I have edited business magazines covering real estate, food & beverage, travel and tourism, retailing and construction. I’ve interviewed hundreds of business owners and executives. Here are some universal business lessons I’ve learned:

1. Outsource what is not your specialty.
Homebuilders outsourced just about everything—architecture, construction, merchandising, and land development—to concentrate on developing product, pricing it right and selling it.

2. Stay current, or better yet, just be slightly ahead of the curve. Home furnishings retailers always look for what’s new. When they sell out of a product, many tend not to re-order. Instead, they buy something different. Customers tire of seeing the same old thing. Shopping is all about the hunt. Discovering excites the customer.

3. Run your business for the convenience of the customer, not your staff. I learned this from a hotelier, who talked of business travelers leaving the hotel early in the morning and returning late to find the health club closed, the business center closed and the restaurant closed, all because those service centers operated on a 9-to-5 schedule. When he changed the hours of these amenities, customers were happier. They could use the services on their schedule, not the hotel’s.

4. Be a neat freak at your workplace. I walked with many hoteliers through their properties. Without fail, I saw them pick up scraps of paper, rubber bands, and lint off the carpet.

5. Anticipate and communicate. Again, another lesson from a hotelier talking about a cancelled airline flight. Guests would be checking in that evening, meaning that reception had to be ready for an influx of visitors, the dining room would need to be staffed for extra diners that night and again the next morning for breakfast. Housekeeping would have more rooms to clean in the morning. Don't withhold information. Teammates need to know what is going on.

6. Give customers choices. Homebuilders know there is money in optional upgrades. Retailers do well to offer “good, better, best” choices.

7. Change because  there is a good reason. A builder told me once, “We get tired of our ads before our customers do.” Don’t change your ads or your websites because you don’t like them. Change them because they aren’t working.

8. Know your costs. Builders and retailers have told me they don't know if they are profitable or not. Cash was coming in during good times, but they did not know if they were making money or losing it.

9. Offer a unique product. When I started a magazine for retailers, we didn’t want to be a “me-to” publication. I interviewed storeowners about their information needs. They told us that they needed information about wholesale prices and minimum orders.

10. Extend your brand. Hotel chains do this with limited-service, full-service and luxury properties. Publishers do this with magazines, websites, trade shows, conferences, television shows, merchandise and podcasts.