Most of us set up our businesses with much excitement. We are highly motivated to make a great success of it. Most of us find ourselves overwhelmed very early. Setting priorities on our time and where we spend it is very challenging. We often find ourselves going around in circles, achieving far less than we hoped to. This is where our greatest learning curve usually is. Looking back on my own experience, I can identify 9 important Keys to Success.
1. Be Competent In Our Area of Expertise and Experience.
We need to be recognised as knowing our stuff, being current and up to date, moving with latest ideas, thinking and approaches. This means we need to be reading the latest magazines, journals and on line information relating to our professional or industry area. We need to be engaged in on-going professional development and training. Most importantly we need to have the skills to communicate it if we are in an area where we are training and developing others. We can obtain information very easily nowadays, but being able to make that relevant to our professional lives so that it makes a difference to the way we work, requires skills in communicating, good people skills, good “soft skills”.
Most business people will say that they don’t have time to do this, but it is crucially important in these times of great change that we stay at the forefront of our industry.
2. Learn Business Skills – Grow and Develop Them.
Many people establish a business because they are passionate about what they do and want to have more control over it. Being good at what we do does not automatically translate into running a successful business. To do that we have to give as much time to working on our business as in it. Many people do this with a coach; others will attend training and workshops – both live and on-line. Joining professional and industry groups also helps here because ideas are shared. Taking time out to do focused work on marketing and promotion, planning and implementation, among other business development tasks is crucial to its success.
3. Being Innovative – Coming Up With New Ideas and Approaches.
We have to step outside our comfort zones and try things we may not have tried before – new approaches to the way we do things, for example. This is especially important in these challenging times. More importantly, we need to be always thinking ahead of where our industry is at. What could disrupt my industry? This is an important question to be asking. A long term industry like car manufacturing, is disappearing from Australia. Some car parts’ businesses saw it coming and diversified their businesses some time ago so they are not now feeling the impact of it all. Others put their heads in the sand and did nothing and are now having to close their businesses. Are we seeing the trends in our industry and diversifying before our business becomes irrelevant?
4. Being Aware of the Big Picture.
Building on what has been said above, if we stay within the ambit of out narrow area of experience and expertise we may miss the boat. In this global village in which we now live, we need to be aware of what is happening in our professional or industry area across that global environment. Through technology we can build a global small business. Through social media we can be involved with and connected to people all over the world. This is one very important way of staying at the forefront of current trends and thinking. It also offers opportunities to take our businesses beyond Australia.
5. Becoming Digitally Aware and Technological Literate.
The fact that I even cite this as an item in how to be successful is a revelation of my age and vintage! It’s taken as a given for Gen X, Y Z. So if you are in the baby boomer generation make a commitment to learning all you can and engaging with this digital environment. A few years back I was a technophobe and progressing to where I am now was quite difficult and painful but we older business people can do it and must. We can engage the younger generation in our organisation in a reverse mentoring role, helping us understand the technology with which they are hard wired.
6. Having Good Support Structures.
This is absolutely essential. Having a partner who supports what I do, will back me with his time, energy – and even finances in the early stages – has been crucial. Sharing the parenting of our children in times past also was crucially important. Having the courage to engage staff when we don’t feel we have the money, instead of trying to do it all ourselves, can pay off big time! Starting with a personal assistant or a book-keeper to do all the paper work so we can get on with building the real business can make a huge difference. I have built a team of reliable support people around me – web developers, graphic designers, computer technicians, marketing people – who I can call on to support my initiatives. Most of these activities are outsourced.
7. Developing and Maintaining Networks.
It’s the people we know who also help us to grow and develop our business, our profile and reputation. It is therefore vitally important to develop and grow those networks. I am a committed networker with an absolute belief that our network is our net-worth. We need to be selective about where we network, that we are meeting and building relationships with people who will help us develop professionally and grow our businesses and to whom we can make a contribution to their businesses as well. Maintaining those relationships is equally important.
8. Having a Flexible Business Plan.
Knowing what our short and long term goals are for our professional lives or business is important to clarify. Planning to achieve it is essential. Devising step by step action plans for how to get there is very helpful. There need to be simple charts rather than pages of detail. With the world moving at the speed it does and things changing rapidly our plans need to be flexible and we need to be agile managers, able to change quickly should situations demand it otherwise we get left behind and stuck in the past.
9. Maintaining Cash Flow.
This is the greatest challenge in any business which is probably why I have left this to last. As the business grows, as our business plan is implemented, this becomes less of an issue. It can break a business if not managed in the early stages. It will also break up relationships if we find ourselves working long hours in our business to maintain cash flow while neglecting our important family members. Getting advice, coaching or mentoring for this right from the start can be very helpful.