Business success comes from being good at MANY things, not just one thing - the business success factors. As in life, you can only leverage your strengths if your weaknesses are not fatal; and, success or failure starts in your mind long before it manifests in real life. Those are two foundational pillars for business success generally ignored (or marginally addressed) by most academics, experts, consultants, the business press and the gurus. Successful business people know it but others don’t seem to pay enough attention to it. As a result, over 70% of all businesses fail or exit (P.S. If the experts are right, why is the failure rate so high - 70% - and why has it not dropped much over the years?).
Everybody wants business wealth but few understand or master the four foundational sets of factors that precede the 'pot of gold':
All of the content on this website is organized around the individual 'business success factors' listed below. If you have a passion for business, you will forever be getting better at one or many of these. What are you good at, and what do you need to work on? Imagine the joy of working on them and the string of successes that you will have.
Your Arrogance & Complacency. Success in business and in life is earned every single time you do business - it has to be constantly earned, not given. Many people fail to succeed or have limited success because of arrogance and complacency - they assume success or continued success or believe 'it is due to them'.
Arrogance could come from what you have - money, power, credentials, looks, relationships and such; and from believing that you are better, smarter, richer or more important than others.
Complacency is caring more about where you are rather than about where you are going. Complacent people think they have it all 'figured out', losing awareness and curiosity of the world around them, including customers, markets and relationships. Complacency is like standing still on a running treadmill.
Your beliefs about businesses and being in business is fundamental to your success in business. If you have negative views about business and being in business your subconscious mind will never let you succeed in business. For example, some people believe that businesses plunder society and business people are evil (or some similar belief).
Your beliefs and relationship with money will enable or impede your business success. Whatever your objectives for being in business, you need to obtain revenues for the products or services you provide - requires you to charge money for your products or services. And, if you want to make a profit and accumulate wealth, you must be comfortable making and accumulating money.
Many people have a financial thermostat (how much money they believe is personally adequate) that is set to a small amount, disabling their ability to generate substantial revenues, profit or wealth. As for beliefs, if you were raised believing that money is the cause of misery in society or that you are not worthy of making (more) money, your mind will ‘hold you back’ when you seek to make money.
Your self-confidence is your sense of self. It is your 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 won't use them to their fullest extent to pursue success.
Self-talk drives self-esteem which drives self-confidence. Everybody faces self-doubt. People with higher self-confidence and ability to manage personal self-doubt develop higher self-confidence. Fortunately, confidence is a skill that can be progressively developed with awareness and practice.
Your Comfort Zone is your personal zone where you feel safe and comfortable. Most people have difficulty leaving their comfort zones (inertia) 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. Your willingness to periodically leave your comfort zone is a huge factor in your business success.
Is your true professional desire and passion - your 'true north' - to succeed in business? Or, would you rather be doing something else - be an engineer, doctor, artist, writer, trader, craftsman, etc.? Desire is a person’s need to possess or achieve something. Think of it as the engine at the front of a train pulling it. If you desire something, you will pursue it with vigor. Obviously, if your desire in business is low, you may quickly lose interest; if it is high, your interest may be sustained for a long time. If you are passionate about business, your interest could last a lifetime.
Your Motivations to Succeed in Business - internal and external - are analogous to the engine at the back that is providing you the extra push as you move towards your objectives and goals. Is being in business aligned with your 'true north' - what you enjoy doing? Intrinsic motivations could be things like seeking prestige, wealth, financial independence or power. Extrinsic motivations could be things like wanting to please somebody, beat a competitor or acquire something.
Successphobia. There are several people who have successphobia, a fear of success or have an inability to cross the finish line. The person who fears success has an internal conflict - one part wanting success and the other fearing success. A person who fears success is very much like a person who fears failure – both of them prevent the attainment of their goals. The person is unable to comfortably handle achievement - an underlying fear.
Your business instincts (intuition) were developed over your lifetime, based on your experiences, values, rules and stories. Each of those is based on what you heard, believe and experienced; and, each of those was developed in specific contexts, some enabling your business success and others impeding it. Your intuition is within your own mind – your inference or conclusion based on the situation or available data, not what you decide to say or do. Do you have good or bad business instincts?
Your mindfulness is about being consciously aware – monitoring their intuitions, emotions and creative ideas. 40%-80% of decisions people make daily are made are ‘auto pilot’, without conscious thought. How mindful are you about yourself and your environment?
Your judgment is what you choose to do (or not). Judgement separates successful business leaders from unsuccessful ones – what they choose (decide) to say or do based on the known and unknown information, analysis as well as intuition. It is simply the use of your conscious mind before you act – mind over business.
Your personality is a set of individual differences you possess that make you 'uniquely you'. There are several profiling assessments that classify people into different personality types. Your personal 'life story' can provide insights into your values, attitudes, important (according to you) personal memories, social relationships, habits, and skills.
Your mindset is an established set of attitudes or way of thinking you have. It could also be described as an inclination or habit. At the extremes, you could have a growth mindset or a closed mindset.
Your Creativity is your ability to think laterally across different aspects of life and business to connect the dots and draw unique inferences and ideas. Warren Buffet spends 80% of his working day reading, thinking and making unique inferences and developing creative ideas - drawing parallels (connecting dots) to develop creative ideas for their business lives.
