Second Act Success: What They Didn’t Teach in Business School

running a successful business

Prime Women are definitely not rocking chair ready. Even after we leave our day job or full time professional practice, we want to do something more than just play golf and travel. Sometimes, it is continuing what we did before in a more part-time mode. Oftentimes, it is starting and running a successful business, perhaps as a consultant in an area where we are already well-known, or it could be something completely different that we always thought would be fun to try.

Even if we need not worry about maximizing income at this time, no one starts a business with the intent to lose money and it is always nice to be rewarded for our time and effort. Therefore, the rules of running a successful business still apply. However, what you may have learned in business school a few decades ago, though still relevant, is not sufficient in the 21st century. Two vital components were often left out.


The first thing about running a successful business that was not taught was the need for connectivity. Not very long ago, how we communicated with customers and suppliers was much more limited. Mainly it was the telephone and snail mail with marginal assistance from things like faxes and bicycle couriers. It went without saying that you would have a phone and stamps or a postage machine in the office.

Now with smart phones and the Internet, connectivity has reached a whole new level and is still climbing. Of course, you have a cell phone. A web presence is basic and almost passé. High visibility on the various social media platforms, blogs, etc. are things businesses are expected to have. These connectivity tools are now essential for selling goods or services, finding staff and almost every other aspect of being a consultant or a company. In fact, if you do well enough in this dimension, connectivity itself can be all or part of what you have to offer when running a successful business. Think Uber or Airbnb. The one thing they provide is connectivity.


Something else that you really need at every stage of your life, but even more so when you are going out on your own is courtesy. Here I am using the word courtesy as synonym for people skills, emotional-intelligence or whatever we call that set of abilities and habits that make people wiling and happy to deal with you whether they are customers, staff, suppliers and even friends and family. Someone once described this vital attribute as being “easy to.” Are you easy to get a hold of (connectivity again) and easy to talk to? Can a supplier or staffer bring you bad news without worrying about getting their head bitten off, knowing that you will try to fix the problem and not the blame? And how do you react when someone is ready to bite your head off?

How easy a person is to do business with is often an excellent predictor of whose operations will succeed or fail, but one that is very rarely mentioned. Getting and especially keeping staff is a big challenge now with so many of us leaving the full time labour force and, given the aging demographic, relatively few young people entering the workforce. If we want to keep staff, maybe we should check out the main reason people quit. It is a bad boss and it is the lack of courtesy that makes a boss bad. A survey of turnover among construction laborers revealed that they just wanted their bosses to stop swearing at them.

Your new venture will succeed if you remember your manners, be polite and smile more, especially to that techie you just got a hold of after all your connectivity devices crashed.


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