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60 lessons from 6 years in business

Magic Beans came to fruition six years ago today. In honor of the occasion, here are sixty things I’ve learned over the years. It should be noted, just because I’ve learned the lesson doesn’t mean I’m always successful at applying it. That’s OK, because knowing is half the battle.

  1. Start a business with your spouse only if you really, really like spending every waking minute together.
  2. Don’t start a business because you’re pregnant and bored and you think it will be easy. It won’t.
  3. A good trade show is your single best opportunity to evaluate a lot of products in a short time period.
  4. Try to avoid going to trade shows during the last four weeks of pregnancy.
  5. Try to avoid going to trade shows during the first four weeks post-partum.
  6. Never miss a trade show, no matter what else is happening in your life.
  7. Make every effort to time your conception based on the trade show calendar.
  8. After you finish ordering all the merchandise you need to fill a store, people will buy it and you’ll need to order it all over again. This is the essence of retail. It is healthy, but time-consuming.
  9. A good sales rep will always tell you what not to buy. A bad sales rep will tell you to buy it all. Listen for these clues, and only trust the good ones.
  10. Fads are strange and unpredictable creatures. Don’t try to understand them, just keep a safe distance.
  11. For job candidates, a strong cover letter can make all the difference.
  12. If someone comes late to a job interview, he’ll be late every day after that, too.
  13. If you ask a job candidate to name a weakness, nine times out of ten, the answer will be related to workaholic tendencies. Like that counts.
  14. As soon as you hire even one person, you’re a manager. Be a good one.
  15. Always call their references. Always.
  16. Nothing says love to your employees like affordable health insurance. And ice cream.
  17. Being the boss doesn’t mean you need to be bossy – remember to say please and thank you.
  18. Promote from within whenever you can.
  19. Don’t create a job just to keep someone from moving on.
  20. Don’t convince anyone to take a job s/he doesn’t want.
  21. People like a cake with candles on their birthday, even if it isn’t a surprise.
  22. Set clear expectations right from the start.
  23. Only airplanes run on auto-pilot. Check in regularly or balls will drop.
  24. Hold people accountable when things go wrong, but also ask yourself what YOU should have done differently.
  25. Always give people the benefit of the doubt.
  26. If someone steals from you, don’t give second chances.
  27. Use tools. It’s the human way.
  28. Don’t buy a point of sale system or a phone system without doing significant research first.
  29. Technology isn’t just your friend. It’s your lifeline.
  30. Too much technology from too many sources will annoy the people who have to try to make sense of it all.
  31. Set the bar just high enough. Success is the best motivation.
  32. Babies visiting the workplace will decrease productivity but increase joy.
  33. When your kids come and visit an office filled with toys, they will still just want to draw on the whiteboard.
  34. An office without a whiteboard is like a car without wheels.
  35. A clean desk is a balm to the soul.
  36. An empty email inbox is nirvana. Or, in my case, Shangri-La.
  37. A blog is like a very hungry dog. Feed it or it will bite.
  38. A to-do list without self discipline is a sail without wind.
  39. Company picnics are a worthwhile tradition, especially when softball is involved.
  40. Good goes around. Do favors for competitors and they’ll do the same for you.
  41. Aim to return every phone call and respond to every email. Even if you can’t always make it happen, never stop trying.
  42. Great customer service means never having to say you’re sorry, except when you do.
  43. A heartfelt apology goes a long way.
  44. Never let a customer leave angry.
  45. Pregnant women are beautiful. Tell them that – they appreciate it.
  46. Never assume someone is pregnant, no matter how big the bump.
  47. Auto-attendants are a part of life, but everyone loves hearing a live person on the other side of the phone.
  48. Never say “no” to a customer without adding “but.”
  49. Choices are good. Too many choices are not so good.
  50. If it looks like poop, it probably is. Wear gloves.
  51. Sleep is overrated. So is coffee (sorry, Eli).
  52. Whatever else is going on, make time for exercise. Your mind and body will thank you.
  53. Get home for dinner every night. Make very few exceptions and try not to talk about work.
  54. If someone asks for your honest opinion, give it. Gently.
  55. If you’re stuck trying to solve a problem, go for a run.
  56. If you need to come up with a great idea, take a shower.
  57. Getting it right is much more important than being right.
  58. Make a lot of friends in your industry. Good relationships are the cornerstone of a good business.
  59. Surround yourself with amazing people and you can do anything.
  60. If you will it, it is no dream (Theodore Hertzl)

11 comments

  1. So much goodness here Sheri. I admire what you and Eli do so much! -Christine

  2. Congrats on 6 years! Love number 40 and 58. So true.

  3. #32= :)

    happy birthday magic beans!

  4. Great list, Sheri! Hard to believe it’s 6 years … except that I keep track by Mira and Sam’s b’days! We love Magic Beans and you!

  5. Great stuff Sheri! I was going to list my favorites but too many to list. Happy Birthday Magic Beans!

  6. Thank you all – this was an uplifting day.

  7. This is truly applicable in most service industries. I am going to keep this list and refer to it often. Congratulations!

  8. Thanks for sharing.
    You two are amazing.

    May you continue to see success, keep growing and having fun.

    Ps I disagree about not creating jobs to keep good people and about running and showering.

  9. Ari,
    You’re right, I should clarify. Do everything you can to keep great people, but don’t invent a job that doesn’t really fit into the needs of the company in order to keep them. If you can invent a job that will add value to the company, never hesitate.

  10. Oh boy, do I know all about babies and trade shows! We planned our first around my annual show and she came with me, all six weeks old of her! Thanks for the perspective!

  11. Some of the truest words about retail I’ve read. Congratulations and to your continued success!

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