you have doubts; instead, project confidence, optimism, and courage.

6.The Sixth Commandment
Constantly Improve – the Changing Probables While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchanging Principles in Creative Ways by Proven Means

Convert change from enemy to ally by understanding when to enjoy the exhilaration of change and when to fight it and steadfastly defend the unchangeable.

• Understand that the Star of David
It represents a strong life view that helps deal with change. The first triangle, standing firmly on its base, represents the core aspects of life that do not change and on which you can depend while everything else around you may shift and take on new and unfamiliar forms. The second triangle, upside down and balanced precariously on its point, signifies the natural and technological world, in which each passing year adds to your store of knowledge and control.

• Accept innovation and embrace change.
The choice is either to accept innovation along with the pain it may cause some people or to reject it and ensure poverty and pain for almost everyone. You should cling to the firm pilings of the unchangeable and resist being swept away by the maelstroms that swirl around your very foundations. Change can be frightening and painful, but there is no way to hold back this progress. You need the ability to let go of the old and embrace the new. Not being taken by surprise is a great benefit.

• Try to absorb and make changes gradually.
Set aside some time each morning, say 20 minutes or so, as a “stress equalization” period. Read something not directly work related, ruminate over your longer-term goals, or merely meditate spiritually. Thereafter, proceed with your workout at the gym or your breakfast or whatever else comes next as you prepare for the day’s work. This will help you ease into the day, instead of abruptly embarking on the day’s work.

• Do your best to avoid two or more simultaneous stress changes in your life.
If you are planning on a major move, say, to another city, don’t schedule your wedding for the same week. If you unexpectedly lose your job, postpone the surgery you had planned for the same period until you have had a chance to absorb and adjust to the career change.

• Create your personal principle profile
In your computer or on a dedicated page in your organizer on which you make, modify, and maintain a list of those things that never change for you. Those constitute the anchor that will hold your ship steady regardless of how violently the gale howls or how high the waves threaten to hurl you.

• Keep in mind your core values—as an individual and in your business.
These should never change, regardless of the technological developments or market changes that are occurring around you.

  1. The Seventh Commandment
    Maximize Time – Study the Past, Seize the Present, and Foretell the Future.

Who is wise? One who can tell what will be hatched from the egg that has been laid. Not he who can see the future—that is a prophet. Wisdom is seeing tomorrow’s consequences of today’s events. —Babylonian Talmud, tractate Tamid

• Recognize which external events
Know which events will affect your business or your life and which will have no effect at all. Some coming events can cause real change that will impact your business yet leave other kinds of businesses immune, whereas other future events will not affect your activities but might well disrupt those of someone else. Never procrastinate in the face of the former, but refuse to be stampeded by the latter.

• Interpret events without emotion.
Seeing the future has little to do with native skills or intelligence. Some highly educated individuals are conspicuously unsuccessful at predicting the future. Ego is one enemy of effective futurism. Learn to overcome it, and you are well on the way to seeing the future far more clearly.

• Before looking forward, look backward.
If things are stable and steady, they will continue to be stable and steady unless acted on by some force. How likely is it for some force to materialize? If things are changing rapidly, they are already being acted on by some force. Find it, recognize it, and determine how that force is likely to behave. Will it continue? Will it strengthen or weaken? Examine the trend of the matter concerning you. What has it been doing up to the present? Once you have discovered the trend, you must ask yourself whether it has been behaving in this way because nothing has made it behave differently, or is it behaving this way only because something is preventing it from behaving differently.

• Watch for patterns.
There are always larger patterns and trends to watch and to try to understand. As a business professional, you should remain on high alert for these trends, and you should try to understand the underlying causes driving them.

• Be open to the possibility of cycles and trends.
Never allow yourself to become blinded by them. Cycles and trends should be a factor in your assessments of what the future will bring, but only one factor; and they should be given appropriate weight—neither too low nor too high.

