The dream of business ownership captures the imagination of aspiring entrepreneurs of every generation, who envision a journey of self-reliance, independence, personal fulfillment and a future limited only by ones will and effort. While most embark on the mission with great anticipation of success, most also underestimate the required measure of challenge, finance and individual capital, morphing the dream into a nightmare and the vision into a myth. Regardless of the industry, whether product or service, business ownership is a journey of significant financial risk, seemingly endless personal commitment and, always, very hard work. Success in business depends on a clear focus of purpose, discipline and developing habits that will drive business success:
Cultivate Inner Networks: Successful entrepreneurs understand the power of networks. They take the time to identify and build relationships with key peers, mentors, and advisors. They surround themselves with those who are smarter and more successful in their own business disciplines and freely accept their advice, support and direction.
Become Customer Centric: Business success requires an unwavering commitment to the customer. While the customer may not always be right, they are ALWAYS the customer. This commitment encompasses a mindset of understanding the customers’ world. Understanding the customer’s wants and needs provides the business with a greater opportunity to earn a loyal customer base. Focus attention away from business and profits, and toward what you can do to improve the life of your customers.
Honest Humility: Success in business requires the ability to know your strengths and weaknesses. Being open and honest about yourself and your business creates growth as an individual and as a company. Don’t spend time developing weaknesses. Seek out and accept help for weak areas, enabling you to focus on your strengths. Avoid falling into the trap brought on by some immediate period of success. Like a little knowledge a little success, early on in the business life-cycle, can be dangerous and deadly.
Adaptability: Achieving goals requires the ability to adapt to changing situations. Nothing ever goes as planned and established plan assumptions require monitoring and adjustment along the journey’s path to account for surprises and unforeseen events. Flexible allows for favorable reaction to unforeseen challenges. Murphy and the law of, “what can go wrong, will go wrong”, is a constant companion.
Become Opportunity Focused: Problems are a regular part of business life. Staff issues, customer misunderstandings, cash flow issues, taxes, fees and regulations are just a few. The list can seem endless, but every problem has an opportunity attached to it, embrace the challenge and strive turn the Edsel into a Mustang.
There is a Better Way: Becoming self-centered and arrogant is a common malady caused by a disease known as “I am the boss so I must always be smarter than everyone else syndrome”. Accepting and implementing ideas and methods for improving productivity from the rank and file is an art that too often escapes the appreciation of even the most humble of entrepreneurs. Determine to establish an environment that welcomes and encourages associates to contribute solutions. Initiating a team based process will only strengthen the organization and expedite the journey to success. A micro-managed organization chokes off innovation and creativity and defers the realization of the ultimate goal.
Life Balance: Balancing personal affairs with a business is never going to be a 50-50 proposition. A business becomes who you are, not what you do and it will consume the majority of every owner’s time and energy. Accept the fact that being self-employed is a life style, not a career.
If you are one who is accustomed to measuring commitment by counting the number of hours invested, stop! Become satisfied with collecting a pay check signed, at the bottom right-hand corner, by someone else. Business ownership is not for those who focus on the cost to effort ratio, and if your plan includes merging retirement and starting a business, be warned. No business venture is remotely compatible with retirement!