Business is tough. It can be hard to survive without self-sabotaging by making the same mistakes most owners make. Over 18 years advising business owners (and growing my own business), I’ve found there are five main business success killers.
But rest easy, I’ve got your back. Here are a few strategies to help your business have the best chance of success.
Know the end game
The biggest problem I see with most businesses is they don’t have a plan.
Without one, owners get caught up in the doing, and lose sight of where they’re going.
When things get tough - and they will – they fall back into bad habits such as short-term thinking, going conservative, or reverting to being a control freak.
It’s critical to have a clear long-term strategy, with short-term goals to help keep you on track. You need a clear idea of where you are and where you want to be so you can develop a plan for how you’re going to get there.
A plan greatly increases your chances of success – both now, in the form of profit, and in the future, by building a highly valuable asset. Your plan should also address your exit strategy and the steps you’ll put in place now to maximise your exit.
And tell your staff about your plan: Your team aren’t going to share in your vision and benefit from the direction it provides unless they know about it.
Don’t settle for ‘enough’
Whether we’re business owners or salary earners, we have a knack for spending what we earn. Our tastes correlate directly to our pay packet.
The flipside is also true for most business owners. After team members, suppliers and bills are paid, many are happy to just take whatever's left. But without a clear idea of what you want from your business, the tendency for complacency – to just get by – is too great.
Your objective should be for the business to fund your lifestyle, not the other way around.
A solution is to pay yourself first: This forces you to find the extra revenue to achieve the lifestyle you want.
Then pay yourself more each year, forcing you to continually find revenue growth.
The business comes first
I love Gordon Ramsay’s TV show where he helps struggling small restaurants turn things around.
As the owner, you’re the most critical factor in your business’ success, but the show starkly demonstrates that you can also be the biggest thing holding your business back.
As owners, our ego can sometimes get in the way. The feeling of being indispensable – that things couldn’t possibly run properly without you there – is a self-fulfilling prophecy that will tie you to it forever.
Most owners I deal with say there are never enough hours in the day to do everything they need. By removing yourself from the day-to-day operations of the business, and getting your people to take more responsibility, you’re freed up to work strategically on your business, and focus on the critical success factors.
The definition of a business is leveraging other people’s time – so if you’re too involved you won’t fully leverage the talents of your people, and you’re probably more ‘self-employed’ than a business owner. The key to growing your business is finding people smarter than you.
Critically, a business that doesn’t rely on an owner makes it much more valuable to a prospective buyer.
Sometimes we lack the motivation or drive to make the business successful.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the mountain of tasks we need to tackle, so we do nothing.
Successful businesses understand their “why”.
Your “why” is the driving force that separates the successful from the hopeful. It’s a powerful tool to share with your team and your customers.
For some, your driving force will be financial; others relentlessly pursue the idea of “success” even when they’ve “made it” many times over by others’ standards.
Articulating your business’ why, and yours as an individual, may help your business grow and evolve.
Make your move
Most people are afraid to fail. Consequently, they end up doing nothing. This is fatal for businesses, as taking action is the key to success.
He who hasn’t made a mistake, hasn’t made anything. It’s what you do next that matters. Often we’re paralysed by fear of the unknown – something we haven’t even tried yet.
The key is to fail with flair. Life is one big learning experience. Embrace “failure” for what it is – feedback you can learn from so you can grow and develop.
Challenging the status quo – which comes from taking a risk and doing things differently – is what gives you a point of difference to your competitors.