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James Madison - Showing the Way

By Jack Clark

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Our fourth President was not quite as famous as his 3 predecessors, but we can still learn some valuable business lessons from him:

1. Don’t Let Your Disadvantages Get to You

Madison didn’t have the strong physical presence that George Washington had. He was short and thin, and his health was poor to boot. He even described himself as having speech impairment in his early years. But he didn’t let his disadvantages prevent him from achieving his goals. Those who visited him in his old age described his thin, wrinkled face, but they also noted his blue eyes and the intelligence they conveyed. Madison’s intelligence and determination carried him far.

What disadvantages do you have? Do you, like Madison, suffer from bad health? Do you have a fear of public speaking? Do you have disabilities or inconveniences like dyslexia or stuttering? If so, you can still succeed. You can learn more from you weaknesses than you ever thought. You can still be the businessperson you want to be.

2. Don’t Let Failures Get to You, Either

James Madison knew how to cope with disappointment. When his first love rejected his advances, he didn’t mope or allow himself to get depressed. Instead, he intensified his studies and graduated with honors. In life and in business, you will face disappointments. Perhaps you have already felt you have failed in some aspects of your life or career. Don’t give up!

It’s common for start-up businesses to fail or falter. If you’re a new businessperson and your new enterprise isn’t going as you’d hoped, you must keep going. You may not find it wise to continue your current venture, but by all means, keep going—whether that means starting over or hanging with your current business until it produces favorable results.

3. Keep Good Records

Thanks to Madison, we have the only complete record of the creation of the Constitution. What if the Constitution, perhaps the most important historical document in American history, had come to us without any record of the period surrounding its birth? Thanks to Madison, we are not left without knowledge of this crucial period in our history.

You probably don’t have to be reminded that records are important in business. Keeping excellent books and records can help your business succeed.

4. Don’t Underestimate Teamwork

Hundreds of delegates attended the convention to create the Constitution. They came from all over the thirteen original colonies, with different backgrounds, interests, and opinions. And yet they managed to produce the document that has stood, with only a few revisions, over two hundred years. Fellow delegates praised Madison’s ability to bring people together and get them to work in harmony. How can you apply this skill in your business? What employees or friends have the skills that you can bring together for the good of the company?

5. Don’t Let Praise Get to Your Head

History remembers Madison as the “Father of the Constitution.” Yet Madison refused to take the credit for the document’s creation. His humility must have seemed a beacon to those at the convention. Humility is a valuable trait in any businessman; no one likes arrogance, and perhaps more importantly, ego can scare off potential business partners and investors.

6. Recognize Where Help is Needed

Madison could have quit his public service after his administration as president was over, but he didn’t. He helped revise the Virginia state constitution, supported the transportation of freed slaves to Africa, and aided in the establishment of the University of Virginia.

Looking for and serving people’s needs can sometimes lead to business opportunities. What do people need? What do they want? How can you help them? How can you put your talents to use?