Destroy These Threats to Achieve
Greater Business Success
- Ram V. Iyer
Many people seek business success but few achieve it. Everyone wants a high income and great wealth but few achieve either. Depending on whose numbers you believe, between 65% and 80% of all businesses in America fail within 10 years. And, most people who enter business fail but people avoid ‘seeing it’ and most believe it is the ‘other guy/gal’ who will fail. Millions of businesses stay small and die young (because of some of the reasons listed below). Millions more who do fail ‘disappear’ into full-time jobs in companies or become solopreneurs barely making ends meet. Few achieve the spectacular success they are capable of (and dream about). There are a set of BIG underlying reasons and THEY CAN BE 'FIXED'.
Whether you are seeking business success or greater business success, are you finding your LIMITED SUCCESS?
- Do you feel you have hit a ceiling and can’t achieve greater success?
- Are you a business owner whose revenues have ‘hit a wall’ and you cannot figure out why you cannot grow it?
- Are you trying to make more money and feel something holding you back, but you can’t put your finger on it?
- Are you achieving limited business success and wondering why?
- As an executive, do you get passed by for promotions with greater business responsibilities?
Do you feel that you are facing repeated FAILURE?
- Do you have an MBA but unsuccessful in business?
- Are you smart but unsuccessful in business?
- Are you from a non-business family or background and having difficulty developing a 'business mindset'?
- Are you full of great ideas but unable to monetize them?
- Do you have pedigreed credentials but unsuccessful in business?
- Are you one of the 20 million solopreneurs struggling to make ends meet in your business?
The causes of business failure and limited success are obvious and common sense, except that commonsense appears to be uncommon. People see it and know it – when you point them out or explain them – but seem to pay little attention to them while in business. When they ‘hit a wall’ or fail, they don’t look at the common sense reasons for failure first, instead looking at external reasons and look to the experts for answers. I guess it is easier to point at some external factor than look inward.
With over 70% of all businesses in America failing, most academics, experts and ‘gurus’ are focused on the external causes of failure – factors such as lack of capital, technology, team members, etc. While external factors are potential causes of failure (which have been studied and ‘addressed’ for years) the failure rate of businesses and business people has not changed much. That begs a logical question – Are we ignoring the BIG reasons (rocks) for failure while working on the reasons that are not reducing the failure rate (the pebbles)?
What are these uncommon sense reasons that seem to cause much of the failure? Let me give you a heads up. You will probably recognize all of them and wonder what the big deal is – you already know them and believe that everybody else does as well. However it is the indifference to these problems that are big reasons for business failure.
Let’s take a look at what may be impeding your business success:
Firstly, success is often predicted by experts and pundits based on WHAT YOU POSSESS (your strengths and assets) and failure is predicted by WHAT YOU LACK (your weaknesses and liabilities). Few people predict failure based on what you have that could impede or guarantee your failure. For example, if your passion is be a great engineer (but not a business person), you have the wrong kind of desire to succeed in business but get told by most people that you can succeed in business with hard work. There is no barrier for people wanting to to start a business – irrespective of whether the person loves business, has the appropriate education, skills, experience, business savvy, etc. I label their attributes as ‘bad ingredients' and 'wrong ingredients’ for business success - they can make it difficult (or impossible) for you to be successful in business. Could many people in business not suited for business? They are not bad people, just a mismatch for a business career.
Secondly, the success factors generally considered are external ones like lack of business education, capital, technology, team, location, etc. Those may be your impediments but few people look at the internal factors – those inside your head. It is like giving the horse jockey the authentic NBA basketball and expecting NBA-level performance.
Everything is OBVIOUS
(once you know the answer)
Common sense and 'obvious' are not as 'commonly obvious' as you might think.
