Success for any business professional, entrepreneur, startup founder, or investor can be elusive and is a pretty subjective term. You may spend days pouring over spreadsheets and determining the soundness of your startup’s business plan, but if you are looking for the secret recipe for success, you also need to consider mindset and qualities of thought within the top leadership. Clues can be gleaned by looking at successful companies and entrepreneurs to see what actions they took or qualities they expressed on their road to success. As I invest in other companies, there are certain ‘no-brainers’ that I look for when considering which opportunities have the highest likelihood for success. Here’s a list I have compiled of essential ingredients for your business success.
Look for Opportunities to Innovate
There are two types of innovation that your business may bring to the marketplace: incremental or disruptive. Incremental innovation is one that methodically moves an industry or category forward or makes a product better, perhaps adding new features or finding cost-effective ways to lower the price to customers. This incremental change improves both consumer satisfaction and company profitability. An example would be adding better cameras to a smartphone or ‘driverless parking’ features to help people parallel park their cars handsfree.
Disruptive innovation is so radical that the industry is forever changed. Uber, Facebook, and the iPhone are all examples of disruptive changes that came from people who saw opportunities to do something different. In the case of my own company, I saw a problem and developed a new way to solve it, creating a radically different product and business model. Because we saw the world differently, we were able to create an entirely new market and highly sustainable business.
Keep a Persistent, yet Patient Mindset
Patience and persistence go hand in hand with success. Many aspects of business require patience and these areas will need time and resources to succeed. However, patience doesn’t mean “sitting around doing nothing” while waiting for results. To ensure success, patience must be a very active process. For example, sales development and search engine optimization both require persistence and patience.
When you start a business, you will probably launch a website and engage in search engine optimization activities. You will not immediately rank on Page One of Google, but patience and consistent posting will eventually lead to strong results. It is unrealistic to expect massive sales and immediate responses from your target audience in your first week of business but introducing yourself to potential customers and starting conversations will eventually begin to generate revenue for the company.
Plan for such aspects of growth by setting your business up financially to account for these “waiting times.” If applicable, work with your investors to ensure that your business is well funded enough to make it through the ‘ramp-up’ period. Remember, success is a long process, not an instant occurrence; continue to work diligently, persistently, and patiently as you lay a strong foundation for your business
Solve Customer Problems
Business in any industry can shift at the drop of a hat. It is simply how business works. A key ingredient in your recipe for business success is solving customer problems. This can help you stay abreast of shifts and ensure your business is keeping up with the industry.
You can never go wrong by solving customers’ problems. You should be your clients’ best advocate, pushing for innovation that makes their world easier, better, smarter or more cost-effective.
To solve clients’ problems, you need to know what those problems are. Even better, stay ahead of their needs by anticipating what they will need next. Steve Jobs is famous for saying, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” (That’s why he was so good at disruptive innovation). But that doesn’t mean that you should never ask for feedback from customers or do research. You should never stop learning and researching what is going on in your industry. Attend conferences and events (and take actual notes!), meet with other business leaders in your industry by organizing a roundtable to discuss innovation, and really listen to what your customers have to say about your product or service.
Be Ready to Take on Challenges
The path toward business success is not a straight line. It is circuitous, with lots of ups and downs and twists and turns. This is what makes owning and running a business so exciting and rewarding. But like most endeavors, there will be plenty of challenges along the way. How you take on challenges will define you as a business owner and define your business’s chances of success.
How do you take on challenges effectively? Here is what I do. First, don’t panic. You will not do yourself (or your business) any good if you’re stressed out. Rather, every time a client complains or brings you a problem, get excited. They are literally giving you an opportunity to innovate; they are partnering with you to make their world and the industry as a whole better . . . And success comes from doing just that.
Embrace the challenge and see it for the opportunity that it is. Brainstorm with your team to find new ideas to approach the problem. Once you understand the challenge, create a list of potential solutions. Leave nothing off the whiteboard because no solution is too silly or too small. Again, lean on your team, as well as mentors, peers, former colleagues, and leaders in your industry. It may also help to seek out the perspective of those who are not intimately involved with the situation, as they may help you see the problem differently and clear the way for a new solution.
As you proceed, realize that your first attempts may or may not work. This brings us to the next ingredient to our recipe for business success—failure.
Know that Failure is an Option
Many entrepreneurs fear failure, but this seven-letter word can be a thorn in your side or a blessing in disguise. Failure in business is always an option. The sooner you come to terms with this, the better your chances of achieving success. Failing fast is a universally understood concept in startups. The faster you can figure out how to get out of a bad situation and find a solution, the better. There are countless examples of companies who were failing and then pivoted to strike gold. Entrepreneurs learn the importance of failing fast. When you react out of fear and greed and stop working to solve problems (for your customer, for your business, or for your industry), that’s what constitutes true failure.
When you look at failure as a teaching moment, rather than the end of the world, you eliminate a host of business fears. This can free you to make better decisions. Even if you end up stopping, you can still consider it a success if you proactively close down a business for the right reasons. More than likely, though, if you keep trying to solve your clients’ problems, you will find innovative solutions for them and achieve the success you are seeking.
Are You Ready to Achieve Business Success?
Success requires creativity, persistence, patience, innovation, and passion for solving peoples’ problems. If you are ready to take on the challenges your clients bring to you and steadfastly and persistently work through those challenges to come up with innovative solutions, you can’t help but succeed!
This content is brought to you by Zain Jaffer.