An English Northener recently held the limelight of his life story being made into a film. Despite suffering a touch from the gloss of typically Hollywood fabulation, his Bank On Dave rags to riches type tale of taking on Big Money by setting up his own bank tugs on a certain pang most of us hold.
When reading his daily media business agony aunt column for the first time, the advice I read included this line;
When starting a business, rule number one is: Never Lose Money.
I instantly thought that I'd heard so many 'first rule of business' suggestions, I wondered where this one ranked?
Don't mess with people's pay
Increase shareholder wealth
A great product or service alone is not enough to make a successful business
Choose the right people
Astonishingly - but perhaps hardly surprisingly - the above quintet were the first five results that appeared when I googled 'when starting a business what is rule number one'.
Whilst 'never lose money' didn't make Google's Top 5, Dave can maybe take solace that neither does Paul Graham's. Who's longtime Silicon Valley incubator mantra of 'Make something people want' is also absent.
Then again, nor does it offer the bot du jour's thought. Today, ChatGPT informs me; 'Rule number one when starting a business is to develop a business plan'. Not just any plan mind, but a 'clear and well-thought-out' one to boot.
On one level, there's a neat piece of conversation starting with a prospect here. Not to mention on any internal new product, service or even business unit development.
Simply write up on the board, or type on a slide;
The 1st Rule Of [the endeavour] Is: _______
And ask the audience to fill in the blank.
Possibly expect someone to deliver the Fight Club movie joke; 'don't talk about [the endeavour]'.
You could even trial this with a slide beforehand. Listing all the myriad 'first rules of business' presented to you searching that day. (Or just list the aforementioned eight.)
The point is kind of, there is no first rule.
I'm reminded of the classic meme;
There are two rules for success;
1. Never reveal everything you know
Your ideal first rule may well not be someone else's.
Yet uncovering what they consider theirs to be may well become such a prized, pivotal and powerful piece of intel that finding it becomes yours.