Are you thinking about starting a new business, but feeling discouraged by the low success rates? This article is for you. While it’s true that statistics predict your doom within four years, and many of those who survive struggle for years before becoming stable, there are some businesses who seem to take an unfair slice of the luck pie, make all of the right decisions at the perfect times, suck up all of the success and market-share in some sort of profit sucking vacuum, and repeatedly increase their growth year-after-year. What is it about these wildly successful business that makes them such power-players in their markets for such long periods of time, while other businesses watch from the sidelines, or even worse, the standing-room-only section? I’ve got some answers for you. 1. Vision “The ultimate search engine would basically understand everything in the world, and it would always give you the right thing. And we’re a long, long way from that.” – Larry Page, Co-founder of Google, Inc. Leaders always have a vision. Without a vision of what your business, people, product, or service looks like 5, 10, and 30 years in the future, how can you put together a plan to get there? How will you know what you’re ultimately working for and building toward? How will you know whether you’re on-target or off-track, and how much you’ll need to adjust? What will motivate and inspire your people to keep working hard and innovating? All great businesses have a vision, and regardless of whether it’s attainable, it’s that vision that spurs everything else. 2. Dreamers “I want to put a ding in the universe.” – Steve Jobs, C.E.O. of Apple Computers, Inc. Leaders have vision. Legends have monumental visions. The body paints the picture that the mind creates, so give yourself an enormous canvass. Think big! And think outside of the box. If you’re vision is to grow to be as big as the top competitor in your market, you’ll never catch up. They’ll always be a step ahead of you. If you want to compete, and eventually surpass, you’ll need to think bigger than your competitors. Don’t base your goals on what anyone else is doing. Leaders run their own races. 3. Action “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” – Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company Now that you’ve got this beautiful vision, the next step is to sit down and compose a plan detailing every single step on your business’s path to success, right? Wrong. The next step is to act. Anyone can sit down and design the perfect plan, but over and over again, your “perfect” plans will become trash. You’ll find out very quickly that when faced with adversity, planning means nothing and adapting means everything. A basic outline and a “to-do” list is good enough. Over-planning is the biggest rookie mistake in business. Figure out what to do first, and if you can’t decide, just pick something at random. You’ve got to start somewhere. Do you need investors? Find some and deliver the sales pitch of a lifetime. Do you need materials? Shop around and find the cheapest price, and then buy. Do you need people? Put an ad up and start interviewing until you’ve someone who you can mold. Just take action. The first step is the hardest and most intimidating. Often, a new entrepreneur will over-plan because planning is comfortable. Planning looks like work, feels like work, and sounds like work, but the truth is, it’s your actions that get the job done and create success. Conquer your fear with action, and you’ll be amazed at what happens. 4. Persistence “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe.” – Muhammad Ali, “The Greatest” boxer of all-time Pick a famous billionaire entrepreneur. Now, research his or her success story. Here’s what you found: that incredibly successful person failed miserably multiple times before they saw an ounce of success. If you didn’t read about these failures, research again. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple (the company he founded), started a new business with large amounts of funding from highly sought-after investors, flopped miserably, and in an embarrassing move, sold his new company out to his old company, which he no longer ran or owned. He never gave up, learned from his failure, and is once again the top dog at Apple, leading the company into uncharted territory and carrying the entire tech industry on his back. Bill Gates’ first computer company, Traf-O-Data, was a complete failure. Henry Ford’s first car company was a complete failure. Walt Disney was fired from his first newspaper job because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Einstein failed math. Even Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team! The truth is, the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who have failed the most times, learned, and tried again. The didn’t accept failure as an end result. As Thomas Edison put it, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 5. Innovation “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” – Albert Einstein Whether you’re product or service is the best or the worst, there are ways to make it work better. How can you produce it faster? How can you make it last longer? How can you cut costs? What is your product’s best asset? How do you make that better? Ask yourself these questions because you can be sure that your competition is asking them, and if you don’t find a way to your product better, they will. The best question to ask yourself is, “How can I sell more?” Ask your customers why they didn’t buy. Ask them what you could do better in designing, advertising, and selling the product. Use your customers as your primary research tools. Ask yourself, “What markets aren’t you tapping into?” and “What’s keeping you out of those markets?” All of these questions will lead to designing a better product, manufacturing it more efficiently, advertising it more effectively to more markets, and selling it better than anyone else. 6. Acceleration “A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.” – Steve Jobs What’s the best thing to do in a recession? If you asked most companies, they’d tell you to downsize and cut costs. If you asked Apple Computers, Inc., they would have told you to make your product so appealing that consumers will buy regardless of the economy. It’s this type of thinking that results in success. When you downsize, you’re accepting defeat. The recession beat you. Instead of letting people go, get them to work more efficiently. Make your sales force more aggressive. When nobody is calling you, go out and search for them. If you’re construction doesn’t have enough work for everybody, focus the rest of your team on finding one new customer that day. If you’re able to find just 1 new customer per day, you might need to bring on more people! The best businesses are those that don’t slow down for adversity, but instead look it square in the eye and fight through it. At the end of the day, it is these companies that survive and thrive. 7. Progression “If I’d had some set idea of a finish line, don’t you think I would have crossed it years ago?” – Bill Gates, Co-founder of Microsoft Corp. How much is enough? There’s no such thing. Successful businesses are focused on moving forward at all times. If you want to become an industry leader, you’ve got to grow, and never stop growing. It’s easy for people to be satisfied after achieving a goal. What’s the difference between the one-hit wonders and the dynasty’s? When a successful business achieves its goal, it sets another one; it raises the bar. This is how standards are set, and raised. Progression is a direct result of innovation and acceleration. When you never lose focus becoming better and you keep your foot on the gas pedal, you’re going to see continued progress. It’s great to congratulate you people on their success and to celebrate achievement, but never be satisfied with your business to the point that you stop growing.