Business success starts in your head long before the opportunities and resources appear. If you have bad and wrong ingredients, you are destined to achieve limited success or fail. The biggest factors resulting in limited success or failure are ranked a little differently but are largely the same set of 'bad and wrong ingredients' which are EIGHT in number:
1. Assumed Success. Getting into business is easy and therefore many people believe that succeeding is easy as well. Sure, optimism is good but when accompanied by lack of effort, complacency or over-confidence, failure follows. Think about exercise. Buying a gym membership (with a recurring monthly payment) is easy – just whip out the credit card. Obviously, a gym membership does not make you fitter or stronger (just as starting a business does not assure success). You know what happens thereafter – most people don’t go the gym and become neither fitter nor stronger. The same happens in business. Of the 26 million or so businesses in America, 20 million have no employees. I suspect most of the 20 million never do any business (exchange products or services for money).
You can literally ‘be in business’ with an address, website and fancy business cards (with the CEO title) in hours. You may even have the degrees, pedigree, capital, talent and technology; and you may even have the connections to open doors. Many people who have and do those things expect imminent success. However, business success – particularly sustained success - is elusive for most people. In fact, 4 out of every 5 people who enter business fail, fold up or move on.
Starting a business is simply the beginning, not the achievement of business success. That false sense of accomplishment can quickly lead to failure because it moves you into the “I have arrived!” mindset which is generally fatal. Smart business people know that their IQ and experience simply enables them to recognize and leverage the smarts of the people in their network and ecosystem to recover from setbacks and failures and achieve sustained business success. That is why you hear stories of spectacular successes followed by spectacular failures and the vice versa. Business failure is like a wild animal that is always lurking. If you are not on top of your business game, it will simply pounce on you. While you can succeed at a young age, you can never be old enough to fail.
2. You have negative views about being in business and about businesses. Such negative views manifest themselves as beliefs, rules and emotions. For example, if you heard that "Businesses plunder society" repeatedly and perhaps had negative experience that 'confirmed' that view, you will have developed a negative relationship with businesses as well as being in business. When you seek to start or grow a business, you are ‘wired’ and programmed’ to sabotage your own business success – and you don’t even realize it! Your subconscious (where your rules and beliefs manifest themselves) will 'prevent' you from succeeding in business. People with this issue may say, "Business is not for people like me” but still expect to be successful in business. On the other hand, you may hear a successful business person say, "I love being in business."
3. You have negative views about money and making money. Such negative views manifest themselves as beliefs, rules and emotions. If you believe that money is the root cause of all evil, or pursuing money making is a sinful activity, you are ‘wired’ and 'programmed’ to sabotage your own ability to make money. On the other hand, a person with a positive view of making money may say, "I love making money." Every one of us has a 'financial thermostat' - a certain amount of money that we have psychologically decided is adequate for our needs. That is why lotter winners who have a low financial thermostat lose their money within a couple of years unless they 'raise' their financial thermostat. This is the same reason why many private business owners have become 'lifestyle business owners' - their business makes enough money to meet their personal definition of needs (fully-paid off home, vacation home, vacation, whatever..). Once the business provides them that amount of money, they 'stop' growing the business. According to Rob Slee, a widely respected expert on private businesses, about 80% of all private businesses are (intentionally) under-performing. When it comes time to sell the business, a private equity firm often sees the 'upside' that the owner refused to monetize.
If you believe businesses plunder society and money is the root cause of evil, your subconscious brain (which makes 60%-80% of all decisions) will hold you back in business and prevent you from making money.
4. You are unwilling to leave your 'comfort zone'. You are unwilling to leave what feels safe to you – doing the same things you have been doing for years. You may say you want to be in business and make lots of money but are unwilling to the things required to succeed in business and make money because that 's not what you are 'used' to doing. Comfort zones are boundaries designed by us for personal safety and comfort. Most people have difficulty leaving their comfort zones or even widening it. Unless you are an accomplished business person (usually experienced), it is highly unlikely that you will succeed without stretching and leaving your comfort zone.
A big reason why people do not leave their comfort zone is a lack of self-confidence. Your self-confidence is your sense of self - belief in your capabilities to perform at the required level, attain goals, learn new skills and achieve your objectives. It is the most important psychological contributor to performance in the business world because even if have all of the ability in the world to accomplish a goal, if you lack confidence in your abilities, you will 'never get out of the gate' - "If you think you can succeed, you could; if you think you cannot, you will not succeed". Fortunately, confidence is a skill that can be progressively developed with awareness and practice.
