In business, it’s natural to be on the lookout for mistakes and errors. They are inevitable—and that’s ok. But the important thing is to learn from them and get it right the next time. Over time, though, you’ll notice patterns, the kinds of situations where you tend to run into problems. A particularly tricky area comes when you are assuming things—many of our errors are errors of assumption. We want to assume that we can trust people. It’s easy to go into a meeting and assume that the other person is being perfectly honest, that everyone has our best interests at heart. And many people do! But you cannot assume that. Assume nothing; question everything. It pays to verify everything.
This is especially important when it comes time to looking for partners. You want to partner with people who want to partner with you, with people who share your values, where 1+1=3, where you are working for them and they are working for you. When that happens, great things follow. But you have to be on the lookout and assume nothing, because the wrong partner can be a disaster. There are people who do not share your values, who are not working with a sustainable mission, but instead self-interested and putting the dollar before the customer.
This happens all the time in the small business world, where there is no shortage of people selling get-rich-quick schemes and bogus solutions. Be on your guard and question everything—it will spare you a lot of pain. Vet the people you’re around. Vet the people you want to be in a partnership with. Look for people who have your best interests at heart, and who share your values. Don’t just rely on someone’s title and prestige as a guarantee—get to know them yourself and form your own judgment. If you have a bad feeling, and sense that someone isn’t the kind of person who would be a good partner, don’t hesitate to go another direction. If you watch out for your assumptions, your errors of assumption, you’ll choose better partners. You’ll have better sensitivity to your customers, when you aren’t assuming what they want but actually trying to figure it out. You’ll have better employees who share your values, and a better work ethic. It starts with assuming nothing, and questioning everything.