Doctors prepare for 10 to 15 years before starting their medical practice. Most entrepreneurs learn on the fly, which is why eighty percent of small businesses fail within five years. Many more business owners struggle to survive. The requirements to become a successful entrepreneur are no less than to become a doctor.
Are you willing to pay that kind of price?
At my college commencement, thirty-some years ago, a soon-to-be graduate declared a familiar message from the podium, “You can achieve anything in life you desire!”
Know What You Want
You can achieve anything you desire, if you know exactly what it is you want, and if you are willing to pay the price to get it. Most people don’t have a clear vision of their goal or aren’t prepared for the sacrifice required to attain it.
After a stirring performance, a man said to the concert pianist, “I would give half my life to be able to play the piano like that.” To which the pianist responded, “Good, because that’s exactly what it takes.”
Many people start a business with romantic notions, generally unaware of the price they will have to pay to achieve success. By sheer will, the best somehow survive and succeed, making our nation the most advanced and prosperous on earth. With the odds of failure so great, however, the wise entrepreneur has a healthy respect for the mountain he or she is about to climb.
Accept the Risk
First, the business owner knows he has a high risk of losing the value of all the time, energy and money he or she has put into the business. As mentioned, this real and painful loss comes to eighty percent of business owners (and their creditors) in the first five years.
Risking personal or business resources to create even greater value in the business is the repeated sacrifice asked of the entrepreneur. Whether buying a new piece of equipment, putting an ad in a magazine, or hiring a sales manager, there is always some degree of uncertainty as to whether the gamble will pay off. It is a natural part of business life. We have to get used to it.
Muster the Will
Second, we must also have the “will” to follow proven laws of success. Our desire and internal drive must become so intense that we can overcome all obstacles put in our path. AND, we must commit enough resources (time, energy, money) to our goal so that we can continually beat down the unrelenting forces trying to drive us out of business.
For example, business owners make a big mistake when they are not willing to pay the price to have remarkable business systems and processes. Successful owners budget for quality marketing or customer care programs, or an accounting system that will enable them to “manage by the numbers.” Owners who won’t pay the price, but instead cut corners in critical business areas, will not compete over the long run with companies who do muster the will to become remarkable.
Finally, we must have the passion and the grit to become the best at what we do. We have to be financially strong enough to survive both setbacks and sudden successes. We must continually invest time in developing personal knowledge and skills, persevering until we have grown the perfect business: one that runs itself profitably and gives us personal and financial freedom.
Work Hard and Intelligently
Business success does not come by accident. Things happen, or don’t happen, for a reason. For every effect there is a specific cause.
Most breakthrough success is preceded by a long period of hard work and persistence toward a single, clearly defined purpose. How high we rise is largely determined by how high we want to climb. Persistence in the face of setbacks and disappointments reflects our unyielding belief in ourselves and our ability to succeed.
According to Jim Collins (Good to Great) the best companies never transform to greatness in “…one fell swoop. There is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment.
“Sustainable transformations [to greatness] follow a predictable pattern of build-up and breakthrough. Like pushing on a giant heavy flywheel, it takes a lot of effort to get the thing moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long period of time, the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough.”
The longer and harder I intelligently work, the faster I create value in my business. When that value becomes great enough, I can cash in by selling, franchising, or hiring someone to run the business for me. Hard work pays off, and interestingly, the harder I work, the “luckier” I get.
Most businesses fail because:
_The business lacks sufficient capital to withstand delays and setbacks.
_The owner works in the business but rarely on the business.
_The owner doesn’t have a clear vision of where the business is going and a specific plan to get there.
_The owner doesn’t systemize all of his or her business processes.
_The owner doesn’t financially “manage by the numbers.”
_The owner doesn’t market as if his or her life depends on it ( “Become an Obsessed Marketer”).
_The business isn’t sufficiently differentiated in the marketplace.
_The business is not built from the ground up around the customer and doesn’t offer them the best possible value.
_The business fails to hire and keep enough of the right people (read “Get the Right People”).
_The business doesn’t have a culture of highly disciplined and motivated people.
_The business owner doesn’t face up to the brutal facts described above or lacks the “will” to make necessary changes.
_Most people who read the above list will see their weaknesses. Sadly, most will think, “Yes, that is something I must do…TOMORROW.” And that is why they will become part of the eighty percent failure club, or why they will stumble along with a mediocre business that will never reach its full potential.
Those who do make it to the winner’s circle will pay the price! It is a law of life.
“The most important principle of personal or business success is simply this: You become what you think about most of the time” (Brian Tracy, Laws of Business Success).
Get in the Zone. Devote time to study the business literature and learn from the experts.
Pay the price in your mind first! Then go make your business remarkable.
***Dr. Terry Jackson is C-Suite Advisor, Thought Leader, Solutions Provider, Organizational Development Architect and Change Leader. Dr. Jackson partners with Executives and Organizations to align Strategy, People, and Processes to optimize and sustain Peak Business Performance. His methodologies increase Profit and Productivity, help manage change and reduce organizational cost.
PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.