You wouldn’t think that my mom, age 77, a former college English teacher, would know much about business. But I’ve found that two of her life lessons contain some crucial things we business folks all need to understand and apply.

Lesson #1: Frugality for the good life

Mom was a child of the Great Depression. Her parents literally came over on the boat from Poland and both did manual labor to make ends meet for their family of seven. Yet, they always had a solid roof over their heads and good food on the table. (The other side of my family came over on the Mayflower, which makes me a typical American mutt.)

From this experience, Mom taught me the value of healthy frugality. She doesn’t waste things. And in business – especially in this recession – we need to be extremely good stewards of our resources.

Your greatest resource is people: you and your employees. When you truly get your employees on board with the vision and mission of your business, when you empower them, listen to them, and care about them, they can literally increase your business 25 or 50% or more.

Here’s an example: I just read in article in Inc. Magazine about a woman who owned a small upscale clothing shop in Missouri. She empowered her seven employees to get financially literate, teaching them about inventory turns and margins and how they relate. In October 2007 she did $55,000 in sales and a year later in October 2008 she did $81,000, in the midst of one of the worst recessions of our life times.

Lesson #2 Understand & use the wheel of life – wherever you are at the moment

Mom also taught me about the wheel of life. As a kid, I envisioned this as a Ferris wheel. She told me that things always cycle around – when you’re down, you will always come back up. Hard times cycle back to good times. My mom, an avid gardener, would probably put it in terms of nature – that winter always leads to spring and new growth. Keeping that perspective is vitally important at times like these!

Are you at the bottom of the wheel right now? Take heart. Remember the other times in your life when things looked bleak and you were ready to hang up the towel. Use that knowledge that you can get through anything.

Or perhaps you’re at the top of the wheel right now. Yes, even in our big, bad recession, some people are doing very well. I’m not telling you to start living in fear of the inevitable turn of the wheel. I’m reminding you to always have your Plan B, and Plan C. The most successful entrepreneurs are actually not really huge risk-takers. They take calculated risks, and hedge their bets.

One of my mentors recently reminded me that about 80% of the things you try in your business will fail, no matter how much you think they will do great. This means we will be “failures” most of the time!

Isn’t that amazing? In order to be very successful, you just have to fail more than others. You have to turn that wheel more times. So don’t be afraid of the low point of the wheel.
Just keep on turnin’. You’ll be at the top again before long.

You know moms are always right. So how can you apply my mom’s two business lessons today?

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