Cindy Norcott’s 25 lessons from 25 years in business

1. Marketing is the backbone of your business– always have a Marketing plan and ensure that every day you do something that will make you top of mind with your clients.

2. Stop playing small – always add another zero to everything you plan to do in terms of activities. Widen your net, expand your reach and think bigger!

3. Just do it! Stop waiting for one day when the time is right or when things are perfect. Today is the day! Remember that continued improvement is better than delayed perfection.

4. Keep it lean – watch those costs and remember that fat creeps in easily. Check every line item on your income statement and ask if it is necessary.

5. Stay humble – you are as good as the month you are in. Never let a good patch give you a big head and never let a bad patch define you. Be hungry, be humble and be the hardest working person in the room.

6. Keep your chin up – you will have hard times but learn to be resilient and to focus on what you can control, which are your activities, your attitude, your thoughts, your body language and your words.

7. Honour your commitments – you will then be known as a person of your word. Even if it costs you, you will gain in the long run. Never lie to suppliers and not pay them. Never hide behind the small print. Don’t shift the goal posts.

8. Build a brand that highlights your 5 best values that you aspire to live up to. Write them down and look at them every day, ensuring that your thoughts, words and actions are in alignment to your highest values. Live in such a way that if anyone spoke badly about you, nobody would believe them.

9. Never lie. Speak your truth every day and always be transparent, honest and ethical. The definition of integrity is what you do when you think nobody is watching you.

10. Deliver what your client has paid for and then add in extra value. Every day gives people more than they have any right to expect. Keep doing this regardless of what comes back to you or who gives you credit.

11. Action is the antidote to despair so have an action plan that you work towards every day. Go to work with a to-do list with focused, itemised action points. It is always the seemingly insignificant actions that lead to success.

12. Stop the excuses. People are defined by their excuses. Be accountable to yourself. Own it. Do it. Get it done. Today!

13. Pick up the phone or get face to face. Too many people are hiding behind their desks and their emails and are not connecting with humans – speak to your clients, staff and suppliers.

14. Grow your network – the primary determinant of success for small business in South Africa is the size of one’s network. Learn to love people, take an interest in them, help their businesses grow, refer them and become the go-to person. Build relationships of mutual respect and trust, which will hopefully turn into valued friendships over the years.

15. Use social media to your advantage as a free resource and remember the golden rule of never putting anything negative on social media.

16. Don’t mistake your social media contacts with real-life friends. There is a difference. The amounts of likes you get in no way correlates to your personal value or the success of your business.

17. Become a shameless self-promoter. If you don’t believe in yourself and your business, why should you expect anyone else to? Portray your confidence and self-belief to others and always tell people about the one positive thing that has happened to you. Self –confidence and arrogance are two separate things – don’t confuse the one with the other.

18. You will never stop working hard. Get used to that idea and embrace it. Hard work doesn’t hurt us. In fact, a day of hard work is very rewarding. If you have passion for your work, you are guaranteed of enjoying the work you do! Put in the hours but remember to always look for smarter and better ways of doing things. If you haven’t changed the way in which you
work in the past five years, you are in danger of becoming redundant.

19. Be nice. To everyone. There are no little people. Every day, do one thing for someone who can do you no good. Remember that you have power to change lives so use that power wisely and generously. It often only takes less than a minute in a day to do something memorable. Be kind. Be expansive. The world needs what you have to give. Be more abundant. If you are not successful enough, it means you are not giving enough. Give away more than anyone you know and soon you will have more than anyone you know.

20. Be an optimist. Believe in your company, product and industry. Believe that tomorrow will be better than today. Share a story of hope amongst your staff. Inspire your people with your positive mindset and can do attitude. Be the model of behaviour that you would like your people to replicate.

21. Do something. Nature hates a vacuum. Just the act of doing something when you are despondent will result in a cycle of activity starting to happen. Action is the antidote to despair.

22. Keep selling. People will forget about you if they don’t hear from you, even if you are good. Remember to keep in touch with clients daily. Be 10% bolder. Timid salespeople have skinny kids.

23. Have manners. Don’t swear, scream, shout, belittle or humiliate others. No matter what title you have or how much you earn, always remember your manners. Nobody wants to work with or work for an idiot.

24. Every day ask the following question – “If we were to go out of business today, who would miss us?”. Hopefully, a whole lot of people would miss you and rely on you being in existence to meet their needs. Ensure that you are relevant, adding value and giving the world the best you can.

25. Life is a marathon and not a sprint so manage your energy. Set realistic goals. Understand there will be obstacles, good days and bad days. Focus on the mile you are in. Enjoy the scenery along the way. The finish line is just one part of the race. Enjoy!