In for a Penny

Last week I finished a book called In for a Penny by Peter Hargreaves. Peter discusses how he started Hargreaves Lansdown, an investment firm, in the United Kingdom with his partner Stephen Lansdown. Through the ups and downs there are some lessons that all businesspeople can benefit from.

Here are the key takeaways that warranted my highlighter:

Hargreaves Lansdown

Image via Wikipedia

  • Put the client first, the business second and yourself third.
  • If anything is too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
  • Be wary of people who are flash with their money.
  • On investing:  When the news is widely known, it is always too late to sell. Investors are prone to chasing past performance, forgetting that what matters is the future, not the past. Markets reflect what analysts think the economic situation will be in two or three years time, not what it is today.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the oil.  The more fuss you make the more attention you will get. This is important when dealing with vendors.
  • If you are sending the same letter or email to a large amount of people, divide the time you spend on the contents by the number of people you intend sending it to. You can’t spend too long getting such a letter right.
  • Secret to a good day’s work in business is to ask yourself two questions:  “Which task do I least want to do today?” and “Who do I least want to speak to today?” Then first thing in the morning get the guy you don’t want to speak to on the phone and deal with everything you have to talk to him about, however unpleasant it may be. Immediately afterwards do the ask you least want to do.
  • On writing marketing literature:  Never talk about yourself, concentrate on the reader. Don’t waste time introducing your service, telling people who you are and what you are doing.  People are just not interested. Tell them what you will do for them, how you will do it and how they will benefit.
  • When going into business:  everything is negotiable. Anyone who pays the asking price for anything, especially in your early years of business, is mad.
  • Competition is good for business. It makes you sharper.
  • Never give up attempting to improve everything you do, whether it’s marketing, research, administration, client calls, staff training and product or service quality.
  • Only recruit when the existing staff are so overworked that they will accept anyone new. Only move offices when you are already heaving at the seams. People hate change, but are much more ready to accept it when they are desperate.
  • You can always have too much of a good thing.
  • In business, never call anyone by their first name until you are invited to do so.
  • Many large companies go wrong in the following:  they start a new venture and say they’ll give it two years even though it becomes apparent after the first six months that it will never make a profit – they stick with it anyway.
  • Anyone in business should constantly be campaigning to abolish all meetings. Meetings stop people from doing their jobs (love this one).
  • If all monopolies are bad, state-run monopolies are the worst.
  • Produce advertising in house and make sure you are offering the customer something they want.
  • It is important not to give people grand sounding titles.
  • The best phone call a boss can make is a call to his own firm to see what happens.
  • If the boss won’t get his hands dirty, you can guarantee that the foot soldiers won’t either.
  • Everyone on your staff should always be ready to ask the question “why?”
  • Where there is trouble, there is always business to be done.
  • On handling complaints from customers: Never, ever tell the customer what you are going to do. Because they will inevitably deem it insufficient. The best thing to do is ask what they would like to see the establishment do to make them happy. They will usually ask for something less than you were prepared to suggest yourself.
  • Turn your business on its head once every two years.
  • Management consultants are a waste of money. They extract your people’s own ideas and put them into a long report as if the ideas were their own. In a good firm, the good ideas will already have been implemented.
  • As a boss you must never forget that your staff are the most important part of your business.
  • You can always tell when you are dealing with a great business, as they will try to negotiate you into the ground.
If you liked these and are interested in learning more, buy the book here.
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  1. #1 by Christopher Phillips on September 26, 2011 - 4:19 PM

    These are all great. To me though two things are missing. Number 1 in all relationships is: Maintain Integrity and honesty. Number 2 is sort of on the back of number 1: Clear pricing no smoke and mirrors.

    If you client does not trust you then they will not be your client for long. If you cant explain to your client what the charges on the invoice are you lose number 1 and it is done. aka the real “1 and done”.

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