5 Secrets of Business Success

11 Oct


Make sure you're aiming at the right target.


I’ve always hated numbers. Not abstract math, but practical numbers, like the unbalanced ones in my checkbook. So, naturally, after I graduated from college, I pursued an MBA in finance. Why, you may ask, did I work hard to get a graduate degree in something I couldn’t stand? Precisely for that reason. I figured that if I understood it better, if I put extra effort in that area that it would no longer be a challenge for me. Although I became familiar with working with numbers, it never became more enjoyable or even tolerable for me. I found this out when my job in the marketing department of a big company morphed into a financial analyst position after a restructuring shakeup.

The Secret Sauce

Marketing and writing are my passions, and I spend my days doing what I love. Success research cited in such books as Outliers and Bounce has shown that the only way to become really outstanding at doing something, whether it is business, sports, music or any other pursuit, is to practice, practice, practice. They have come up with a number too; it takes 10,000 hours of directed practice over a period of 10 years, where you are consciously pushing your limits and working to improve, to become top in your field.

In order to amass this number of hours of practice, you would have to devote almost three hours a day, every single day for ten years. Each of these hours would have to be strenuous, concentrated work, not just going-through-the-motions or “just for fun” practice. It would involve failing over and over again, and constantly examining and analyzing your failures so that you can fine tune your work.

Who would put herself through this difficult and punishing process on a daily basis? Only someone who loves what she was doing and whose passion is to be the best. OK, you may say, that’s great for the Yo Yo Ma’s and the Tiger Woods’ of the world, but what does it have to do with me?

Identify Your Passion

Everyone has something that he loves. If you are a business owner, it may not be all aspects of  your work, but there is something that makes you feel good when you do it, that you have a talent for and that you do well. Find that thing and start putting in concentrated practice. Find a teacher or mentor who can guide you and push you to excel. Read up on your activity, or watch professionals do what you want to do, so you can pick up tips and techniques to do it better. Then do it, over and over. Put as much time as you can into not only practicing, but also in continually trying things a little outside of your current ability so you are pushing the envelope and expanding your skills. Notice where you have made a mistake and work on fixing that mistake until you have it down. Then rinse and repeat.

Don’t Get Distracted

Some people fall in love with the idea of a “Renaissance man,” someone who can do many different things extremely well, like Leonardo Da Vinci. But a more applicable idea for most people is “jack of all trades, master of none.” Author and public speaker, Brendon Burchard, likens this to someone who is putting up a fence. He says most people try one thing and they dig down a little bit and then abandon that pursuit and move on to the next, digging another shallow hole, none of which are deep enough to support the fence pole. He urges people to master one thing at a time, then move on to something related to the first thing and master that, so you are building on the knowledge and experience you have already accumulated.

Divide and Conquer

In business, success requires many different skills, all working in tandem towards a common goal. But if each person in concentrating on being the best in management, marketing, production or sales, then how can the business as a whole succeed? That is why we need other people, with each person specializing in a different area.  Most businesses fail because the owner thinks he can do it all himself. Sure, he makes great widgets, but he has no idea how to design a website, or manage the money, or open new channels of sales distribution.

Recognize Your Weaknesses

I can’t tell you the number of times clients have told me, “I could write it myself, but I just don’t have the time.” Writing is one of those things that many more people think they are good at than actually are good at it.  If you are not great at doing a particular thing, just admit it (at least to yourself), and find someone who is. That way, you can spend your time improving in your area of expertise, and not knocking your head against the wall trying to do something totally different. It’s OK – you don’t have to be the best at everything. The most effective leaders are those who know what they don’t know and surround themselves with those who do. Then they listen to the members of the team and make an informed decision.

Don’t Be Cheap

If, as a business owner, you can find people who share your vision and possess skills that you do not, get them on your team. It may be as a part owner, as an employee, or even as an outside contractor. Just remember, that each of them has a talent or ability that is vital to your company’s success. So however you decide to structure it, make sure you compensate them adequately and treat them with consideration and respect. The only way to maintain that common vision and unity of purpose is when everyone feels like a valued member of the team. That is one of the reasons that Google has been so successful; its corporate culture recognizes and values each employee’s contribution, so each person is motivated to give the company his full effort.

If you are a start-up and don’t have much money, there is still a lot you can do to form a team. Giving out stock or stock options is one way to invest in building your company’s success. You can also come up with commission based or revenue share models that reward success. In addition to monetary compensation, it is also important to give team members the non-physical compensation that are a vital part of their job satisfaction: treating them with respect and dignity, giving them a sense of trust and responsibility and recognizing them for their effort, commitment and success.


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