• To hear the soft footsteps of approaching trends, block out all the external “noise.” Set aside time when other, more compelling stimuli are absent. Only then will you be accessible to these tiny signals. Make sure you set aside a regular time, even if it is only a short amount of time. Do nothing else at the same time. In this way, you place yourself in what I call “receive mode.” Finally, alternate between keeping your mind quite clear and focusing your thoughts on the specific agenda you had earlier prepared. This will help prevent undisciplined mental meandering.

• Visualize your future.
Whether you are contemplating an investment or planning on opening a new business, faith is paramount. If you are unable to clearly visualize what it will all look like were it to go well, you would be better off deferring the action until you can see it. Your chances of success are vastly enhanced if you spend a few moments first actively visualizing the conversation with your prospect as culminating triumphantly. • Practice memorizing. To the extent that seeing the future is the flip side of remembering the past, our ability to recall becomes even more valuable. Although you probably haven’t done this since elementary school, you should recover your ability to memorize. The best way to achieve this is by selecting poetry or prose you enjoy. Then set yourself a schedule to memorize something in its entirety.

• Select reading material that will help you recognize trends.
There are magazines available, such as American Demographics, whose entire content is devoted to demographic trends. There are volumes published by the U.S. government, such as the Statistical Abstract of the United States. Initially you will find much of this material unappealing and alien. Don’t feel you must read these books and magazines cover to cover. In each, you will find at least something of interest. As time goes by, you will become increasingly familiar with the technology of analyzing trends, and you will come to enjoy both your mastery of the field and your growing arsenal of facts.

  1. The Eighth Commandment
    Know Your People, Process & Money – It Matters

Your money is a quantifiable analog for your life force—the aggregate of your time, skills, experience, persistence, and relationships.

• Regardless of your past performance in this area, turn over a new leaf and start developing your trustworthiness. Trust is essential to any monetary system and to successful wealth creation. Promise less than you deliver is the advice of Rabbi Hillel in Sayings of the Fathers, and it is good advice for us all. In other words, always do more for other people than they expect. Not only will you surprise and delight them, but you will be setting the stage for enhancing your business effectiveness. For example, establish an almost inviolable rule for yourself that you always return calls within 24 hours. Respond carefully and specifically to questions and requests from family members and associates. Some people hope to postpone unpleasant confrontation by responding vaguely and ambiguously to a request, instead of simply saying “no.” Their family members or associates misinterpret the verbal waffling to have meant the agreement or the concession they sought. When you later attempt clarification, you come across as evasive and untrustworthy. It is just as important for you to appear trustworthy in your own eyes as it is to appear so in the eyes of others. You must think of yourself as an upright kind of person, which you can do only if you really are trustworthy.

• Learn how to read financial statements.
At the very least, become more familiar with them. Please don’t dismiss this important component to the Ten Commandments program. On your time management plan, dedicate some serious time over the next few months to mastering this important skill. You should be able to achieve this goal on your own with the help of a good book such as John Tracy’s How to Read a Financial Report.15 You might be tempted to neglect this step, thinking that you are not about to become an accountant. That would be a mistake. Mastering this vital skill starts you on the road to visualizing yourself as a successful business professional. Once you have studied the material and practiced the exercises in the book you choose, send away for the annual reports of several public companies. It does not really matter which companies, although it would be more interesting if they were companies active in industries that interest you. Make sure that you receive and understand the cash flow statement; public companies are required to release them once each quarter. Work your way through them slowly, making certain at every step that you understand what is being conveyed. It is not hard to do; it’s just basic arithmetic once you have caught on to the concepts. If you have trouble, find a friendly accountant; or, if necessary, enroll in an evening accounting course at a local college.

• Prepare and maintain your own personal financial statements.
Your statements don’t have to be of major accounting firm quality. You might already have prepared your annual and monthly budgets and cash flow statements, as well as your balance sheet. If not, you should now do so. Either of the two major personal accounting packages, “Quicken” by Intuit or “Money” by Microsoft, will help you develop an accurate financial picture. You need to know your money, and this is how to know it. You need to know your exact financial situation because that is what you are intending to improve. You can hardly measure improvement if you have no way of keeping score. Finally, examine your figures monthly.

