On a recent 710 WOR “Mind Your Business” broadcast, Yitzchok Saftlas (YS) sat down in conversation with guest, noted attorney Richard Solomon, in which they each shared some of the most valuable real-world business lessons they have learned in their years of experience.
YS: The first major business takeaway I’d like to share is to ‘plan for Plan A, prepare for Plan B.” A person always has to be prepared for Plan B. Of course, you should have everything scripted out and drilled down in order to make sure your plan A is solid. But make sure that your Plan A is solid . But sometimes, there are surprises. They’re unavoidable. Do, for anyone, whether in business or just in life, it’s okay to chart out and have your Plan A down to a science, however, always prepare for Plan B. Richard, what is one major piece of advice you would like to share?
RS: Providence favors the bold. You’ve got to take chances in business. Not risky chances – everything has to be measured – but you have to put yourself out there. You and I both took chances by working in radio, by writing books, you took a chance by starting Business Class, those were all chances. Even though the world is a lot different now, there are fewer trade shows and things are more virtual, you still need to increase your surface area. You need to be out in the real world as much as you can. You still always need to have business cards. The rules haven’t changed. You need to be bold. You need to take chances. You need to express yourself. Show everyone your unique attributes, your approaches to business, and unique marketing ideas.
YS: Another great one we hear all the time is “don’t give up before you try.” It sounds so simple But there are many times when people will say, “This is never going to work because X,Y, and Z.” Now, you can’t ignore common sense. You have to factor in real world realities. But at the same time, don’t give up. There are so many times people will just give up. But did you try? Don’t give up before you try. It’s important advice.
RS: I’m going to give you two for the price of one. You need to be your own advocate and you need to be your own customer support. Advocate for yourself. If you think you have an idea, advocate for yourself. If you feel that you’re not being heard, you’re not getting your message across, advocate. Don’t just stand there. Advocate.
YS: And that’s coming from an attorney!
RS:Another important one is, don’t overplay a bad hand. One of the things that you see in business, in negotiations, tradeoffs, and lawsuits, is people constantly overplaying a bad hand. They just have a two, a jack, and a six. That’s a terrible hand. But they’re playing it as if they have a royal flush. If you have a bad hand, make the most of it, but don’t overplay it . You have to cut your losses.
YS: In a similar vein, don’t cry over spilled milk, but don’t let the milk spill again. People are human. People make mistakes. It happens. But what are you doing to ensure that the mistake is not repeated? So often, people will make the same mistakes again and again. Call a timeout, do a post-mortem. What could you do differently to avoid repeating the same mistake.
RS: A long time ago, I was listening to an interview with Carlos Santana, the guitarist and famous musician. And one thing he said that really struck me was, “Change is inevitable. Growth is an option.” It really stuck because change is truly inevitable. If you look at the way the world was and how business was done in the ‘80s, ‘90s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s, the transitions of technology have been incredible. I mean, we’re on Zoom now. But who knew what Zoom was back then? This is like something the Jetsons would have thought about. Change is inevitable. But growth truly is an option. Because if you’re not willing to adapt and embrace that change, you will be left behind.
YS: Another one I feel is very relevant is to never guess when the data exists. I can’t tell you how often I see this. People are having a conversation and they will say, “Well, I guess,” even when the data exist, it’s okay to guess. It’s called a guesstimate. It’s something that comes from life experience, wisdom and a variety of other factors. Then you can make a calculated risk decision, but it’s based on information you don’t have. However, never guess when the data exists. It’s so important. If you’re having a conversation with someone, and there is data to back you up, why guess? Just call a timeout and say, “You know what? I’m going to check that out. I’m going to check the actual data.”
RS: Here’s another two-part one. Part one, be careful of hot mics. A lot of times, people will think that a Zoom meeting is over and start talking. I stayed on one Zoom meeting, and I heard all of the people talking about their settlement parameters, which they really shouldn’t have done because I learned all of their cards in the whole settlement game. Finally, someone said, “Is Rich still on?” I just said, “Yeah,” but I had already heard 20 minutes of banter that maybe they should have kept to themselves. Part two, be careful when you hit “reply all.” For example, in the court system, you will get emails between all these people, including judges and other staff, and then you’ll see someone hot “reply all” and include all of them in their email. So, be careful when you hit “reply all.”
