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What I Learned in Kindergarden

Robert Fulghum became an overnight sensation back in the early 1990s by explaining how the lessons we learn in kindergarten can be applied to adult life. Fulghum was onto something (and his subsequent four-book deal proved it), but he didn’t have the full picture.

Much of what we learned in kindergarten (occasionally at the threat of a call to our parents) are equally useful to entrepreneurs. Here are five such lessons. Pay attention, now!

Share and Share Alike

If your business does well, share the wealth with your key employees. If doing poorly, spend what you can to pay good people well. If you don’t pay people what they’re worth, your most valuable resources — the best employees and contractors — will find somebody who will. If you’re a microentrepreneur with just yourself as staff, share alike by subcontracting menial tasks. This lets you focus on the jobs that grow your business and fulfill you personally.

Hold Hands Out in the World

Neither I nor your human resources department are actually suggesting you hold hands with your team mates and employees. Rather, holding hands in the world means establishing a sense of unity and team with your employees. Entrepreneurial guru Michael Gerber recommends simple measures like uniform clothing and a color scheme for all facilities — anything that helps your people feel like they’re part of something larger. People in business with just themselves can attain similar benefits by making their businesses “feel” like a larger operation with devices like a professional logo, attractive business cards and a uniform letterhead.

Play Nice

The laws and customs that govern your industry are there for a reason. Even though a combination of high costs and lax enforcement can make it tempting to cheat, the risks outweigh the potential benefits. You’re not just running a chance of a government fine — bad publicity can cost you much of your customer base, which is a far longer-lasting consequence.

Say “Thank You”

It costs far less to sell to an existing customer than it does to attract a new one. Say “thank you” when you close a sale. Say it again a week later, along with a polite inquiry as to how happy he is with the purchase. Say it again in a month, accompanied by a coupon for further services. Keep saying “thank you,” and “happy birthday,” and “have a safe 4th of July,” “Happy Arbor Day…”

Respect Nap Time

As an entrepreneur, your personal health and energy level is vital to success. Despite the gruelling schedule involved in most start-ups, you must make the time to get adequate rest, eat healthy meals, get a workout and take personal time every week. If not, you’ll find your body and mind start to fail you when you need them most.

A final kindergarten technique isn’t a rule for kids, but a practice for adults: Take time to watch children play. You’ll see that they play with total concentration, no doubts and no fear of looking silly when they make mistakes. Try taking that attitude into your business day — you’ll be pleased with the results.

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