Lessons for 2014 from Three Renowned and Successful Businessmen

Dec 26th 2013
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Welcome to the AccountingWEB series "Michael Alter's Dollars and Sense" by Michael Alter, president of SurePayroll. You can see all of his articles here.

One of the most important things you can do for your firm is to continue learning. It’s one of the key things that separates successful leaders from the not so successful. The people who help their businesses achieve new heights are the ones who are continually learning how to get better.

So as we head into 2014 and we start to see some bright spots in the economy, take some notes from some of the most successful business people out there. Make them part of your philosophy in the New Year.

Lesson 1 (from Jeff Bezos, founder,

We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.”

This is Bezos’ philosophy on making changes within your business. Your end goals don’t have to change, but you will almost always have to make changes in the tactics you use to get there.

Don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t get so hung up on details that you’re not moving forward. Don’t assume that just because you’ve done something one way for years, it’s still working as well as it did in the beginning. Maintain your vision, but always look for new ways to improve it.

Lesson 2 (from Warren Buffett, billionaire investor):

It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Buffett has many memorable quotes and lessons, but this is a great one to keep in mind during what I like to call the moment of truth. This is that moment when you will either keep or lose a customer based on the actions you take. Remember how easy it is to do reputational damage to your firm, especially in today’s world of social media. Whatever you say to a customer, make sure it’s something you’d be comfortable seeing on Facebook the next day.

Lesson 3 (from Mark Zuckerberg, founder, Facebook):

I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress.”

Zuckerberg’s point is becoming more and more salient every day. Technology has made so many things easy in business today, particularly things that may not be core to your business, such as payroll, marketing, and IT. Make sure you’re outsourcing when possible. It can result in considerable time and cost savings.

About the author:
Michael Alter, payroll expert with an MBA from Harvard Business School, is a nationally recognized spokesperson providing thought leadership and sensible advice to help accounting and payroll professionals build deeper more profitable relationships with clients. Alter, president of SurePayroll, writes the Trade Secrets column on and is frequently published in Bloomberg TV, Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur Magazine.


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