YS: Never be oblivious to the obvious. For example, there was a polling company that needed to run a poll to figure out how Orthodox Jewish voter would vote in a certain election. Now, in general, these phone polls are conducted on Friday night. So, the polling company wasn’t getting any type of results because, of course, they’re calling Orthodox Jews on Friday night during Shabbos! They were oblivious to the obvious. Sure, they didn’t know that. But the point is to always just think about what you’re suggesting. Make sure it’s a rock-solid idea. Never be oblivious to the obvious.
RS: So, my next one is “what makes you think I put everything in the book?” I’ll give you a good example. I was litigating in a small claims court and I saw that my opponent took out and was using my book, “Winning in the New York Small Claims Court.” He showed it to me and said, “It’s a great book.” And we just trashed and killed him in court. As I walked out, I said to him, “What makes you think that I put everything I know in that book?” Always reach for real expertise, not just the book.
YS: This is really profound one. Pessimists focus on challenges. Optimists focus on solutions. There are people out there that just always run into problems. In fact, Norm Trainor has a great way of saying it, he said, “There are problem finders and problem solvers.” Optimists focus on solving issues. They don’t see roadblocks, just speed bumps. They understand it. They understand that there are some challenges along the way, but they don’t obsess over the challenges, they focus on the solutions and are successful in their goals. However, the pessimist always kind of spirals downward. They just obsess over challenges and therefore can’t move forward.
RS: Leadership needs to lead. You actually need strong leadership. You need to have a vision and that vision needs to be communicated, and it needs to be executed. Too often, leadership leads from behind. That doesn’t work. In business, you have to be out there. You have to motivate your people. You have to problem solve. Be resilient. Know that change is inevitable and embrace it all. There’s a lot of dynamic uncertainty out there.
YS: I’d like to share a quote that has to do with my line of work. ‘marketing’s role is to educate. The role of sales is to close.” Now, those who are in the sales and marketing world usually do realize this, but I know when I’ve shared this line, it hits home in a very strong way. The role of marketing is to educate, to create awareness, to build out the environment, to establish a narrative. However, the role of a salesperson is to close. The role of a salesperson is not to educate. Ideally, when a salesperson walks into a room to close a deal, the prospective client is fully educated on the product in advance.
RS: One of my favorite quotes is, “I started with nothing, and I have most of it left.” There’s this concept that you need money to make money. I’ve interviewed a lot of very famous people like Steve Wozniak, and they all say, “I started with nothing,” and a lot of them really did. They started with very humble means, and yet they built empires on products that are now standard for everyday life. So, I always joke around, “I started with nothing; I have most of it left.” Now the truth is, you don’t want to have most of it left, except maybe only in the first inning.
YS: Being a great problem solver can actually be a great problem. If you’re always going to jump in to be the safety net and solve the problem, then that’s a problem because the team us not going to be acclimated and trained in how to solve the problems on their own. So, if you’re a great problem solver, that’s great. But don’t try to always jump in and save the day because you will condition the team to always run to you to bail them out. You have to train people on how they ca also solve their problems.
RS: Strike while the iron is cold. Why cold? A lot of times, there’s heated discussion, a lot of emotion, and you can’t talk to people because it’s just too hot. You know, in the military, they talk about hot landing zones. Sometimes, you just need to wait for things to cool down, so that calmer heads can prevail. And that’s why you have to strike while the iron is cold.
YS: Don’t just look to solve an immediate problem. Rather resolve to look and solve the root of the problem. Many times, people are fixing the pothole, but the pothole keeps happening. Why are you just showing up with the pavement truck and not looking at the roadbed itself and fixing it? Don’t just look to solve the immediate problem. Then you’ll be able to snuff out that issue so it doesn’t happen again in the future.
RS: My final piece of advice is stand by your product. If you can’t stand by it, don’t sell it. So often, people call customer service, and they either don’t support the product or they don’t know how to support the product. You have to support your product. You have to stand behind it. That’s your reputation. That’s your brand. And by the way, the internet will make sure its reputation is spread far and wide if you don’t.
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