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Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff’s 10 Rules For Building A Highly Successful Business 

Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff are two entrepreneurs who co-founded Honest Tea, a company that produces organic bottled tea and other beverages. The company was founded in 1998, with a mission to create healthy, organic beverages that taste great and promote sustainability.

Goldman and Nalebuff first met at the Yale School of Management. They shared a passion for social and environmental responsibility, and they recognized an opportunity to create a new kind of beverage company that would prioritize health and sustainability.

In the early days of Honest Tea, Goldman and Nalebuff faced many challenges. They had to overcome the perception that organic and healthy beverages were only for a niche market, and they had to convince retailers to stock their products. However, they persevered, and their commitment to quality and sustainability began to resonate with consumers.

In a book titled "Mission in a Bottle," Goldman and Nalebuff tell the story of Honest Tea and their journey and offer insights into the challenges and opportunities of building a successful business with a social and environmental mission. 

They both are inspiring entrepreneurs who have demonstrated that it's possible to build a successful business while also prioritizing social and environmental responsibility. 

In the book, Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff share their ten rules for building a business and turning it into an empire. Let’s take a look at the rules. Eric Wagner wrote a great article for Forbes about the two entrepreneurs and their rules for success. In this article, I borrow the rules and add my own commentaries. 

01. “Build something you believe in – because that’s the first step to building a great brand”

When starting a business, it's essential to build something you truly believe in. This is because your passion and conviction will be the driving force behind your brand's success. When you have a deep sense of purpose and belief in what you're doing, it will be easier to communicate that message to others and inspire them to become loyal customers. On the other hand, your passion will keep you motivated and focused on your goals, even in the face of challenges. So, if you're thinking of starting a business, make sure it's something you truly believe in – it's the first step to building a great brand.

02. “Don’t aim for 10% improvement. Make it radically better and different” 

When it comes to innovation and progress, settling for small incremental improvements isn't always enough. In fact, aiming for only a 10% improvement may limit your potential for growth and success. Instead, it's important to aim for something radically better and different.

To make a significant impact and stand out in a crowded market, you need to offer something that is truly unique and valuable. This requires a willingness to take risks and think outside the box. Instead of simply trying to improve on what's already out there, you need to ask yourself, what can we do that's completely new and different.

Moreover, radical improvements often lead to more significant long-term gains than incremental improvements. When you're willing to take risks and innovate, you create a culture of creativity and excellence that can drive your business forward for years to come.

Aiming for a 10% improvement may be a safe and comfortable strategy, but it won't necessarily lead to significant growth and success. To truly stand out and make an impact, you need to aim for something radically better and different. By taking risks, innovating, and delivering something truly unique and valuable, you can capture people's attention and create a brand that stands the test of time.

03. “Prepare to be copied. Don’t start unless you’ll survive imitation” 

In today's fast-paced world, innovation, and originality are highly valued. However, it's important to recognize that there's always a risk of being copied when you bring something new to the table. Therefore, it's crucial to prepare yourself to be copied and ensure that you'll survive imitation.

To begin with, it's important to understand that an imitation is a form of flattery. When someone copies your work, it's a sign that they find it valuable and worth replicating. While it can be frustrating to see someone else taking credit for your ideas, it's important to stay positive and focus on the fact that your work is having an impact.

To prepare for imitation is to make sure that your work is truly original and innovative. If you're just copying what everyone else is doing, it's only a matter of time before someone else copies you. Instead, strive to create something that is truly unique and cannot be easily replicated.

Being copied is an inevitable part of the creative process. However, by preparing yourself and your work, you can survive imitation and continue to thrive in a highly competitive landscape. Just remember to stay true to yourself and your vision, and always strive to create something truly original and valuable.

04. “Build up reserves of money for bad luck and mistakes”

When it comes to running a business or managing personal finances, it's important to prepare for unexpected challenges and setbacks. Even the most successful businesses and individuals can face unexpected expenses or losses. Building up reserves of money can help you prepare for the unexpected and provide a cushion to fall back on. 

Having reserves of money can also provide peace of mind and reduce stress. Knowing that you have a safety net in place can give you the confidence to take risks and pursue opportunities without fear of financial ruin.

Moreover, building up reserves of money can also help you avoid taking on unnecessary debt or making rash decisions in times of crisis. When you have a financial cushion, you can take the time to assess the situation and make informed decisions without feeling pressured to act quickly.

