How do you define success?
Money? Time with family? Personal satisfaction? The creation of long-term business value? Job creation? A change for the better in the world around us?
Most small business owners use one or more of these definitions. Some aspire to all of them!
Your definition may be similar, or it may be different. The important thing is to know what success means to you. How do you make sure that you have what it takes?
To achieve success, I believe that there are six characteristics that all small business owners need. Fortunately, these traits can be developed by anyone who chooses to do so.
Here is my list:
Successful business owners have excellent character. They are ethical and trustworthy; they make decisions based on what is right rather than what is expedient. Whether you are their employee, partner, investor, customer, client, friend, colleague or family member, you know that you can trust them to do the right thing, and they do what they say they will do.
Trust pays huge dividends in business. When your customers trust you to treat them fairly, give them good value for their money, and provide excellent service — your retention and repeat business goes up, marketing costs go down, and your profitability is enhanced. When your employees trust you, productivity improves and turnover is reduced. It's not hard to imagine the cost savings and increased profitability that results!
Successful business owners make a commitment to a goal, and they see it through. They are tenacious. They don't give up. When they hit a bump in the road, they find another path, and they keep going.
As Knute Rockne said: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
Without that commitment on the part of the owner, no business will reach its highest level of success.
Compassion is good for business. In the book Values-Driven Business: How to Change the World, Make Money, and Have Fun (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2006) by Ben Cohen and Mal Warwick, the authors show how even small businesses with limited resources can benefit from caring policies towards their customers, employees, suppliers, community and the planet.
Many business professionals understand this intuitively. Even if all you can do as a small business is become involved in making your community a better place (for example, through membership in a local service club or service on a non-profit board), your business eventually benefits in ways that you may not have foreseen when you joined.
Conviction is the absolute belief that the products or services that you are offering, and the business that you are creating, is valuable and serves a need that has never been filled in exactly that way before.
If you're not completely convinced of this, your customers won't be, either. Think about that for a minute — your passion for what you're doing is critical to your success. I can't think of a better reason to choose a business that you love.
Starting and running a business is definitely an act of courage. It entails risk, uncertainty and a great deal of effort and hard work. Courageous business owners take the risk, accept the uncertainty, and do the heavy lifting needed to make their business succeed.
As Sir Winston Churchill said: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
With courage, success is not guaranteed — but without it, failure is certain.
People who start and grow businesses are literally creating something out of nothing. The creativity that people apply to their businesses is awe-inspiring.
Sometimes we limit our definition of creativity. While some people are more inventive than others, or more artistically or musically talented than others, we all have areas in which we excel creatively. These talents can be nurtured and grown once you become aware of them.
The process of running a business can also be very creative. Apply your creativity to your business, and watch it grow!
Are there other traits that you think are important in business? Share them with us here!
JoAnne Berg is a trusted business advisor with over 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur, CFO/COO, and CPA/advisor to closely held businesses. Read her blogs at The Art of Small Business. Her newest venture is Peer Coaching Network, Inc., which provides affordable training and peer based group coaching to small business owners. Follow her on Twitter @JoAnneBerg and Facebook.