By Robert Stevenson

According to the Small Business Administration, entrepreneurs start 543,000 new businesses each month, but only 18% of them ever succeed. Instead, 46% succumb to incompetence, 30% to lack of managerial experience, 11% to lack of experience in goods or services and 13% to other issues, like neglect, fraud or disaster.

You may notice that three of four of these failure triggers relate to lack of experience. That should be no surprise; after all, there’s no substitute for raw experience. Even Albert Einstein agreed when he said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.”

So, I thought it might be useful to put together a list of business axioms to help you shorten the learning curve and get acquainted with the lessons of experience in bite-size form. These are tidbits I’ve gleaned across years in the business world, pithy ideas that you should examine closely to see if you’re utilizing them in your own approach. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Listen carefully to your clients; they will tell you how to stay in business.
  • Minimize company policy and procedures. Simplify every chance you get.
  • Under-commit and over-deliver.
  • Take time to chat with employees; they too, have good ideas.
  • Remember, anyone can be replaced...you included.
  • Employee turnover is much more expensive than paying well to begin with.
  • Celebrate what your employees do for you.
  • A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, so fix or replace it.
  • Leaders give more to their staff than just a paycheck.
  • If you’re going to lose, lose early.
  • The person who asks the questions controls the conversation.
  • Great leaders take joy in the successes of those under them.
  • Praise loudly and blame softly.
  • Always push yourself to make continual improvement.
  • Don’t burn bridges. You’ll probably need them again someday.
  • Arrogance kills success. Don’t let your own arrogance blind you.
  • When you go the extra mile, people take note.
  • You’re not as unique as you may think you are.
  • There are many ways to do something; embrace ideas from all generations.
  • You can never achieve greatness without a little discomfort in the process.
  • You will not learn anything while you are talking. Listen closely and talk less.
  • Look sharp. Dressing well helps you exude self-confidence without saying a word.
  • Never waste your energy looking for an excuse. Save that energy to look for a solution.
  • Smart people learn from their mistakes; wise people learn from other people’s mistakes.

I know that’s a lot to digest, but comb through these carefully — I guarantee you’ll find something useful. One of my favorite quotes comes from Will Rogers: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” Experience is a cruel teacher. It gives a test before presenting the lesson. That isn’t fair, but it’s reality. Hopefully you can gain something from the axioms listed above, so your teacher won’t be so cruel. Remember, wise people learn from the mistakes of others.

Robert Stevenson is one of the most widely recognized professional speakers in the world. Author of the books How To Soar Like An Eagle In A World Full Of Turkeys and 52 Essential Habits For Success, he’s shared the podium with esteemed figures from across the country, including former President George H.W. Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Anthony Robbins, Tom Peters and Steven Covey. Today, he travels the world, sharing powerful ideas for achieving excellence, both personally and professionally.