Your Emotional Intelligence is your awareness of your personal triggers and emotions, and those of others to manage. Just as your instincts and judgement were shaped over your lifetime, so too were your emotional reactions. There are emotions like compassion that are ‘positive’ whereas emotions like anger and violence are ‘negative’. Emotionally intelligent people understand themselves well enough to use positive and negative emotions to achieve business outcomes. Are you emotionally self-aware and know how to read the emotions of others to manage yourself and your interaction with others? Do you use your emotional intelligence to achieve greater business success?
Your Smarts are your intelligence and ability to analyze information and make decisions, an obviously important factor in business success prized by businesses and society. Everybody has varying ability use one’s conscious mind to discern, analyze, extend and make decisions about situations. Critical thinkers analyze situations and data well and therefore make good decisions.
Your Business - Market Needs, Your Solutions, Business Model & Business Plan. What is the business you run or launching? What is your understanding (and validation) of the market needs, the solution you offer, your business model & your plan to make it a viable business?
Every business is built to meet a need or solve a problem in the market. Understanding the market need (and validating it) is a foundational requirement for any business. Additionally, the solution your business offers (a product, service or a combination) and a clear understanding of your business model - your suppliers, operations, customers, delivery channels and where in the process your business will make money (how much and from whom) are essential for business success. All of these are captured in a business plan which is generally required to successfully run a business.
What do you want to achieve and what are your goals along the way? The objectives are aspirational and long-term whereas goals are concrete and short-term. An example objective is that you want to build a business that helps 1 billion people around the world become business thinkers that are able to run their own lives as businesses. A goal is an intermediate short-term milestone that is generally measured easily. In our example, if the goal is to have 10,000 people register on our website this month, I can measure our progress against our goal by counting the number of new registrations on businessthinking.com.
Many people getting into business or already in business are in love with their technology, business idea or market. Many of them also struggle with monetizing their offering in their market – packaging it and getting people to pay for it. Obviously, unless you have customers generating revenues and profits, you don’t have a business. This is an obviously important success factor that is often overlooked. There are numerous founders who enact the 'Field of Dreams' approach to business and many a beautiful website, product or solution without a viable customer base to make it a business.
What you know and learn that informs your view of the world, your industry and business? What skills do you have that helps you be successful in your business? Your knowledge of business, industry and specific aspects of your business and markets is essential for your business success. Similarly, you may need specific skills to succeed in your business. Typical sources of knowledge and skills are colleges, universities, training programs, online MOOCs (massive online open courses), conferences, seminars and such. You can also acquire knowledge and skills on-the-job.
Your Business Acumen or commercial acumen is your understanding of the different functions of a business – finance, marketing, operations, strategy, etc., the interrelationships between them and how they constitute a business that generates revenues and profits. A person with good business acumen knows how a business can and does make money, how to monitor the health of a business and which levers can be pulled to achieve business outcomes. A large number of people in business are fairly illiterate on business acumen leaving a few people in senior positions with the understanding to manage the business.
Do you understand the link between your physiology and your mind, and how to modify your physiology to influence your mind and achieve desired outcomes? Our emotions change based on our posture, hunger, diet and sleep habits. That is physiology at work. In the same vein, have you wondered what drinking a cup of coffee or an energy drink does to your body? Well, you are chemically changing your body chemistry to increase your alertness.
There are norms and expectations for each profession and role that one has to understand and conform to. It may be stamina required for a frequent business travelers, ability to work long night hours for those in other professions or it could be that you need to have a certain image for success. Do you know how you need to look, become and play the part for success in your business?
Your Personal Brand - Are you building your personal brand and positioning it in a manner that enhances your ability to succeed in your business - for the industry, geography and business you are in? Have you defined your brand identity and do you promote it to the audience you are targeting?
Success in business is not a one-person sport. Social skills are about being effective at networking, relating, communicating, building relationships, influencing and leveraging people for business success.
You need people, capital, technology, materials, assets and whatever else you need to make your business a success - the resources required vary by industry and profession. This success factor covers a number of items that are widely covered in the business community - recruiting, retaining and developing the right talent, raising capital for different needs, R&D, innovation, materials required in businesses; and, assets required and acquired for the business.
Every business requires marketing to feed the top of the sales funnel, business development to develop the prospects, sales to close them and customer relationship management to retain them. Customer relationship management retains customers and keeps them happy. Businesses without customers are not really businesses and those that cannot hold onto customers die.
Smart business people know that the key to building high quality repeatable solutions that can scale in the marketplace come from implementing good processes and systems.
A key success factor in business is execution. At the end of the day, money is made when business people smartly take carefully laid plans and resources to ‘make it happen’. If you don't make things happen, there is no value delivery to the client, no money received and therefore no business. Execution is where businesses grow or die, you succeed or fail and money is made or lost. Some people are very good at execution while others get lost in strategizing, thinking, planning, designing, making, marketing and such - losing the opportunity to execute for business success.
Every goal needs tracking, measurement, feedback, correction and action to achieve results. Individuals also benefit from having mentors, coaches and people to cheer and hold them accountable for achieving goals and objectives. They also need ‘truth tellers’ who will provide unvarnished feedback when appropriate. Metrics could be leading, real-time or trailing ones and feedback could be from peers, employees, partners and external advisors so you can take corrective action and attain your goals.
An ongoing business needs to provide a sustained income. Additionally, cashing out of a business is what creates wealth, whether it is selling your ownership in the company, a merger or simply handing it to the next generation (wealth transfer).