My favorite business quote

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Someone asked me the other day to sum up in one sentence my favorite piece of business advice. Many years ago, I came up with this quote: “If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.”

I use to say it all the time to myself. Then I started saying it out loud to my employees. What I found was that it encouraged them to think through what they were doing, and if they didn’t know how to do something, they should ask for help. I created a culture that it was not only okay to ask for assistance, it was expected.

I learned that I made most of my bad mistakes by blindly proceeding when I didn’t really know what I was intending or how to do something. My knee jerk reaction was often to do something first and worry about the consequences later. I also noticed that most of the mistakes my employees made conformed to this pattern of acting first and thinking second. This phrase was catchy enough that people starting saying it to each other. The result was that we all got in the habit of talking things through with each other before we set out on a course of action.

Barney Cohen

President, Business 360 Northwest



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