Anyone can start a business. That is no big deal. It is being profitable over the long haul or even being around in five years that’s tough.
So, what can you do to really make it long after the excitement of the start-up phase is over?
I have noticed four characteristics that successful entrepreneurs who have staying power seem to share.
First, entrepreneurs who are successful over time have clear visions of where their businesses are headed. As others in the company are busy working toward the fulfillment of one goal, these visionary leaders are thinking about the next level. The important part is that the most successful entrepreneurs are able to generate ideas that are complementary to the identity and direction of the existing business, rather than take it off on repeated tangents.
Often, vision comes in the form of a few easy to remember guiding principles that keep a business centered and helps its employees make decisions on a day-to-day basis.
Second, entrepreneurs who are successful over the long run are oriented to marketing. They focus on the customer service and reliable quality products that meet customer needs. It isn’t just American Honda Corp. that closely monitors its Customer Satisfaction Index, or CSI. More than one successful entrepreneur has come to realize that getting repeat business and referrals from existing satisfied customers is the way to go.
Third, the entrepreneurs who really make it are able to attract and then retain talented people. They do not necessarily pay the highest salaries to their decision-making employees. They are willing to share the successes with their employees when profitability does come. They strive to retain the feeling of closeness, smallness, (almost family-like atmosphere) even when their companies grow to be quite large.
Finally, winning entrepreneurs are able to embrace change. They are not “change junkies,” mind you. Have you ever met someone who is changing everything so often that all you have left is chaos? Well, that is not what I am talking about.
They often have a strong base product line from which they can weather economic storms or swings in consumer preferences.
Entrepreneurs with a learning attitude do not take foolhardy risks or become cocky. They do not go head-to-head with competitors whose pockets are a lot deeper than their own because they realize that the competitor can withstand the losses a lot longer than they can. Plus, they realize they do not have to learn things the hard way every time to keep the business exciting.
Okay, so all it takes is vision, focus on customers, talented, happy people and a flexible attitude. Right?
Easier said than done.
Why is that? We entrepreneurs have vision. In fact, our problem is not a lack of ideas and dreams. Often our problem is selecting from a range of good ideas.
We know to focus on customers, service and quality. Ours has become a service-oriented society. If we did not know that, we have to learn it to survive. Plus, for most of us that is the fun of being in business, having other people say we are good at what we do.
We all seek talented employees. Who wouldn’t want a pleasant work environment?
The good news is that most of us are already oriented to these four characteristics. So, what gets us in trouble? We get bogged down and distracted by day-to-day problems like tight cash flow, equipment failures or internal conflicts, and we just plain get tired.
This year, when we do our yearly updates on our business’ strategic plans, maybe we should continue to discuss and solve the things that interfere with us retaining these four characteristics. They are as central to the long-term success of our businesses as having the right marketing strategies, corporate structures and financing.
Known as The Growth Strategist®, Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP helps professional service firms, technology-driven businesses, and construction-related product/service for distribution companies reach their goal of Achieving Accelerated Growth With Sustained Profitability® through a combination of speaking, consulting, executive coaching, authorship, and growth financing. She currently hosts a weekly Internet radio show, The Growth Strategist®, on www.GrowthStrategistShow.com every Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET. Aldonna Ambler can be reached at Aldonna@AMBLER.com, 1-888-ALDONNA (253-6662) or at www.ambler.com.