Sunday, May 11, 2008

5 Business Lessons From Mom

While pondering my Mom on this Mother's Day it occurred to me that long before I was reading business books and working at start-ups I was witnessing her successfully run a small business. My Mom was an Avon Lady for years (20'ish?) and for many of those years was the top salesperson in her district. Turns out, she was an excellent teacher in what it takes to run a business. And now, I'm using those lessons every day in my own business.

Here are 5 lessons she taught me:

  • Delegate - Know your strengths and how you can use other's skills to the fullest. OK, so she made use of a bit of child labor by having us help her deliver Avon books - but hey, we got paid (I think it was $1.00 for helping). It was a brilliant move.
  • Don't make up people's mind's for them - She'd give all her customers the special seasonal inserts to the books, not just those that Avon were targeting. She told me on more than one occasion, why should she make up her minds for her customers? For example, Jewish customers had Non-Jewish friends to buy Christmas gifts for, why make assumptions about who would buy what?
  • Never underestimate the power of the referral - My Mom taught me quite young that a woman could buy a $3.00 lipstick, and bring the book into her work place where hundred dollar orders could be made. Never, ever, underestimate the power of word of mouth.
  • It's all about service - My recollection is that Avon had a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and my Mom enforced that. If someone used half a product and wasn't happy, she took it back, no questions asked. She understood that giving people excellent service is the first goal, and the sales will follow behind.
  • It's all about growing your customer base - My Mom wasn't in this Avon thing for a quick buck. She spent years building up loyal customers who loved her products and loved her service. She was only going to be successful through careful growth, not gimmicks.
  • Bonus: Take pride in your work - As a kid, having a Mom who was an Avon Lady wasn't exactly the most glamorous job. But my Mom taught me that she was giving her customers a service they truly loved. They bought her products because they worked and worked well. And they bought from her because she delivered the service they could be proud of. She truly took pride in her work, and taught me to as well.

Thanks Mom - not only for being a great Mom and doing all the things a great Mom should, but for teaching me how to be a business mensch. If I have success with i2x, there's no doubt a big chunk of that is because of all the lessons you taught me.

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