Business lessons from reading Let My People Go Surfing, Part 2

In this multi-part series, I will talk about my lessons learned from reading Yvon Chouinard’s Let My People Go Surfing- The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, and how they transfer to software and general business principles that we can all take back to our organizations.

Part 2.
In the past week of my reading Let My People Go Surfing I covered the topics of production, distribution, branding, finance and human resources. Here is what I learned:

Is the product timely?
There is the classic phrase: “Luck favors the prepared”. I believe this wholeheartedly but being prepared is not only preparing yourself and team, but doing it at a time in the market that is correct. Looking at many of the best products or services of all time and you will see incredible teams and even better timing with market need. You will have to have both to succeed.

Don’t assume
I am quite guilty of this. I won’t ask a team member a critical question and assume that “it will be ok or easy to do”. This is a critical mistake and when planning for a new product you should involve everyone that is a part of the process, from square one, to make sure all considerations are met. It may take more time up front but it will save you pain and heartache in the end.

Develop Partnerships
We tell our customers and users this all the time- we consider them more partners than just a customer. This is not us being overly kind but it's actually how we feel. We know that both parties will benefit more from a partnership, long term, than just a customer relationship. In this way, feedback is more easily given and understood and both organizations can grow with each other to be an even better fit, over time.

Borrow ideas from other disciplines
This is something I’m seeing more of day in, and day out. With more advanced technology being built, you are seeing engineers borrowing designs from nature and turning them into functional uses for humans. I too am always on the lookout for ideas to use for 2Shoes. One that comes to mind if that we consider service to be just as important as our product. Just in the same way that Zappos is a customer service company that happens to sell shoes, 2Shoes is also focused on providing not only the best product but the best service in the industry.

Don’t be fake. Buying stock images can make for a beautiful site, but it is also a lie. Use pictures of people actually using your product and promote those that do. This will show others that you value the relationship and that it is a true partnership, and not one that is built on a lie. Take this to the copy on your website, as well. Make sure that the wording truly reflects the values that you hold dearest, at your organization.

Profit is the outcome of doing everything else well
True, businesses need to make a profit. But don’t make that the aim. Aim to provide the best product and service possible. If you do that, and are genuine and care about all the individuals involved, then you will most likely be profitable as well. Your bottom line should be doing good for the world, not just your shareholders.

Control, but not too much
Practicing self control is critical in business, but it’s not the most important thing. We all have plans and budgets but if they are too rigid, we can’t react to market changes or our customers’ needs. Furthermore, allowing your employees to take ownership, and then giving them the reigns is important to have a happy and healthy workplace.

The Golden Rule
Everyone knows it: treat others the way you want to be treated. Truly do this and when you are in a tough situation, ask yourself: “how will this make the other person feel?” A company is not just one person and your employees are the most important part of its success. Make sure to treat them well and value what they bring to the table.

Benefits and Invest in the Future
Treat your employees well by giving them benefits and things they need to stay happy and healthy. Don’t just stop with them- make sure they have what they need to provide for their family. Invest in providing healthcare and childcare. This investment in your employees’ children is not just for them, but for the whole world as they are the future.

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