• Search for your own “tropical island” on which to successfully market your goods and services. A dentist I once knew sold his practice to sail around the world for a couple of years. He had hoped to augment his income en route by practicing his craft. Unfortunately, most of the remote islands he visited lacked electricity to operate his high tech tools and instruments. Furthermore, their inhabitants had little interest in the cosmetic dentistry that had been his specialty. He quickly discovered, however, that he possessed another skill that was far more valuable in the palm tree-encircled boat anchorages he frequented. His hobby of scuba diving allowed him to do underwater repairs and lost anchor retrievals for his fellow yachtsmen. Back home in Seattle, scuba diving would not have earned him anything at all. Among the South Sea Islands, his dental diploma was worthless. You, too, possess skills, aptitudes, and experience in which lie real value, provided you locate the people to whom your “merchandise” would be most valuable.

  1. The Ninth Commandment
    Be Generous – with Your Time, Talent and Treasure (Act Rich)

Give Away 10 Percent of Your After Tax Income Through the mystical alchemy of money, giving charity jump starts wealth creation.

• Don’t try to find a rational reason for giving away money.
Charity is irrational. Nevertheless, it benefits the giver in many ways. You give money away not because it is rational but because it is right. It is part of the traditional way of life in the United States. • Give money away because it is one of the most powerful and effective ways of increasing your own income. More than just a few business lunches are scheduled as a result of chance encounters during charitable support work. Rest assured that in very little time, you will be involved in transactions, partnerships, or collaborations that grew from your association with your charitable group.

• Keep in mind that giving away money is like investing.
In the case of charity, you give away money with the idea that it may one day come back to you in plentiful returns, but perhaps it may not. There are no guarantees. The same is true of investing money and effort in your own enterprise. Your investment may one day produce great returns. However, it is just possible that nothing will come of it. But you should do it anyway. Giving away money keeps your investment muscle fully exercised and ready for opportunity.

  1. The Tenth Commandment
    Always Bring It – Never Retire and Always Glorify God

Integrate your vocation and your identity by thinking of life as a journey rather than a destination.

• Stop thinking of retirement as a goal, with a specific date in mind.
And stop thinking of work as a temporary or finite function, something that you should just stop doing one day. Work is valuable beyond its money generating benefits: It keeps you vital, involved in life, and part of a community of others—all of which are necessary for survival and longevity. • Recognize that many people lead very productive lives long into their advanced years. Sam Walton didn’t found Wal-Mart until he was 44 years old, and Colonel Sanders didn’t start selling Kentucky Fried Chicken until he was “retired” at the age of 65. Sanders didn’t like retirement, and the next 15 years were the most successful and productive of his long life!

• Understand that retirement is essentially selfish.
Working productively means that you are caring for others.
It is hard to maintain meaningful relationships with others when you are retired because you are concerned chiefly with yourself—and it shows. If you are getting paid to do something, rest assured you’re doing something that is meaningful and valuable to at least one other person. No retired person has a reliable indicator of his or her usefulness to others. Keep in mind that retirement erodes perseverance, which is one of the most important factors to success. Shrugging off failure and redoubling efforts takes perseverance. Picking oneself up off the ground to where one has been knocked down and taking another shot at the goal takes perseverance. Resisting pain, sometimes humiliation, too, and remaining stubbornly focused on the task takes enormous reserves of perseverance. And perseverance leads to improvement in attaining one’s goals.

• Don’t believe the three lies inherent in the retirement myth.
First, reject the idea that work is only a means to an end; instead, recognize that work is valuable: You should live to work, and you should enjoy the work you do. Second, don’t buy into the idea that as you age, you become weaker and less capable of making money; the opposite is actually true: You know more about your craft or area of expertise, you know more people who can help you or benefit from your work, and you are more mature in dealing with adversity. Third, ignore the misperception that people are merely voracious consumers of finite resources; instead, recognize that you are a creator of something useful and valuable: You are productive.

Life is business, and business is life. Learn one, and you will have also learned the other.