“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” — Thomas Jefferson
Anyone can start a business. Anyone can decide today, in this very moment, that they’re now in business for themselves. With a bit of legal wrangling and banking configuration, you’re now in the wonderful world of commerce. Purchase a domain on the internet, pop up a website, and hit the ground running, right?
While just about anyone can start a business, we all know that succeeding in business, in the long term, is monumentally difficult. Not only is it arduous to launch a substantial business itself, having to find the time and money to make ends meet along the way, especially if you have a family and hefty financial obligations, but it can also feel downright impossible to market, manage and grow that business over time.
It’s not easy. No one ever said it would be. But most people also don’t realize what they’re in store for when they decide to go into business for themselves. So why is it so hard to succeed in business? Why is it so mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and even physically, taxing?
If you’re drudging through the seas of commerce as a new startup, or you feel like you’re drowning in an onslaught of never-ending obligations, you’re not alone. So many people find it hard to succeed in business for one reason or another. But then again, if it were so easy, wouldn’t everyone do it?
To the victors go the spoils, so to speak, and those that can stick it out, will achieve long-term success and live the lives that they’ve always dreamed of. But to get there, you’re going to suffer through a torrent of failure, pain and anguish. It won’t be easy, but as long as you don’t throw in that proverbial towel, you’ll get there eventually.
The Roadmap For Business Success
Okay, we’ve established that succeeding in business is hard. You likely already know that. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, “About half of all new establishments survive five years or more and about one-third survive 10 years or more. As one would expect, the probability of survival increases with a firm’s age. Survival rates have changed little over time.”
Those are some pretty serious metrics going against business owners and entrepreneurs. How are we supposed to buck this trend and become the exception to the rule rather than the norm? Clearly, there are some obvious methods and principles for succeeding in business, but not everyone implements nor wields them.
So is this just a matter of lack of trying or lack of will or lack of something else for that matter? What separates the wildly-successful businesses from the ones that fail? Clearly, the success of a business has very much to do with the person or persons that are running it. Who are the founders? What are their core beliefs and values? What are their motivations in life?
If you have any experience running a business, or if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you likely know about all the complexities involved with attempting to build any semblance of a successful company. It’s one of the most taxing experiences that anyone can endure, and it involves a tremendous amount of hard work, wit, skill and perseverance. I don’t need to tell you that.
However, what I do want to convey, are the often-overlooked fundamental methods and principles for building a successful business. As long as you keep them in mind, your success will be far more effortless. If you ignore them, and look towards short-term gains and superficial goals, over time, you’ll fail. You might taste temporary success, but it will be fleeting at best.
#1 — Deliver enormous amounts of value
The most successful businesses in the world deliver the most value. Yet, this fundamental principle is often overlooked by others solely interested in short-term gains. There’s no chance to succeed in business in the long term without delivering enormous amounts of value.
Take a business like McDonald’s for example. While McDonald’s might not make the best burger in the world, it does deliver an enormous amount of value by controlling the supply chain. It’s a good quality product at a reasonable price and it’s consistency in its delivery that has set the company apart for decades.
Find a way that you can create value for your customers. Ensure that they’re getting far more than what they’re paying for. Go that extra mile for them. What can you deliver that will really get them talking about you? This won’t lead to overnight success. It will be a long road. But in the end, it will be well worth it.
#2 — Work with integrity no matter what
The second principle for succeeding in business in the long term is to work with integrity no matter what. Warren Buffet once said that, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
The moment you try to pull one over on your clients, customers, partners or employees, that’s the moment when you’ll lose your integrity. Don’t let the almighty dollar dictate how you govern yourself in business, and don’t allow it to compromise your values and beliefs just because you’re under financial pressure or looking to fulfill superficial financial goals.
Keep in mind that good news will spread slowly, but bad news spreads like wildfire. There’s absolutely no need to take shortcuts or look for a quick buck if you’re serious about achieving any semblance of long-term success. This is universally true whether you run a business or you work in any other capacity in the employment world.
#3 — Stay humble, regardless of how successful you get
It’s easy to allow success get to your head. When we succeed, we tend to party. When we fail, we tend to ponder. However, it’s easy to allow some short-term successes to help you lose sight of the bigger picture. When we succeed and make money in the short term, we tend to get a bit over excited.
