There’s a recipe for success, but you need all the ingredients.
I’ve traveled the country the last 10 years teaching small business owners how to run profitable businesses, and there’s one question I’m asked repeatedly: Is there a recipe for success? Every endeavor has guidelines that, if followed, though they may not guarantee success, increase your chances of succeeding. So the question should be, What is the recipe?
Lots of ingredients are needed to make you a successful business owner, but there are three overarching components: competitiveness, system and talent.
What do we mean by competitiveness?
» Composure // Staying calm when a challenge or crisis arises
» Focus // Keeping attention on your task when distractions are all around
» Goal-Setting // Having tangible goals that allow your business to continually grow
» Knowledge // Knowing the rules of business and understanding your goal is maximizing profit, not revenue
» Leadership // Getting the best out of your employees
» Resilience // Staying the course after you’ve suffered a disappointment or setback
» Strategic Vision // Looking into the future and anticipating what’s ahead
While each ingredient is important, leadership is key. There’s no way around it: Your employees have to share your vision, and they have to be certain that no matter what challenges arise, your leadership and decision-making will pull them through.
As a small business owner, you will run into hurdles. You don’t go outside in the rain without an umbrella and expect to stay dry, and you shouldn’t expect to avoid setbacks in business. What’s important is how you respond to adversity, and how your employees judge your response.
The components of a solid system include:
» Effectiveness // Completing a task well
» Efficiency // Completing a task quickly and correctly
» Organization // Juggling multiple tasks
» Policies // Directing how employees should conduct themselves
» Process and Procedures // Listing specific steps required to complete a task
» Recruiting // Enticing the most talented individuals to join your business
» Strategy // Deciding how to maximize your business’s effectiveness and efficiency
» Technology // Equipping your business with the necessary hardware and software
» Tracking Progress // What gets measured gets done
The right system, whether it’s your accounting system or your sales and marketing system, allows you to produce the results you want. Since your budget isn’t unlimited, you have to find the system that produces the results you want while also being affordable.
Cost is obviously a concern, but while it may be tempting—and I’ve seen lots of business owners do this—don’t always choose the least-expensive system, telling yourself you can make up for the difference in quality by working harder or by relying on superior talent.
For example, assume a large prospective client emails information that you’re to download, review and reply with an answer, letting them know if you can handle their account.
You obviously want to reply as quickly as possible, but there’s a minor problem: Their file is huge, and it’s downloading slowly. When you check with your staff again, they inform you it didn’t download properly, so they’re downloading it again.
You finally get the information, and after reviewing it, you reply with an answer. Feeling good about your reply, you’re eager to hear back, and you do: The prospective client received your competitor’s reply first and decided to do business with them.
You eventually discover your responses were identical, but the difference was, they used Windows 10 while you used Windows XP. In other words, you didn’t have the right system.
Talent encompasses the human side of your organization. Specifically, that includes:
» Evaluation // Ensuring each new hire has the talent and temperament to be successful
» Right Fit // Hiring individuals who fit your office environment
» Teamwork // Working well with colleagues
Talent, which is the inherent ability that allows you to easily perform a task better than most people, is as important in business as it is in sports. If your sales and marketing director lacks talent but your competitor’s sales and marketing director has talent, all things being equal, your competitor will have a competitive advantage in sales and marketing.
If you hire your best friend or cousin for this job, though they lack qualifications, they’ll compete with someone who’s talented, someone who understands the technical aspects of sales and marketing and who has the education, personality and contacts to do the job exceptionally well. And your sales will immediately reflect it.
You’ve Got to Put It All Together
Branch Rickey made Jackie Robinson the first black player in Major League Baseball in the modern era because Jackie was talented—as a hitter, fielder, communicator and leader. Branch brought Jackie to the Dodgers in 1947, and Jackie played so well that, after a 10-year career, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jackie didn’t have more of one ingredient than anyone else. But he had the right mix. I’ve met thousands of small business owners—and I owned my own business for seven years—and I’ve learned this to be true: Success comes from having the right ingredients and the right mix of those ingredients.