TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Things You Should Basically Never, Ever Say

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

What you think and say definitely shapes your behavior. So don’t be your own worst enemy. If you want to succeed – whether as an entrepreneur or in any other professional and personal endeavor – here are ten things you should never say to yourself. Sometimes a small shift in perspective can make a huge difference… if you let it.

“All I need is one great idea.”

Everyone has great ideas, but the only ideas of value are the ideas you execute. If you’re searching for that one big idea that will change your life – or change your business – take a step back and regroup. Spend a few minutes each day searching for a revolutionary idea and put the majority of your focus on developing ideas that help your business execute better. Fix what isn’t working and think of better ways to serve your customers. Those are the ideas you really need.

“I deserve it.”

Sure, you work hard. You sacrifice a lot. But hard work and sacrifice isn’t a result; each is just an element in a process. The only thing you deserve is what you earn. So for example, don’t pull cash out of your business simply to reward yourself because you’ve worked hard and you “deserve it.” Reward yourself after your business has generated – and is likely to keep generating – significant cash. Deserve is not a function of your effort, it’s a function of your bottom line.

“If I could just get my hands on more capital.”

No business has enough capital. According to the Census Bureau 30% of small businesses were started with less than $5,000, and 10% of small business owners used a credit card to partly or fully fund the business. You may have little control on how much cash you have on hand, but you have a lot of control over revenues and costs. Stop worrying about the capital you don’t have and focus on leveraging what you do have – especially your “effort” capital.

“We’ll be fine after we cut a few costs.”

If you’re like me and your background is in operations it’s natural to focus on increasing productivity and minimizing costs. Often it’s impossible to save your way to profitability, though, and sometimes making cuts – especially in marketing and sales – makes it even harder. Sometimes Randolph Duke is right: The answer is to, “Sell, sell!”

“I can count on our customers staying loyal.”

Loyalty is hard to earn and easy to lose. I’m so loyal to my local bike shop I’ll even pay more; otherwise I’d feel guilty. But say I want to buy a bike they sell for $3,000. Would I buy the bike elsewhere for $2,900? No. $2,800? Probably not. $2,500? Absolutely. As it should be, customer loyalty is primarily based on customer self interest. If your prices are higher your service can outweigh those price differences, but only to a point. Plus even as we speak your competitors are working hard to deserve the loyalty of your customers.

“Let’s focus our marketing on building awareness.”

Conventional wisdom says people need to see an advertisement multiple times before they will act. Yet no startup can afford that slow – and costly – an approach. Always work to crafting direct advertising campaigns that work, at least to some degree, the first time. Then tweak and tweak and tweak some more. Besides, “awareness” is almost impossible to measure – but actual revenue always is.

“I want my company to be like one big happy family.”

While you should certainly try to create a friendly, caring, and supportive work environment, your business should neveroperate like a family. Employees, like customers act, from self-interest. When their interests no longer align with your business, they leave – as well they should. Always be friendly and caring, but never let trying to create a family atmosphere overshadow running a profitable, sustainable business. Without profits, no business “family” can stay together.

“I’m just one small piece of the puzzle…”

True, but only to a point. All employees are important, but you are more important… if only because you have the greatest authority and therefore the greatest responsibility. Ultimately your business is a reflection of you; fail to recognize that fact and you give up the responsibility that is naturally yours.

“Word of mouth will definitely grow our business.”

Word of mouth is relatively passive and largely outside your control. No matter how many incentives you create, most of your customers won’t become raving fans and spread the “gospel of you” to everyone they meet. Except in rare cases the only way to grow a business is to actively market and sell. Someday word of mouth and referrals may drive significant business, but until that happens, focus on hunting, not gathering.

“If we just leave it alone… things will eventually get better.”

Sometimes you can’t afford to let others struggle. Allowing employees to learn from their mistakes is fine, but sometimes you have to step in. Before you delegate a task, decide how far you’re willing to let an employee go. Then track their progress and take over when necessary. Employees can still benefit from an abbreviated experience as long as they stay involved after you take back some of the control. Learning experiences are great… but never at the expense of results.

Read more from Inc.com:
How 4 Entrepreneurs Started Up (Really) Young
Firing an Employee–Even a Bad One–Is Hard to Do

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