Most entrepreneurs dream of making it big and turning their startup idea into a huge success. As hard as they try though, they never seem to make it to the next level. Those that do are rare, and the lucky one who grow their small startups into large, successful companies are the rarest of all.
Entrepreneurial leaders have always been eager to share the secrets to their successes. If you’re looking for some insight as to how the most successful business leaders reached their goals, here are ten tips that business leaders have shared that helped them on their paths to success.
Don’t think only one, two or even three steps ahead. As the size of your company grows, it’s up to you to determine the direction in which it will grow. When you reach the milestones in your business growth and decide your business is ready for expansion, don’t just think about it in the short term. Spend some real time trying to envision what you want your company to be like down the road, and ask yourself what are the steps you’re going to have to take now so that you don’t have to worry again in a couple of years about the same things.
Let’s take real estate as a good example of how you can think far enough ahead to make sure your business can grow bigger. In this example, your business has outgrown its current space. You have two options available to you, one that’s a perfect fit just inside your price limit, and one that’s much larger than you need, just outside your price limit. It’s logical to go for the lower priced location, since it’s within your budget and it will suit your needs perfectly. If you’re thinking bigger, though, go for the larger space. Worried that it’s more than you need? Sublet the space you aren’t using and use the income to cover your lease. If you don’t want to be a landlord, hire a management company to take care of the details. Then, when you’re ready to expand, you already have the space right next door. And, of course, if you expect to need a larger office or work space down the line, paying more for a bigger space now will likely save you moving fees and lost work time in the future, so you’re likely to at least break even, if not profit from the forward-thinking decision.
Keep It Simpler
In the open-air food markets of Southeast Asia, you can find vendors who make only one dish. In fact, they may even be the third or fourth generation in the family who has been making only one dish. These dishes have been elevated to perfection by the proprietors painstakingly preserving the idea that the dish they prepare is the best that they can make it, each and every time. The stalls have their regulars who have been coming and eating the same thing for years or even decades, as well as aficionados who make their favorite food vendor the first stop when they arrive in town. That’s the kind of brand loyalty you’re trying to build for your business.
You may be tempted to grow your business laterally, that is, diversifying your products and services. There is a well-known phrase that refers to someone who can do a little bit of everything. They’re called a “Jack of all trades.” But not too many people are familiar with the second half of that saying: “Master of none.” Be a master.
Keep Your Employees Happy
Google has a corporate culture that is the envy of startups and established businesses alike. Employees of Google like working there. They feel like the company takes care of them and has their best interests at heart. And that’s true; they do. Google has found that their employees work better and produce better results when their employees have fewer outside concerns that they need to worry about. Their employees stay at their jobs longer than average and are overwhelmingly positive about their employer and the work environment.
When an employee leaves, they take with them their experience and knowledge. While there are usually efforts to retain the knowledge, there is little if any effort to retain the employee. Once they’re gone, no matter how much training and experience the replacement may have, they’re going to have to start over, relearning the idiosyncrasies of the position, making the same mistakes over again, and so on. If your employee turnover is high, your company is going to stay stuck in the same place, making the same mistakes over and over again, preventing you from moving your company forward.
There is a management idea that you don’t try to retain an employee who wants to leave, since they’ll be able to use the threat of leaving as a bargaining chip. As a smarter entrepreneur, it’s up to you to create a work environment where they don’t want to leave in the first place.
Make Your Customers Happier
Everyone knows who Jeff Bezos is. As the founder of one of the most successful dot com enterprises, Amazon is the gold standard for online ecommerce success. In 1997, Bezos sent out a letter to his shareholders, outlining his simple formula for the continuing the growth and success of Amazon.com. In it, he wrote:
“[C]ustomer and revenue growth, the degree to which our customers continue to purchase from us on a repeat basis, and the strength of our brand.”
Another well-known personality in the technology explosion at the end of the last century is Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft. He wrote, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” While you can’t please everyone all of the time, you can learn from your customers’ experiences and strive to always improve their experience so they keep coming back.
Schedule Your Time Better
If you’re familiar with the hit Broadway play Rent, 525,600 minutes is all we get in a single year. How you spend each of those minutes will determine how successful you are in that year.
