The Real “Secrets of success”
A few tips and tactics typically followed by business owners who manage to survive without a great deal of fuss - either with, or without, external advice - to help small and micro-business owners continue towards gaining their black belt in entrepreneurship.
The majority of business advice relating to survival is not rocket science, it is just plain common sense. In fact, quite often many small business owners will have acquired (or heard) this common sense already - they just have not been very good at listening to it and putting it into practice.
- Start slowly
- Look for customers, not success secrets
- Be obsessed with quality before you even get started
- Avoid spending too much (and sometimes too little)
- From day one, never take your eye off your cash position
- Admit what you don't know and get advice
For the vast majority of new businesses, the reality is that if you have managed to stick to your budget and trade at break-even in your first year, you are probably doing very well. It's better to start slowly, learn and absorb as much as possible as you progress, and gradually get better at everything you are trying to do.
The only consistent secret to success is hard work and being better than your competitors at finding busloads of customers.
This is down to being confident that you have the best-quality products, resources, suppliers, people, customer service, processes, advisers, and so on available to you when you start up. Never compromise on this.
If you spend more than you can afford at the wrong time you could drain your cash too quickly and topple. But do not spend enough on marketing, stock or getting basic systems in place and you could grind to a halt without having time to do anything about it. Plan your first year's budget carefully and realistically, with enough slack in your working capital to allow you to deal with the odd dip in sales or other financial glitch that crops up along the way.
Business owners who always know how much cash they have available now, as well as how much they will have in one week, one month and up to six months down the line, are the ones in total control of their business.
You need to make sure you let your business adviser know your main concerns and worries and any areas where you are lacking in business acumen and expertise. Only then can they directly help or signpost you to where you can get the specialist assistance you need.
Apart from that, running a small business is like a stroll in the park.
Here is a quick guide to a few personal attributes that the most successful small business owners tend to have in abundance - and that they have the ability to use to such productive effect:
- Taking notice
- Making it personal
- Current awareness
The most effective business owners in general are the most effective listeners. They can read between the lines and pick up on signals and body language that other people fail to understand. They listen effectively and take notice of what is being said or is happening during a sale, a negotiation or any other business situation.
Every small business owner has to be able to sell and, therefore, needs to be working on their ability to listen and take notice. In any event, you should listen to your prospects, customers, competitors, suppliers, staff and business partners all of the time. They will more than likely notice when you do and they will definitely notice when you do not.
One of the most vital entrepreneurial traits you can have. And it is also possible to develop this as a skill even though you might think you have no imagination whatsoever. This is all about having your mind permanently open to the possibilities in any situation, which will enable you to quickly, creatively, effectively and often diplomatically find a solution to a business problem.
The most imaginative people tend be avid readers of fiction, not just non-fiction such as books on business. You can develop your imaginative ability if you focus on fiction authors who write in a style that you enjoy, who make imaginative use of language and who produce devilishly creative plots.
It has been suggested that people who regularly read this type of literature are more likely to have their creativity open and are generally more enterprising in their approach to day-to-day situations. And they tend to be better at explaining themselves and their ideas and of using business language in an imaginative and appealing way. This is a particular bonus in sales and marketing.
Entrepreneurs are often described as risk takers. They are not scared of risk, but rather that they have learned how to calculate risk and make the right sort of decisions most of the time.
“If you are making lots of mistakes and you are still in business, then you must be doing something right.”
To be entrepreneurial in your business, you are inevitably going to be taking lots of risks, but risks that you have decided you are prepared to take and where you have calculated and can afford the price of failure if the risk does not pay off.
When you go into business, do not just decide what you want your business to become, but focus on what sort of person you want to become as well.
Focusing on your idea for what you personally want to become - and how your business will get you there - will enable you to communicate your ideas more effectively to the people you employ and work with. Your staff and your key suppliers will take the view that they work for, or with, you the business owner - rather than the business itself - and that sort of loyalty can be a major advantage.
If you can clearly express your expectations to them right from the start - and remind them as often as necessary - they will be more likely to understand you, your ‘vision’ for your business and where you are trying to lead them.
Business vision and business awareness are not the same thing. The ability to improve your all-round general and current business awareness is, more often than not, a significant influence on those business owners who always seem to be able to steer clear of trouble.
Related to the ability to take notice and to read actively, those business owners with heightened business awareness have the invaluable ability to detect, see and act upon commercial risks and opportunities earlier than anyone else. They always seem to find those little edges or advantages that keep them ahead of the field or, more importantly, their head above water.
Reading frequently and widely, talking to and listening to your customers, staff and suppliers regularly, and finding time to network with other small business owners and advisers, will help you to improve your all-round business awareness and gain your black-belt in entrepreneurship.
However, do not let all of this take up too much of your time, because you have, of course, got a business to run as well.
The ability to make behavior and mindset changes is common to all successful entrepreneurs
- From Shut to Open
- From Opportunistic to Helpful
- From Telling to Asking
- From ‘No Way’ to ‘Let’s See’
Once he started his own business, he quickly realized how important networks were. Who you know is as important as what you know that matters in business. You cannot ignore anyone – who knows where the next big opportunity will come from. Return each call and email personally with curiosity. Wake up at 05:00 everyday, answer your e-mail for an hour over a cup of coffee, then go for a morning run.
Help anyone you can without weighing the usefulness of the person. You must go out of your way to genuinely help as many people as you can even if it is unclear how they might ever be useful to you – it is just good business.
As the big shot executive, he often told everyone how important his work was. As people asked him questions, he was happy to tell them everything he knew. After all, he was an expert in his field and it was only natural that people wanted to learn as much as they could from him. He felt really good about himself as people were so in awe of him. It was quite normal for him to spend a few hours at a party and come back without knowing much about the people he had met. He usually did most of the talking.
Learn by listening not by talking. Be far more interested in finding out about what others do, and never stop asking questions. It’s all about the people – you have to be genuinely interested in them…. Proactively build this habit, and you will find deep intrinsic satisfaction from knowing, understanding and helping someone….. And usually in turn, they do their best for you.
Consider - do not automatically reject - difficult propositions. 'Let’s see what we can do. There must be a way.' Even if you are unable to help, give it an honest effort - and, if unsuccessful - suggest who can help.