Workspace on dark wood table with Mac and paperwork.

I have learned many lessons during my career about what to do and what not to do in business. Although the lessons are numerous and the variations significant, I have reduced them to what I have designated as the “Business Cs.”

1.) Choice

You choose what you will and will not do. These choices may be determined by a variety of factors including geography, timing, reasonability and potentially, integrity. Keep in mind that you are the same as the work that you perform and that its image and message remain long after you are gone.

2.) Commitment

When you commit to anything, do so with full determination and conviction. It should be an obvious reality but doing a job must be inclusive of doing it completely and with maximum focus and excellence.

3.) Courage

Being a small business owner can be lonely, isolating, frustrating and scary. But it can also bring big payoffs and be extremely rewarding.

4.) Creativity

Sometimes thinking past traditional boundaries is optional and sometimes it is mandatory. To distinguish yourself from the competition and to create the best available solution, it is often necessary to devise and implement solutions that are revolutionary, clever and oftentimes risky.

5.) Coaching

If you are good at what you do and you have learned important lessons along the way, share your knowledge, your challenges, your victories and your insights. You have already determined that your methods have been successful, both for you and for those whom your products and services touch.

When your problems are not capable of being solved or you feel that you have hit a wall with respect to understanding your problems and their solutions, consider coaching. Sometimes, a new view, greater distance and objectivity are critically important to your situation. This is not a display of weakness; instead it demonstrates maturity, responsible leadership and intelligent management to obtain a new look that is free of any emotional baggage or prejudice.

6.) Clarity

What do you want? It’s one of the most powerful questions I know. And it’s a tough one to answer. Just as soon as you get old enough to think, you have people telling you what they want. Parents, partners, spouses, children, friends, bosses, colleagues, customers and clients – they’ve all got opinions about what’s best for you. And sometimes their requests and demands can feel like a swarm of mosquitoes buzzing around you demanding attention. And if you’re not clear on what you want, you have little protection against the blighters – what others want becomes very hard to resist. Very often, your instincts and gut feelings are the most reliable.

Taking the priorities of others into account, they will never have the type of vision for what you are doing that you do. No matter who, the thinking of others is impacted by their own experiences and agendas. This is not to suggest that the feelings and suggestions of others are unimportant. But in this case, keep in mind that you are the one who knows most clearly what is the best for you and your business.

7.) Conversation

Everything can change through one powerful conversation. Although initially that seems to be a warning or indication of potential danger, it is also a message concerning opportunity. The laws of serendipity and irony apply. We have all heard stories about people running into people in elevators, 5K runs, coffee shop lines and hair salons who have had dramatic if not life-changing impact. In other words, do not limit your most important thoughts or your availability to the board room. Enable yourself to be a participant in conversations of all types, formal or information, prepared or spontaneous, large or small. Any learning is good, including that which may seem to be trivial or lacking in timeliness.

8.) Center of influence

All the things people do to get the word out – this is a lie that business owners tell themselves: I need to get the word out – not true. You need to get the client in to your business.

Because just getting the word out – what does that do? Usually nothing. It’s folly to market to the masses. Not all people are appropriate for your product or service. Your responsibility is to identify your specific market and focus on the needs and priorities of that demographic. Once this is completed, you can streamline and customize your approach in order to make it understandable and attractive to those whom you want to influence and motivate to purchase what you offer.

What you need now is the referral. People who already know your work are missionaries and advocates for your work to other people. The ideal circumstance is a customer who is so pleased and satisfied that he or she considers it an obligation if not a pleasure to share what you have done or sold to those who mean the most to them.

9.) Client base

Focus on your existing client base and make sure you are astonishing them over and over. An astonished client will talk. A satisfied one will not. Mediocrity is unacceptable and will not drive your business. Meeting expectations is never sufficient, particularly when you always have the ability and responsibility to exceed those expectations.

10.) Conscience

If ever you need to wonder about what you are doing as morally right or wrong, don’t do it. Your responsibility to the morally right and ethically correct is never worthy of scrutiny or compromise and should never be challenged. Doing the right thing is never wrong, especially if it eliminates the need for apology.

11.) Curiosity

Become genuinely curious about your clients. Push yourself to learn everything there is to know about them. It has been proven repeatedly that many clients prefer personalized service rather than anonymity. Remember their names, their hobbies, their children, their tastes and their habits – buying and otherwise.

The dividends are many. In addition to motivating your clients to return, you substantively improve the entire buying experience, making it an enjoyable exchange rather than an improvised or clumsy transaction that is completed purely by rote.