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Twelve Essentials for Building a Successful Company
By JP Maroney
Over the past few years, a tremendous number of people have jumped into the entrepreneurial world as a result of corporate down sizing, economic shifts, and changes in perception about what a career should really be like. As a result, many people who saw business ownership as an opportunity to enjoy more freedom in their lives, control their days, and do what they want to do with no boss to answer to, have now reached the realization that success in business also comes with a big price tag.
I've started and run five businesses. The first three failed miserably, the fourth I successfully built then sold, and the fifth is my existing professional development company. Through it all, I've learned that to be a successful business builder, you must make certain commitments. But, the rewards can be well worth the price. Here are twelve essential commitments necessary for entrepreneurial success.
1. FOCUS. Success in business requires tremendous focus. I see many "wanna-be" entrepreneurs fail in this area. They try to pursue more than one idea at a time. You can never be truly effective if you spread your resources between multiple ventures. I met one guy a while back who claimed he owned five different businesses. The crazy thing was not one of them was successful. I'm not surprised. I learned the hard way that in order to maximize your effectiveness you must focus on one idea at a time, and make that one idea work. Then you can free yourself to move to another idea. Stay focused if you want to succeed in business.
2. RISK. The stakes are very high in business. You can win big or lose everything. But, I've always said that if you never try it, you'll never know. Right? Everyone makes mistakes. We all fail once in a while. But, failing to take risks paralyzes your possibility for success. I have a business associate who now runs a leading agency within his industry. But for years he put off taking the plunge because he feared the risk involved. Even now, I find him paranoid about the potential failure, even though his agency is the most successful operation within his market. If you are unwilling to accept risks, entrepreneurship is definitely not for you.
3. DETERMINATION. In my experience, the one thing that has kept me going even when I couldn't see the prospect of success has been my high level of determination. I find that a persistent attitude will give you the greatest edge for success in business. Why? Because when nothing is going as expected, you have to stay committed to your dreams, your vision, your goals, your passion. You must determine in your heart that you will stick with your plan in spite of the obstacles. Very few things ever work out as originally expected. That is especially true in business. But, determination will help you stick with it until you discover the right way that does work.
4. FLEXIBILITY. I like to compare running a business to skiing moguls. You stand at the top of the mountain, choose the path you think is best, then take off. But, as you descend the mountain, you must constantly adjust your course, make changes, and absorb unexpected bumps. Your mind must be alert. Your eyes must constantly look for new opportunities. And, your body must remain flexible enough to make immediate changes in direction. In business what worked yesterday, or looked like it would work, may no longer apply today. We must be flexible enough to adapt to new ways of doing business, new methods of marketing our products, and new ways of assembling teams. If we become too rigid and set in our ways, "the business mountain" will break us.
5. WILLINGNESS TO LEARN. In nearly every presentation I deliver I tell the audience that there are three kinds of people in this world; stupid, smart and successful. The stupid people never learn from their own mistakes. The smart people do. But the successful people learn from the mistakes of others. I used to tell my partners that "I don't mind making mistakes in business, I just don't want to make the same mistakes. And I don't want to make the same mistakes other people have made if I can avoid them." Smart business builders constantly learn from their mistakes, and seek to make immediate changes. The truly successful ones also study the results of other people and organizations to discover what has worked and what has not, in an effort to avoid making mistakes which have already been made. I suggest you build alliance with other people within your industry who are not in direct competition with you. Learn from each other. Share with each other what is and isn't working. Being willing to learn is a key characteristic of succes in business and in life.
6. CHARISMA. Very soon you realize that in order to be successful in business you need other people. But not just any people…the right kind of people. You need people who "buy-in" to your vision for the company, and treat the organization as if it is their own. Attracting those types of people requires charismatic leadership. Charismatic leaders primarily attract the very best people because of their enthusiasm. People want to be part of something that is happening. You may have heard the phrase that nobody wants to get on a train that's going nowhere. They want to contribute to a worthwhile operation. And, I'm not just talking about people who work for you. I'm also talking about mentors, stategic partners, vendors, customers, firends, business associates, and other people who you can get excited about your vision. If you can express your excitement openly and effectively, you have a much better chance of attracting the best people to your organization.
7. ACCOUNTABILITY. One myth of business ownership is that you no longer have to answer to anybody. The idea is that as soon as you go into business for yourself you suddenly become "boss free." What a joke. The moment you declare your independence as a business person you immediately acquire a new set of bosses, or at least a new set of people to whom you are accountable. They include but are not limited to employees, vendors and customers. And that's OK. There's nothing wrong with being accountable. In fact, we should embrace it, and use it to motivate ourselves. You've probably also found that you're much harder on yourself than any boss would ever be. Be accountable to other people and to yourself. And build your success on that accountability.
8. BELIEF. Success as a business builder requires a tremendous level of belief. Belief in yourself, your ideas, your products, your people and your vision. This belief is so important because early on you may not see the tangible results of your efforts. In the meantime you must believe that what you are doing is worthwhile. You must believe it is the right thing for you to do. When people ridicule you and say you are crazy for pursuing your dreams, stay true to yourself and believe in what you can accomplish.
9. PASSION. Put aside the plans. Put aside the products. Put aside the people. But, one thing you can never be without is passion. In order to succeed you must be passionate about what you do. Your passion is your reason why. I tell people that if they have trouble standing firm in the midst of setbacks or pressure, they need more reasons why. Your reasons why are the fuel that keeps the flame of your desire burning. Your reasons why keep you excited when nobody else is excited. Your reasons why are your passion. If you need more passion, build a long list of reasons why you do what you do, and then read that list everyday.
10. VISION. Truly successful business builders have tremendous vision. They see opportunity in the distance when other people see nothing. They visualize their dreams and goals coming true even when there are no visible results. The visionaries are the people who make their mark in history. They refuse to allow the tides of the times to influence their actions. Instead they take measurable steps each day to reach and achieve their goals.
11. RESPONSIBILITY. Business builders take personal responsibility for their own success. They don't sit around waiting for someone else to make it happen. They go out and make it happen. This is the sign of a successful entrepreneur. You won't find them making excuses for why they can't succeed. Instead, you will find them looking at themselves for ways they can improve their results. They take personal responsibility for their own actions and their own success.
12. VULNERABILITY. This one is tough. Nobody likes to be vulnerable, especially not high achievers. But the ultra successful entrepreneurs recognize their own vulnerability. They admit that they don1t know everything. They realize they have not "arrived," even when they may look successful. They understand the potential for changes in the market, new trends and economic shifts. As a result they acknowledge their own vulnerability and take specific steps to prepare for the unforeseen.
By now, you realize that free enterprise carries a high price. The rewards can be incredible, and the lifestyle very fulfilling. But the opportunity is also extremely demanding. Understanding the price one must pay for success in business is a great step in the direction of success as a business builder.