principles of success in business
The startup lifestyle is known to be stressful and challenging, but it’s also meant to be satisfying and fulfilling, with you as the entrepreneur in control of your own destiny. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way, based on my many years of experience with entrepreneurs and advising startups. The business can be successful, while the entrepreneur feels like a failure.
All great businesses start small. They become great based on certain vital principles that can be studied and mastered by business owners and entrepreneur.
As an example, I know one highly driven startup founder whose business is growing at a reasonable pace, but the entrepreneur regrets the toll it has extracted from his family, his health, and his ability to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labor. I know several other CEOs that were pushed out of their own successful companies by investors, leaving them feeling like failures.
The challenge is not to let success come without personal satisfaction, or at the expense of the ones you love. To do that, you need to follow a set of personal principles that drive your business principles, not the other way around. Here are some key ones that I espouse.
Focus on strengths rather than fixing weaknesses
If you don’t see business as one of your strengths, you likely won’t be happy leading a startup. Many technologists refuse stubbornly to let anyone else take their invention from a product to a business, assuming they can easily fix their business weakness. Both they and the business end up suffering.
Create a great marketing plan
Learn how to differentiate your product and service from competitors, attract more qualified prospects, emphasize your “unique selling proposition” and grow your market share faster than your competitors.
Create some short-term milestones on the path to your dream
Dreams alone won’t make you happy or successful, so start early in defining and executing against a set of milestones to celebrate progress along the way. Satisfaction is not a one-time event at the end of your career; it’s a series of good feelings driven by results along the way.
Be honest with yourself about practicing what you preach
Many business executives can give a great talk to their team about sustaining their health and maintaining a balanced family life, but they let the business override their own needs. Similarly, don’t compromise your own ethics and integrity for the sake of your business.
Strict Fiscal Discipline
Successful business people use budgets and realistic sales projections to run their businesses. They know by the 15th of the month how well their business did financially the month prior. They do not spend money on travel, events or trade shows that are not budgeted. They do not hire staff without have the money or contracts in place in advance. They also understand how to use a line of credit. They use it carefully for short-term cash needs, and not long-term funding needs such as marketing expenses.
A Kitchen Cabinet of Advisors
You will need to develop relationships with people who are already entrepreneurs or other business people in a position to give great insight into what you need to be a business success. It is very helpful to also include a potential client in your back-channel conversations. Clients can provide valuable insight into budget cycles and current pain points, and most importantly introduce you to other potential customers. Keep the company of smart people. Sometimes a phone call to an advisor can save a lot of heartburn and money.
A Defined Brand
Your brand is the personality of your product, company or service, but what makes the brand great? You must protect your brand with the necessary trademarks, patents and/or copyrights for everything from your logo, colors and design of your packaging to the invention of a new product or process. Your brand enhances the performance, innovation, transparency of your company and it has the power to project a sense of social responsibility outside the company.
Successful entrepreneurs treat their brand as an investment, not a cost. A strong brand must be relevant to customers, contemporary and appealing. Brands are among the most important assets that a business can own, and strong brands can ensure business continuity in times 0f difficulty.
Take satisfaction from team success, at work and at home
Being an entrepreneur is not a one-person show, so accept that fact, and build a team that can complement you and support your weaknesses. If your business and private teams are motivated and satisfied, their happiness will radiate to you. A motivated team is a successful one.
An over-arching principle for success and satisfaction for every entrepreneur is respect – for yourself, and in business respect for every customer, investor, and employee. Another generic attribute close behind in value is persistence. No amount of talent or genius can take the place of persistence. Many experts believe that one of the top reasons for startup failures, as well as personal failures, is simply giving up too early.
In fact, people giving up on unsatisfying corporate careers is one of the primary sources of entrepreneurs. Most don’t realize that the same satisfaction and success principles apply in both worlds – and ignoring them in both will have the same negative consequences.
Switching from either lifestyle to the other will give you a whole new set of challenges, but it won’t auto magically bring you happiness, satisfaction, or success. In either case, I’m a believer that you make your own success. Now is the time to start.
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