05. “Never ever give up control” 

If you relinquish control, you're essentially disregarding the first rule. By staying in charge, you can ensure that your product or service stays on the path you've set for it. In business, it's important to maintain control over key aspects of your operations and decision-making processes. When you give up control, you may be sacrificing your vision, your values, and your ability to make critical decisions.

06. “Don’t compromise on the big things – compromise on everything else” 

It's important to distinguish between the big things and everything else. When it comes to the big things, such as your core values, your mission, and your vision, it's essential to avoid compromise. Compromising on the big things can undermine your success and cause you to lose sight of what's truly important. For example, if your core values include honesty and integrity, compromising on those values can erode trust and credibility with your customers and stakeholders. Similarly, if your mission is to provide the highest quality products or services, compromising on quality can lead to a decline in customer satisfaction and loyalty.

07. “Figure out how to achieve your goals on a tiny budget and then cut that number in half” 

You’ve heard it said before- it will cost twice as much, and take twice as long as you think. The only recommendation is to apply the principles of lean to your business from day one. Because, in business, it's common to face budget constraints and limited resources. However, this doesn't mean you can't achieve your goals. In fact, it often requires creativity and resourcefulness to make the most of what you have.

One approach to achieving your goals on a tight budget is to first figure out how to accomplish them with minimal resources. This involves thinking outside the box and exploring unconventional solutions. 

The benefits of achieving your goals on a tiny budget are twofold. First, it allows you to conserve your resources and maintain financial stability. Second, it forces you to be more creative and resourceful, which can lead to innovative solutions and new opportunities.

Having a fancy office or a full-color brochure is not a requirement for starting a business. Instead, the focus should be on running the business effectively until it generates substantial revenue. Only then should you invest in these types of upgrades. If you overspend too soon, it could have a detrimental effect on the survival of your business.

Achieving your goals on a tiny budget requires careful planning, creativity, and resourcefulness. By figuring out how to accomplish your goals with minimal resources and then cutting that number in half, you can conserve your resources and unlock new opportunities for growth and success.

08. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” 

When it comes to achieving success, it's important to remember that it's a long-term journey rather than a quick sprint. Building a sustainable and successful business takes time, effort, and patience. It's not a matter of achieving overnight success, but rather a process of steady progress over time. For instance- you wouldn't decide to swim the channel one day and immediately jump in the water. Instead, you would plan and prepare for the challenge over a long period, working hard every day until you are fully ready to execute your plan and reach your destination.

So in business, setting realistic goals and breaking them down into manageable steps. It also means being persistent and staying committed to the process, even when faced with obstacles or setbacks. Overall, by setting realistic goals, pacing oneself, and sticking to a plan, it's possible to achieve sustainable success in business and in life.

09. “Take care of your family, and personal and spiritual health – if you aren’t laughing or smiling on a regular basis, recalibrate” 

Success is not just about professional achievements, but also about taking care of personal and spiritual well-being. Prioritizing family and personal relationships, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and engaging in activities that bring joy and laughter are all essential components of a fulfilling life. If these areas are lacking, it's important to take action and recalibrate in order to achieve a more balanced and satisfying life.

10. “Build the enterprise and the brand as if you’ll own them forever” 

If your goal is to make a fast profit, branding might not be a priority for you. However, if you have a long-term vision for your business, it's important to always keep in mind where the business will be when you retire. Starting a business with passion and a clear purpose gives you the power to take it all the way.

When you build a business with a long-term perspective, you understand the importance of branding. Branding is not just about creating a logo or a catchy slogan; it's about creating a unique identity and reputation for your business. This requires a deep understanding of your target audience and their needs, as well as a commitment to delivering high-quality products and services that align with your brand values.

Building a brand that will endure requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to adapt to changing market conditions. It's important to remain true to your vision and purpose, while also being open to new ideas and opportunities that can help you achieve your goals.

Overall, building a successful business requires a long-term perspective and a commitment to branding. By starting with passion and purpose, and keeping in mind where the business will be in the future, you can create a strong and enduring brand that will set you apart from the competition and drive long-term success.

That’s all for now! I hope you’ve enjoyed the article and if so, please consider giving the essay a like and consider sharing it with people who you think will find it useful. It helps others find it. And helps us to grow and serve more people. You can also join our weekly email newsletter here. You are awesome! 

Ayrin Saleha Ria works at Future Startup as a full-time Research Associate. She has a background in Applied Sociology. Before joining the FS team, she worked and volunteered with a number of social organizations. As someone who comes from a social science background, she takes a deep interest in research around important social-economic challenges in our society. A voracious reader, Ayrin is passionate about working for the betterment of society, takes a deep interest in human society and behavioral science, and loves books.

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