5. Your true professional passion (what you enjoy doing, good at doing and truly want to do for a very long time) lies in a different career. For some people, business success may be a desire (desires are finite and are 'satisfied' once the threshold is reached - such as getting to be a $10M company or employing 500 people).
If your desire (and a low one at that) is met, you may have limited business success (or end up in failure) since the desire is not high and it is not your passion. In that case, you will not enjoy being in business or adequately prepare to succeed at it. On the other hand, a person whose 'true north' is being a business person will say, "I was born to be in business."
6. You have a low desire to be in business or achieve higher success in business. If you do not have a strong desire to be in business (I do it only for the money, It was just handed to me or I’d rather be doing X), your heart will not be in business and that will show in your (level of) engagement and success in business. A person with a strong desire to be in business might say, "I am in business 24 hours a day."
“Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than any other.
Listen to your inner voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
6. You have weak motivations – internal and external – for wanting business success or greater business success.
Everybody in life has ups and downs, good days and bad days. If you don't have or can't find the motivation to persevere – obstacles and setbacks could derail or destroy your business success or get you to quit. A person with strong motivations to pursue business success may say, "I will not stop until I build my business into a billion dollar company." Motivations are not the same as desire - motivations are what 'push' you, desires are what 'pull' you.
7. Your Mental Models that block or derail your success. Mental models are each person’s way of simplifying and making sense of a situation. They may be in the form of visual representations, beliefs, metaphors or your own personal rules (based on experience). For example, you may have a rule that people are ok to deal with if they graduated from college. You may ask every new person which college he/she graduated from. If the person did not graduate, you may choose to avoid any dealings with that person – simply helps you make faster decisions and a proxy for simplifying the avalanche of data.
If your mental model is that all selling is bad, you are probably not going to sell your own business’s products or services (people tend to sell like they buy and buy like they sell). This could prevent you from achieving success in growing your business’ revenues.
If your metaphor for business is that, “Business is like baseball,” you could consider business to be fun, about getting on base, trying to hit a homerun if possible, and so on. On the other hand, if you think business is like being in a den of snakes, you will be constantly terrified and focused on survival rather than growth and success.
Obviously, the meaning each of us gives to situations (based on our own mental models) is individual. There are negative and disempowering ways of framing business that could definitely impede your success or cause failure. You just need to ensure that you do not have any of those mental models.
8. You have 'success phobia' - the fear of success. Business is a game of constant battles which requires you to push for the win and sometimes defeat a competitor. If you have one part wanting and another fearing business success, you will be constantly sabotaging your business success. On the other hand, a person who pursues success and wants it might say, "I love to win in everything I compete."
I call these nine bad ingredients as ‘business reluctance’. If you have business reluctance, it does not matter what degrees you have, how smart you are or how much capital you have; you will have to overcome the ‘bad ingredients’ in order to achieve business success.
If you want to become a fighter pilot, you have to have certain qualifications. Additionally, you must not have certain attributes because they can lead to failure – bad eyesight, poor hearing, lack of desire to be a pilot, negative views about bombing, a burning desire to be an engineer(not a pilot), etc. Pilot applicants get rigorously screened. On the other hand, anybody wanting to start a business can. All it takes is for them to an idea, some credentials, some seed capital, technology, etc. They are subjected to little or no screening unless they are seeking a bank loan or venture capital. Most companies are started by people with their own money, money from friends and family or angel funds. None of those involve serious vetting. Moreover, even those vetting procedures look mainly at the external factors (75% of all VC-funded companies fail according to a study by the Harvard Business School). Of course, bad or missing ingredients for business success will destroy the business but not before countless hours and capital have been lost. Moreover, as the first point above details, assuming that success in business is as easy as starting one could be a fatal flaw.
Reluctance is synonymous with resistance, an inability to act, make sluggish progress or outright inertia (failure to even get started). In some cases, reluctance could be an inability to act beyond a certain point. For example, a significant number of business owners do not aggressively grow their companies once the cash generated from the business is adequate to fund the lifestyle they want for themselves (their desire has been 'met'). An investor, on the other hand, may aggressively grow the same company. In business, you cannot afford to have business reluctance whether you are a CEO, executive, solopreneur, entrepreneur or somebody considering a business career. Your business reluctance could become a huge impediment to your success and difficult to overcome.
