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Points To Ponder

Posted On: 4/11/2005

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There is a time for sustained reasoning and there is a time for pithy one-liners. At the risk of sounding like a trade-magazine Buddha, here is a grab bag of aphorisms penned by yours truly over the past few years.

A key success strategy for small business is: make friends and alliances with large business.

Many short-term predictions about technology fail on the side of excessive optimism. Most long-term predictions about technology fail on the side of excessive caution.

Statistics are just averages - not scientific laws. Numbers do not impose iron limits on individual potential.

Joining a trade association is like joining a church or a political party. If you wait until you find one that's perfect, you'll never join. So the lesson is, don't wait for perfection. Join now and help make it better.

Making a deal that genuinely serves the interests of both parties is called "enlightened self-interest." It demolishes the illusion that we face a choice between helping others and helping ourselves.

J. Paul Getty, one of the world's wealthiest men, said several years ago that he wished he were starting over today. The opportunities for start-ups, for small companies and for individuals, he said, is better now than ever before in history.

Have a fallback position. Diversify.

Nothing in the U.S. Constitution guarantees any particular industry the right to do business, or the right to do business in its preferred way. As the tobacco and liquor industries are (very nervously) aware, we're always just 418 congressional votes away from a new Prohibition.

There is power in taking action, on whatever scale you start. But do it now. That's the ticket. Action! Action now. There is no substitute for action.

The most powerful edge that small, entrepreneurial companies enjoy over big companies is nimbleness and flexibility. Therefore, small companies face a stark choice: strive relentlessly for constant innovation and market leadership; or squander your main advantage.

There are some problems we cannot solve, but we can still cope with them. There is an enormous difference between "solving" and "coping."

In any challenging business relationship, know in advance where you draw the line of acceptable behavior. Later, if a person or company crosses that line, respond with the course of action that you mapped out earlier, in moments of calm reflection. You may be acting "with" anger, but you will not be acting "out of" anger , and that makes all the difference.

A classic piece of American business advice states: "You should hold your friends close and your enemies closer." One way you hold them close is with a bulletproof contract.

Those who insist on viewing everything through the filter of their previous experience, become prisoners of the past. One secret of success in this fast-changing world is that we must "learn how to unlearn."

The secret of demanding and getting the utmost from your colleagues, while remaining on the best of terms with them, is respect.

Nobody ever truly "persuades" anybody of anything. People persuade themselves, and this often happens only when people are ready to transform their entire identity and their whole orientation toward life , not just their political or business views.

All companies change over time. Good companies change with the times. Great companies create the change that defines their times.

Despite the talk we're starting to hear about how China will be the world's economic leader a generation from now, Americans can compete and win anywhere in the world , and this will never change. With our culture of freedom and our love affair with whatever is new and novel, the United States still leads the world every year (by a good, wide margin) in new patents, new inventions, new ideas and innovations. The American advantage is based not on size, resources, numbers or dollars, but on spirit.

We have it in our power to define our times as an age of limitless opportunity.