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Keys for Success in Your Own Business

This is the second article in an ongoing entrepreneurship series by George Thompson. The first covered the various ways to finance your business. 

There are many ideas of what the "right stuff" for starting and running your own business is, but the following list is derived by compiling what people who have actually opened and operated a business feel are the most important. I will try to give a brief explanation of each "key."

  • Have a passion for your product/service: When people are living from passion they tend to be fulfilled, happy, healthy and love everyone around them. There isn't much room to get sick, be angry or unhappy when you do something you love all day. What if you could do what you love and make a living around that passion?
  • Get organized: To be successful in business you need to be organized. Organization will help you complete tasks and stay on top of things to be done. A good way to do this is to create a to-do list each day - as you complete each item, check it off your list. This will ensure that you're not forgetting anything and you're completing all the tasks that are essential to the survival of your business.
  • Expect to work hard: Ben Franklin said, "We are born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." Steve Jobs stated, "That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be even harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clear to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."
  • Have a vision of the future: Vision can be defined as a picture in the leader's imagination that motivates people to action when communicated compellingly, passionately and clearly. "In order to take the organization to the highest possible level, leaders must engage their people with a compelling and tangible vision," Warren Bennis, professor of business administration at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, said.
  • Be a leader, not a manager: Five lessons on leading vs. managing:
  1. Listen more, speak less.
  2. Consensus is good, but direction and decisiveness create action.
  3. Anyone can identify a problem; a leader is part of the solution.
  4. Apologize publicly and gloat privately.
  5. Give the hard message. A leader will inspire and motivate as opposed to dictate.
  • Know your competition: Your competition can become your new best friends. Here is why:
    • You can learn from their mistakes.
    • You can model what works for them.
    • They reveal opportunities in the marketplace.
  • Ask for advice: Here at the start, you need to seek out the people who understand how things are done, legal challenges, organizational complexities and all. To contend with the chaos, turn to professional resources and organizations like the Entrepreneur's Organization. They offer the broad foundation of resources, guidelines, referrals to the professionals you need to hire and more, and should be the first step on your road to building a company that succeeds. It's as simple as joining the organization and paying your dues. Don't be shy!
  • Pick great people: You are only as good as the worst person working for you. Think about that for a few minutes before you move on! Choosing the right hires for your organization - whether it's a startup or otherwise - is crucial to building a thriving business. And while the importance of hiring the right people can't be downplayed for any business, there may be more challenges for startups, including tight resources, uncertainty or the fact that candidates may never have heard of your company.
  • Do not fear failure: Life is too short to let fear make big decisions for you. "I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate." - George Burns

"Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure." - George Edward Woodberry.

"Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something." - Morihei Ueshiba

  • Have a sense of humor: Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that every CEO or executive I've known has had a killer sense of humor, but the vast majority of the successful ones certainly do. I'm not sure why that is, but I suspect it has something to do with a combination of enjoying life, loving what you do for a living and not taking yourself too seriously. In leaders, humor and humility seem to go hand in hand. They're like a counterbalance for self-confidence, something that keeps their feet on the ground and their egos in check. 

Starting and running a successful business can be rewarding and challenging. Success requires focus, discipline and perseverance. However, success usually does not come overnight - it requires a long-term focus and that you remain consistent in challenging environments. This will be the hardest thing you have ever done and the most rewarding.

Columbia College, Entrepreneurship, Leadership

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