I have said before that learning is a lifelong process and not a day goes by without me picking up something new. Whether I am in a meeting, at a networking event, or speaking to one of my junior staff members - I always believe in absorbing as much information as possible.
There are certain lessons that I picked up many years ago and they have stuck with even now. They have applied to my business and personal life. And with Huffington Post UK turning three this weekend, I thought I would share the three best pieces of advice I've picked up.
Create a win-win situation
As a teenager I used to watch my father run his leather garment business and I'd often go with him to meetings with suppliers and customers. Something that struck me was that he would always try and compromise so that the other person got a good deal as well. There were times where I felt he could have charged an extra £10 to somebody, or paid £10 less for materials. But he wouldn't do so, and when I asked him, he said to always create a situation where all parties are happy as it helps build long-term relationships. As I recall, his exact words were "don't squeeze the last drop of the lemon, leave something on the table for others too."
Whether it's in business or life in general, good quality relationships are crucial. Too often people believe you need an aggressive, almost macho attitude to succeed, but all this does is damage those long-term relationships.
Observe the masses... and do the opposite
I've always believed that you have to think outside of the box. When everyone is looking the other way - that's the time to strike. A few years ago when we were in the recession, I launched six businesses within my portfolio. To a lot of people this may seem like madness, but I ignored the doom and gloom. I knew that if I backed talented people then they could succeed even in a tough economic climate, especially as a lot of their competitors were on the back foot.
When I started my first recruitment business Alexander Mann, headhunting was something only used for the elite, top level candidates. I wanted to bring it to the mid-market, but everybody told me it wouldn't work, that it wasn't how things were done. I could have followed the rest of the market but I didn't, and Alexander Mann became one of my biggest success stories.
Quite simply, if you're following the herd then you're too late.
Success is a journey - not a destination
This revolves around the concept of failure. Here in the UK I think we still attach too much of a stigma to failing, in stark contrast to somewhere like America. As far as I'm concerned, failure is part and parcel of the journey. It's the only way you learn and it makes you stronger.
Almost every successful person, whether it's an entrepreneur, an inventor or a sports star, has suffered their fair share of bumps along the way. I can guarantee that every single one of them will tell you how important those bumps were in helping them become successful. Rather than letting it put you off - pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and go again.
Follow James Caan CBE on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamescaan