Happy New Year!  It’s September – the real start of the New Year.  While watching the ball drop on a cold winter’s night is the official launch, it’s actually those first crisp September days that give us the feeling we have a chance at a new start.  September memories are all about newness — new lunchboxes, freshly sharpened pencils, and a new back-to-school outfit.  This is the year that we will really get good grades, make the team and make a new best friend.

After years of Septembers we finally climb to the goal of “graduation” — ready for the real world.  Or so we thought.  Of course, we never really graduate.  In fact, some of the most important lessons I’ve learned were not in K to 12 and beyond, but in that classroom we call business. 

Don’t let the urgent drive out the important:  When that deadline starts rolling toward you like a 20-wheel tractor-trailer, it’s natural to shift into overdrive and put all your effort into solving the problem at hand.  But, often the most urgent deadline is not the most important one.  If you get your adrenaline rush from meeting crisis after crisis, don’t worry — guaranteed there will be another crisis to tackle when this one is over.

Clients don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care:  At Epoch 5 Public Relations, this is our mantra.  Our clients expect skills and knowledge, but they deserve more.  They deserve to have us think about and care about their business and their problems.  Firms that don’t put that extra effort into their customers or clients may make the grade, but never the honor roll.

Turn the page:  Yes, you’ve made a mistake — a big one.  It was a stupid decision and, if you were graded, it deserved an “F”.  But, it’s done.  Mentally reviewing it wastes time better spent on the next decision.  Turn the page and move on.  In business there are usually “make up tests.”

Sometimes you can learn more from an “F” than an “A”: It may be a tired observation, but it’s still true — you can learn more from failure than you can from success.  Years ago, I was told that IBM asked potential customers to meet and tell them why they did not win a proposal.  Wow.  “Big Blue” taught me an invaluable lesson.  At Epoch 5, while we love those wonderful letters of appreciation from clients, it’s the occasional criticism that can make us a better agency.

“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff.”: Well, no, not exactly.  With a bow to author Richard Carlson, once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of your business, the thing that distinguishes you from the competition is the small stuff.  The thank you notes, the extra effort you’re not getting paid for, the attention to how your emails or letters look and sound…they’re all “just details.”  But details are the “extra credit” when a customer grades your performance.

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”: Will Rogers had it right.  If you don’t think your business changes, you are just not looking far enough down the track.  Planning to meet the upcoming changes needs to be done every year — and September is a great time to think about the New Year.
I suppose that if business celebrated a graduation, the closest thing would be a retirement party.  But for some of the most successful people I know, staying in school has more appeal.  As one said to me recently, “Why would I retire?  I’m having too much fun.”  I’m sure it has something to do with the possibilities of each new September.