Between the business people and the ‘experts’, they are looking largely at the external reasons because those are emotionally acceptable and generate more revenues for the consultants. Business reluctance is much harder to 'solve'. With business failures, whether you look at the individual leading the business or the business enterprise itself, many people pay heavy tolls. If the business person simply jumps to the next venture without truly understanding why they failed in the first place, the person will fail again. These are often the people who wear repeated failures as badges of honor. I was one of those individual business people who paid a price because I listened to the experts, looked at the external factors and failed to look at the internal ones. You can achieve success or greater success by learning from my mistakes instead of repeating them – your choice!
No one will do something that they don’t want to do; at least, not for long.
Take this short quiz to find out if you have business reluctance
THE BIGGEST IMPEDIMENT TO SUCCESS THAT I HAVE SEEN
Many people would rather fail than let somebody else find out they need help.
It is only the smart and committed people with a growth mindset that recognize their gaps, seek help and achieve greater business success.
If you have business reluctance and fail to acknowledge and conquer it, it can impede your personal success and that of your business. Keeping up appearances and failing to acknowledge and seek help can be fatal. Many people would rather fail than let somebody else find out they need help. It is only the smart ones that recognize their gaps, seek help and go on to achieve greater business success.
Depending on whose numbers you believe, between 65% and 80% of all businesses in America fail within 10 years. That is a staggering number. I believe that simply screening people (or getting them to screen themselves) aspiring to be in business for ‘business reluctance’, can substantially reduce the failure rate.
Rob Slee, an international expert on private companies (99% of all companies) says that a majority of private companies do not create additional business value because many of those owners lack the desire to achieve greater business success (click to listen to podcast interview with Rob) - many have some forms of business reluctance, typically hitting their setting on the financial thermostat. What do you think will happen to our economy (or any national economy for that matter) if we were to get 10% of those business owners to rekindle their desire (make it a burning desire) and motivation (make them highly motivated) to grow their businesses? Imagine how many more jobs will be created in communities across the world. Similarly, the world is littered with smart and talented people who have failed in business, in spite of good ideas. What if we could get 10% of them to overcome their business reluctance and be successful in business, whether they are solopreneurs, run a business with employees or work for businesses as employees? Nobody is watching you right now....
Almost everybody has some form of business reluctance (to some extent); it's a matter of identifying, monitoring and minimizing it to achieve greater business success. Business reluctance is like a loaded spring - you cannot take the pressure off it or it will 'spring at you'! Or, if you are into circus analogies, it is like a wild tiger or lion; you need to constantly monitor and manage it or you could get injured or killed. Your level of success depends on your continued ability to minimize all forms of business reluctance in yourself.
Take the quiz and find out how much (and which) business reluctance you may have.
I’m an MIT grad with two master degrees, including one from the MIT Sloan School. I found out the hard way that I needed to minimize business reluctance and develop 'business thinking' in addition to business knowledge (from business school), skills, mentoring and experience. Many people have an MBA, a great idea or good sales skills and decide they have what it takes to succeed in business. Wrong! Business success is a game for which you need to prepare your mind first.
If you want to avoid wasted years (or decades), change your business reluctance into business enthusiasm and develop business thinking. Get started by scrolling down and signing up for one of the packages – self-study online, group coaching or one-on-one coaching.
If your psychology is wrong (or bad) it doesn’t matter what or who you know, what titles you have, what degrees you have or what you can do - you will hit a wall in a matter of time. You need to follow a systematic framework to achieve business success – ours is methodical and adaptive – conduct a status check (quizzes), fix any business reluctance issues, build the foundation (structure) first, build muscles (knowledge, skills) next and then add the sizzle.
The coaching programs use the C.L.I.M.B. to Business Success methodology which leverages your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses (more details in the Q&A section below) – learn smarter, succeed faster, earn more and become wealthy sooner. Business thinking can be learnt. If you make the commitment and put in the effort, you can become a good business thinker and achieve business success. I will guide you and bring experts who will educate and coach you to success.
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