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Success in business depends on preparation. Those who wing it are those who fail. But don't prepare just in your area of technical expertise. Prepare there, yes. But also:

  • Keep learning about your own field. There's a reason why state licensing boards require continuing education. Apply this same concept to whatever areas you work in. If you are licensed as, say, a CPA, then continue your education also in the areas of customer service, productivity, time management, and other areas that will help you do your job better, faster, and at more of a competitive advantage.
  • Learn about related fields. For example, sales people should learn about marketing and operations. This helps you when promotions are considered.
  • Network. Get to know people. Ask them about what they do. Show an interest.
  • Establish your presence in your professional organizations. Join the top two or three of these organizations, and attend meetings. Become an officer in one, and take that position very seriously.
  • Play nice. No matter how good you are, your career is going to stall if people don't like you. So show respect and be fair. Don't worry about popularity, worry about your reputation.
  • Know your business goals. Often, people let themselves get diverted from their business goals. They start staying busy, instead of focusing their time and other resources on their business goals. Remind yourself daily about why you are doing the job you do.
  • Respect your customers. The customer isn't always right, but the customer always deserves your respect.
  • Differentiate. Rather than copy a competitor, offer something a little different. But make it something worth the customer's attention. For example, is there a small annoyance that's common in your industry but that you can eliminate?
  • Offer value. Don't compete on price alone; that's a race to the bottom. People will pay for value, so provide that and charge reasonably for it.
  • Keep moving. What worked even a few months ago may not work now. Don't change your core values (integrity, great customer service, good quality, etc.), but do examine your offerings, business processes, and anything else that affects the price of what you sell or the quality of the customer experience. Do this on a continual basis, and you won't get stale.
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