We’ve seen businesses fail all the time because they didn’t stay humble. They expanded and overreached their tentacles, putting themselves in dire financial straights once market forces turned against them. When sales dry up or competition heats up in a space, those that don’t stay humble and true to their core beliefs can fail over time.
It’s easy to allow short-term success to lead to long-term failure. If you don’t want that to happen, stay humble. Build something notable for the long term. Create something meaningful that will stand the test of time no matter what happens in the future.
#4 — Treat your employees and customers respectfully
It’s really hard to build a solid team. It’s also difficult to find good customers. But whether we’re talking about employees or customers, you have to treat both of them respectfully. Regardless of the business situation, on a personal level, we’re all equals. No one is better than the next.
Even when people let you down or treat you poorly, you should turn the other cheek. If your customers get upset or are disappointed, do what you can to make things right with them. Simply put, negative energy is far more consuming than positive energy. So keep things positive as much as you possibly can. It will pay off in the long term.
#5 — Gravitate towards saturated marketplaces
One of the most frustrating parts of trying to succeed in business is sourcing clients and customers. Unless you have a near-limitless budget or you’re extremely savvy with digital marketing, gaining traction can seem overwhelming and frustrating. So you have to gravitate towards saturated marketplaces.
What does a saturated marketplace look like? Well, you have to go where the customers are congregating. Amazon.com is one such resource for physical goods. If you’re selling services, use sites like Upwork, Angie’s List, and others to help find your customers.
#6 — Find influencers and power users
Marketing can be one of the most overwhelming endeavors on earth. It’s hard to gain traction and find new customers when you’re busy struggling to stay afloat. However, one of the surest-fire ways to gain a foothold in a crowded marketplace is to leverage influencers and power users that can help champion your cause.
Influencers and power users have large followings on social media or the blogosphere, and they command the attention of millions in their respective niches. You have to go directly to the source and get them onboard if you’re serious about gaining traction in the often-uphill race of online marketing.
#7 — Create dynamic, mutually-beneficial partnerships
Creating partnerships that are dynamic and mutually-beneficial is one of the pathways to long-term success in business. However, you can’t simply look for handouts when seeking partnerships. All good networking involves finding ways you can add value to the relationship, and partnerships are no different than that.
Figure out where you can add value and mutually benefit one another when seeking to form these dynamic partnerships. Maybe you complement a business much bigger than yours by bringing value in an arena that they might have overlooked. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, ensure that it exists when setting out to form them.
#8 — Always sweat the finest details
In business, to succeed, you always have to sweat the details. Avoid overlooking things so that it doesn’t come back to bite you. In order to do this, you have to be meticulous with your attention to all the finer points in business. No matter what it is you’re working on, be detail-oriented about it. Go out of your way to ensure that every point is covered.
Whether you’re selling products, services or information, you have to sweat the details. Go out of your way to provide the best products, or go aboveboard to provide the absolute best services. And, when you’re selling information, make sure you cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s. Long term success in business has very much to do with all the finer details.
#9 — Beware of small expenses
Sometimes, running a business is a financial-balancing act. There are so many things to pay for and small expenses can slip through the cracks. But, if you’re serious about succeeding, you have to beware of even the smallest expenses. Be sure to keep a weekly budget to stay on track and watch where every last red cent is going.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beware of little expenses, a small leak will sink a great ship.” If you’re serious about the financial health of your business, then be careful about where you spend your money. It’s easy to let things spiral out of control and then feel the pressure and crunch when it comes high time to pay for things like taxes, loans and other expenses.
#10 — Become indispensable to your customers
If you want true longevity in business, you have to become indispensable to your customers. What can you provide that no one else is providing? While this might seem like you’re having to blaze a trail into new industries, that’s not necessarily the case. You simply have to become the trusted resource that people turn to in your industry or niche.
To do this, you have to always treat your customers right, for starters. But it’s also your authority and knowledge in the industry that can make you indispensable, especially if what you’re providing is a service. If you’re a lawyer, a doctor or a real estate agent, it makes no difference as long as you keep the bigger picture in mind and have your customers’ best interests always at heart.