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Voice of RB First Women: What are your business rules?

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Without being semantic, what I want to explore is that the rules of running a business are not so much rules, as ethics. Now, the trouble with ethics is that one man’s ethics are another man’s whim, and therefore are, by their very nature, dependant on the person. On that basis, I would like to take this opportunity to share the so called principles which have worked for me in my 25 years on running my own SME.

It is my opinion, that strong, irrevocable values, which underpin the steadfastness of any company, create the rules. Such values are those things that are unshakeable, no matter what the economy or indeed any external influencer throws at you.

As this is my business, mine are, I admit, quite personal, but nevertheless still very valid. They relate to how I behave, run my business, work with people and recruit the right staff. 

These are my “rules”, which determine how I run my business, and possibly even my personal life. I accept they won’t suit everyone, and the last thing I would want to do is impose my values on someone else, in the same way as I would not take lightly embracing someone else’s, unless they felt fundamentally sound.

However, once you have established values and really live and breathe them, then the “rules” start to write themselves.

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They are also in a specific order of importance:

Be kind

Doesn’t mean be soft or that you can’t be tough either. But what it means is be empathetic, considerate, available, and above all, know when to listen and when to be decisive.

Work hard

I have never been work shy, and admit I find it hard to understand those that do not seem to have this gene. So it’s my business, and if I want to work all day every day, I can make that choice (though sometimes there is no choice). Plus when the going gets tough, I freely admit, I expect my team to stand side by side with me. 

Bad days, and lots of them, sometimes are certainly not unheard of. But by and large, I love my job and as a result this thing people call work- life balance is irrelevant, as the two are irrevocably joined together. I find it hard to accept that not everyone, both inside and outside of my business, work at this pace. It’s a problem and I have to deal with it.

Stay positive

My glass is overflowing most of the time. I am the Pollyanna of the business world in that, by and large, I can always find something to be glad about. This isn’t about being unrealistic, but it’s certainly not about being a pessimist. Long experience had shown me that the boss sets the tone of the organisation, and that sets the whole attitude of the staff to deal with daily issues any business faces. We have a little saying that eventually “a few things really matter, and most don’t matter at all”.

Have fun

I’m a workaholic, I freely admit, but levity when well-placed is a fabulous thing. Humour has saved many a difficult discussion and helps put more serious matters into perspective. It should go without saying that it’s a team galvaniser, and although we don’t run a comedy club, we know when to laugh and when to take things a little more seriously.

So these are my rules, and like all such matters, I do of course break them from time to time. But I do try to make them part of mine and of my staff’s DNA. They work for me.

Jo Haigh is head of FDS Director Services Limited and the author of ‘The Keys to the Boardroom – How to Get There and How to Stay There’. 

Concerned with issues surrounding gender diversity in business? Don’t miss Real Business’s First Women programme:

Drawing on ten years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit – designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business.

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