RUSSELL DALGLEISH identifies the factors shared by business creators
Why do some succeed, and others fail in business? Poor market/product fit, weak cash control and simply bad luck can lead to the demise of any venture, but there are clearly common personal traits which can be identified in those who are successful. Having met with many successful business figures across the globe and studied this subject for many years I would surmise that these traits can be grouped into seven key themes.
Most successful entrepreneurs would be hesitant to describe themselves as visionary but it my opinion they are. They have created in their mind a fixed image of how their world could be changed by their efforts. Yes, they talk of product and market, but at the core they possess a crystal-clear vision of the new reality they will create, and they focus their efforts on this mission.
As a business adviser I spend many hours working with entrepreneurs to help them crystalise and document this vision. Once this step is achieved it’s possible to then flesh out their goal and challenge the premise the vision is based on and thus strengthen the business plan.
The strategic thinker can see beyond the tactical steps and actions that require to be taken to envision the plan that must be followed to allow them to achieve their goal. This ability to view the opportunity in its totality is critical to ensure that the prospect of success can be optimised.
By thinking strategically, it is also possible to understand what skills and support will be required to deliver ultimate success and not to get bogged down in worrying about changing tactical steps as new market opportunities arise and plans change.
You must be Brave to be successful in business. Daily you will find yourself in new situations, uncomfortable discussions and will require to place yourself in the visible leadership role. This is a huge challenge particularly for those of us brought up in a culture where self-promotion is frowned upon.
I have witnessed with awe the ability for leaders to make that challenging phone call or enter that difficult discussion with the full knowledge that their dreams could rest on a successful outcome. I believe they can do this because of their belief in the vision and a clear knowledge that no one discussion will waylay their ability to deliver their ultimate goal.
Typically, as an entrepreneur you are resource poor working with small teams on limited budget, but this can also be an advantage as we are forced to find new ways to create change.
This also provides us with the ability to build a tribe of supporters who understand the importance of assisting us to to deliver our vision into reality and are willing to add their shoulder to the wheel to achieve this. I witness this on an almost daily basis with SBN where individuals who I have and may never met, based in some distant part of the world, dedicate their efforts, for no financial return to deliver a common vision for Scotland.
The entrepreneur is also responsible for ensuring adequate funding is available for the business to succeed. Finding creative ways to generate this money must be on the daily task list for any entrepreneur.
Every business will claim to be customer focused but the best entrepreneurs can see the world through their customers’ eyes.
What marks out truly successful entrepreneurs for me is not their knowledge of their product or service but their deep understanding of the market and customers they serve. They can answer key questions on subjects such as market dynamics, customer profiling and the key question “why does your customer buy from you”?
As individuals it is simply too easy for us to imagine that the world knows about us and what we do. Our mail shots are opened, and our social media posts are liked so doesn’t that mean that our message is getting through? Too often the answer is no.
There are two main challenges in communication (a) we are failing to communicate with the right person ie. the individual who will assist us to move our business forward and (b) the message we are sharing is not having the desired effect.
Thus, a key component of communication is the ratification that the desired results are being achieved. Does your weekly KPI report show this?
In my experience the entrepreneur doesn’t have an off switch. They work non-stop through every waking hour to deliver on their vision. But they also work smart. They understand that there are moments in their company development when there will be opportunities to enjoy down-time and vacations but also time when their personal involvement is critical. Getting this balance right is what leads to success and avoids issues related to their mental wellbeing.
I spoke with an internationally successful entrepreneur a few months ago and asked why he felt that he was successful when so many in his sector had failed. His answer was simple and revelatory: “I can endure better than others”.
Russell Dalgleish is the co-founder and chairman of Scottish Business Network and writes a weekly column for Daily Business