Are you spending all your time growing your business? You can bet that the most successful entrepreneurs are. They are always focused on their business. Every action, reaction, and transaction has already been looked at through the prism of, “How is what I’m about to do good for my business?” If it isn’t, they’re only too happy to walk away and focus on the next thing. They see their time as a precious commodity, to be spent only when there is a guaranteed return on that investment.
Do you really think that all the executives who spend their time on a golf course do it because they like golf? Absolutely not! They go to find investors, customers, clients, and business opportunities. By spending a few hours in the company of people who can help their business grow, they are planning for the future of their company by investing their time wisely, even when it might not look like it at first glance.
Work Smarter, Grow Smarter
There are many reasons why your company might do something a certain way. Most of the time, it’s because of inertia. It worked once one way once upon a time, and it evolved into procedure. It might not matter that it duplicates work and takes twice as long as it should, that’s the way it’s always been done. There are plenty of reasons, but not particularly good ones.
When your company grows you must find the best ways to nurture that growth, and that means finding ways to scale your business processes in a way that doesn’t create chaos or waste time.
Great Ideas Aren’t Always the Best Ideas for Your Company
On your road to success, you’re going to be presented with numerous ideas from people, both within and from outside the company. It never hurts to listen, but you have to gauge the value of the proposition against what the short-term and long-term goals you’ve set for the company. Only you know what they are, so only you can judge whether an idea has enough merit to warrant further investigation.
It’s your company and ultimately your decision.
When You Need Help, Get Help
No one is successful by themselves. There are always people that help you on your road to success. Some people have the notion that asking for help is in some way an admission of failure. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Money is a great example of getting help when you need it. If you already had the money, you wouldn’t necessarily be in business. Most of the time, growing businesses need financing to help them reach their goals. As a company owner, you may have approached banks or other lending institutions to secure a loan. The financing you receive from a bank is exactly the kind of help you need to make your business grow.
Navigating government regulations is another common place where getting help from people who understand the system will make things easier for you and your business. The same goes for legal advice, medical advice, structural engineering, and a whole host of other professions. As the owner of your business, you should be focused on knowing your business down to the last detail. But that doesn’t mean you need to become an expert in everything the business needs in order to succeed. In fact, it would be impossible.
There are experts in every field that can help you realize your goal. Don’t be afraid of asking for help when you need it, because it will only help you reach the top more quickly.
“Shortcut” Means “Compromise”
When someone starts out at a gym, they can’t immediately lift hundreds of pounds of weights. Even attempting it could cause serious harm and injury. They have to start out slowly, building up their bodies so that with enough time and effort, they can reach their goals, until what seemed impossible a little while ago is now just one more goal they achieved.
There is an old adage among mountain climbers; “There are no shortcuts to the top.” Safety ropes and harnesses might slow a climber’s ascent, but no mountain climber in their right mind would even consider starting their climb without them. This is just as true in business. Everything you want to accomplish for your business is going to take time and hard work.
If you find yourself faced with a decision to make between two paths that will reach the same goal, you need to ask yourself why the easier one is easier, and why the harder one is harder. You’ll need to train yourself to look at both opportunities, and if you conclude that one is too good to be true, avoid it. The materials may be cheaper, the vendor might recommend cutting corners, but ultimately this is going to hurt your business more than help it.
Stay Tuned In
As your company continues to grow and succeed, your responsibilities are going to take you away from the day-to-day operations of the business. While your presence is required at high-level meetings, you will feel like you’re starting to lose a connection to the roots of your business. It’s important for you to remember that no matter how big your company gets, it’s still your company. It is therefore your responsibility to make the effort to stay in touch with how the company is doing internally, not simply by what the reports say that cross your desk. This might mean scheduling town hall style meetings or walking the floor of the various departments to hear about how the company is doing from your employees’ perspective.
When Microsoft was in its explosive growth stage, it was well-known that although Bill Gates was the CEO of what would become the largest technology company in the world, he still found some time to work on the programming of the Windows operating system software, fixing bugs and updating features. He never forgot that it was his initial hard work on the original software package that gave his company the foundation to grow into the megalith it is today.