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A Memoir of Fifty Years in Business


1: The purpose of a business is to generate profits. Always remember this. You need to evaluate every decision you make on the basis of will it enhance the company’s ability to generate profits, either directly or indirectly 

2: The two most important functions in a business are increasing revenues and decreasing costs (which, by the way, will lead you to rule # 1). Success in business can be defined as: Revenues Exceeding Expenses. That’s it. It’s that simple. No matter what else requires your attention in running your business, never, ever, forget that the goal is Revenues Exceeding Expenses (REE).

Some firms call it “the bottom line”, or “profits” or “net profits”. Some publicly held companies talk about “enhancing shareholder value”. But whatever you call it, it’s REE and that’s what has to happen to make your business successful.

3: You can’t make a good deal with a bad guy (and even if you make a deal with a good guy you better worry about his successor).

4: If two people want to do business together they’ll find a way

5: Everybody’s favorite subject is themselves (and nobody EVER rejects a compliment).

6: Plan and measure … and measure …. and measure

7: Always be certain that your instructions and expectations are clear to the people you are addressing; confirm that they are understood.

8: Pick your battles: a) what are your chances of winning and b) what’s the prize?

9: Be sure to accurately match your skills to your job (you don’t want to be the world’s best golfer at a high stakes poker game)


A)    Michael Corleone says (more or less) “Pop told us to keep our friends close and our enemies closer.” Translation: always have accurate and timely intelligence on your competition.

B)    Hyman Roth said (more or less) “Did I complain when they put a bullet in Moe Green’s eye? No! You know why? This is the business I chose.” Translation: you’d better be comfortable in your work environment. If not you’ve got three choices

I: Move on to something else you like. Run away and join the circus or become a cowboy or go to medical school. You have to be passionate about what you do. You have to like it

II: Get used to it.

III: Change the environment. This is the least likely to succeed. You’re in an environment that has been institutionalized and everybody else is going along with it. You’re the only salmon swimming upstream that wants to change the flow of the river. Revert to rule # 8. Probably better to consider 10: B) I

12: Never quit! When things get tough, don’t throw in the towel. Think it over – from another perspective. Use all your assets. Work it out. In the famous words of Ray Kroc (McDonald's founder):

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful individuals with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

EXCEPT SOMETIMES … you also have to be able to recognize when to, finally, quit. Sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not.

13: Do the tough things first. Don’t keep putting off the difficult tasks. Jump on them first. Get them over with. They’re not as tough as you think they are. Confront every difficult situation head on and quickly (it’ll usually turn out not to be as difficult as you thought)

14: For more valuable rules read Machiavelli’s “The Prince”

15: A Brand is worth more than 10 years of hard work

16: Leadership!!! Assume leadership at every opportunity: ownership, responsibility and accountability

17: Everything you do and say will ultimately be revealed to people you didn't intend to hear and see those things you said and did. In a lesson I learned from McDonald's, any deal you make must be able to withstand the harsh light of sunshine. Don't ever do or say anything that you might be embarrassed by or ashamed of in different circumstances

18: The truth will never hurt you (providing you follow rule 17)

19: There is no finite number of rules to anything!